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Italian Tomato Sauce

Italian Tomato Sauce

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  • 1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 28-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes
  • 12 large fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1 Teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon black pepper


Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 6-7 minutes. Add in the plum tomatoes, basil leaves, sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes, until the sauce has thickened, stirring often. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let stand 15 minutes.

If desired, pass the sauce through a food mill or chop it in a blender or food processor until in small pieces. If desired, the sauce can be cooled and refrigerated up to 4 days, or frozen up to 6 months.

Nutritional Facts


Calories Per Serving105

Folate equivalent (total)33µg8%

Italian sauce recipes

Be it a thick, slow-cooked ragù for pasta, a pesto bashed together in a pestle and mortar or something more refined to dress a more complex dish, sauces are integral to Italian cooking. Italian tomato sauces alone can be prepared in dozens of different ways, and there are countless other sauces – both traditional and contemporary – that have found favour with cooks and chefs across Italy.

Our collection of Italian sauce recipes sets out to prove just how varied these sauces can be. For pasta, we’ve got all sorts of different pestos, including Pesto alla Trapanese from Sicily, Pesto Calabrese from Calabria and the more traditional Basil pesto from Liguria. There’s also a family recipe for Bolognese ragù (a British favourite) and a Sardinian sauce combining sausage and fennel. Looking for a quick dip? Try this Salsa verde or the rich northern Italian Boznersauce – an indulgent take on mayonnaise.

There are Italian sauces for more accomplished cooks too. Ciccio Sultano’s Bottarga sauce is fantastic with spaghetti, as is Grazia Soncini’s Fresh mackerel ragù. Roberto Petza rustles up an incredible Pizzaiola sauce to go with fish, while Teresa Buongiorno creates a Cuttlefish ink ragù for her pasta. Take a look at our full collection of Italian sauces below and incorporate them into your own cooking.

Classic Italian Tomato Sauce

A robust tomato sauce made with olive oil, onion, sweet carrot, garlic, canned San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil, tomato paste, oregano, and red pepper flakes. A flavorful, homemade tomato sauce to pair perfectly with any type of pasta.

Everyone needs a classic tomato sauce recipe. This marinara sauce is an authentic Italian sauce full of rich tomato goodness and Italian spices. I can eat this by the spoonful! Whenever I make this, I am constantly sneaking in little tastes because it is so rich and flavorful.

This Italian marinara sauce can be paired with fresh pasta such as spaghetti, angel hair, or rigatoni or on top of chicken parmesan. It can easily be made into a meat sauce by adding Italian sausage or ground beef. It is the most versatile sauce and one you should have in your refrigerator at all times.

The beauty of this sauce is that the base of it calls for canned tomatoes. These are a pantry staple so you can make this classic tomato sauce anytime! I am such a sucker for San Marzano canned tomatoes, which are from an area in Italy famous for their tomatoes.

The addition of tomato paste which is a thick paste made by cooking tomatoes for several hours to reduce the water content, straining out the seeds and skins, and cooking the liquid again to reduce the base to a thick, rich paste. It can transform sauces by making them much deeper and richer in flavor.

I love to use fresh basil straight from the garden in this tomato basil sauce but you can also use dried basil. I will include the amounts for both of them! Also, I love to add a touch of oregano for a peppery addition to the sauce. Red pepper flakes bring a bit of spice to the sauce without overpowering it.

Whenever tomatoes are the star ingredient of a sauce, it can become slightly acidic. A way to offset the acidity of the tomatoes is by adding a little bit of sugar. It perfectly balances out the tomatoes in this classic marinara sauce.

If time is on your side, let this Italian sauce simmer to reduce and become even richer. I love to cook it low and slow and it gives the flavors time to develop. This is the best marinara sauce recipe!

Authentic Italian Marinara Sauce Recipe

How to make Authentic Marinara Sauce from canned tomatoes. This version of our homemade marinara sauce from scratch makes a delicious chunky--style sauce.

Servings: 12-16


½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 small onion, diced small
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
2 28-32 ounce cans San Marzano or high quality canned crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped


In a deep pan or sauce pot, heat extra virgin olive oil.

Sautee garlic and onion until onion is translucent.

Add salt, pepper, and dried oregano.

Add tomatoes, and bring to a boil.

Lower heat, and simmer for 5-10 minutes. The longer you simmer, the thicker it will be.

Stir in basil and you’re done! I told you it was an easy marinara sauce!

How to make smooth Authentic Italian Marinara Sauce

To make a smooth marinara sauce, you have 2 choices. You don’t need a separate smooth marinara sauce recipe. It just takes a couple of adjustments to the authentic Italian marinara recipe above.
1. Blend the onions before sautéing.
2. Blend the tomatoes before adding them to the sauce, or substitute tomato puree for crushes tomatoes.

Ingredients to make marinara sauce from scratch.

How to make Authentic Italian Marinara Sauce with fresh tomatoes

Use the recipe above and substitute 2 quarts of fresh, diced, seeded tomatoes. I prefer not to take the skin off, so I usually blend the tomatoes before adding them to the pot. I also find this version needs an additional 10 minutes of simmering time.

How to use Authentic Italian Marinara Sauce

This Authentic marinara sauce recipe can be used for any recipe that calls for classic Italian marinara sauce or tomato sauce. Use it on our Chicken Parm Panini (your new favorite sandwich) or Best-Ever Italian Turkey Meatballs as well as on any pasta or pizza!

Just 5 Ingredients

If you're looking for the authentic Italian tomato pasta sauce, this is the right place.

All you need is just 5 ingredients:

  • whole canned plum tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes)
  • red onion
  • basil leaves
  • bay leaf (or a pinch of sugar)
  • extra-virgin olive oil

Most Italian mammas and nonnas add a garlic clove. My Italian mum adds it, and I often do that as well.

But it's totally optional, so if you're not a garlic fan, simply omit it.

Using the right ingredients is crucial for making the best sauce.

Opt for organic ingredients whenever possible, don't skip on the fresh basil leaves, and use high-quality extra-virgin olive oil.

Marinara VS Tomato Sauce

First of all, let's start by saying that there's a huge difference between these two famous sauces.

Marinara sauce is not cooked, and dried oregano is usually added into the mix.

It's often called pizza sauce, because, guess what, it's used for making pizza.

Tomato sauce, on the other hand, is slowly simmered, and onion, basil leaves and a bay leaf are usually added in.

It's used as a base for pasta, eggplant parmesan, meatballs, eggs in purgatory, and many other dishes.

Fresh or Canned Tomatoes?

If you're using fresh tomatoes (which I highly recommend when they're in season), there are a couple of extra steps to make.

Blanch the tomatoes in simmering water for a couple of minutes, then peel the skin off and proceed with the recipe.

This version of the recipe using fresh tomatoes is basically the famous Napoletana sauce.

The best fresh tomatoes to use are:

  • Roma tomatoes, meaty, easy to peel, and with very few seeds
  • Cherry Tomatoes (ciliegino), are small, round and really sweet
  • Datterino Tomatoes, are also very small and delicately sweet

It's not easy to find super tasty tomatoes these days, especially if you don't live in Italy. So I mostly use properly-good canned whole tomatoes.

If you're opting for canned tomatoes, the best ones to look for is the San Marzano variety.

This variety grows in Italy, in the Campania region, and has been awarded the PDO (protected designation of origin) status.

San Marzano tomatoes have a long shape, bright red colour, easily peelable skin, meaty pulp, and very few seeds.

Their flavour is not too sweet and not too bitter, which makes them incredibly versatile, both for cooking and using them raw.

These are the very best tomatoes to use for making tomato sauce, or the classic marinara sauce for Neapolitan pizza.

Ok, let's cook it!

This recipe takes a pinch of patience to make, but it's definitely worth it.

The secret lies in slowly simmering the ingredients for about 20-30 minutes.

They will slowly turn into a rich, creamy tomato sauce but with still a bit of chunky texture, and the right balance of sweetness and savoury.

Step. 1 Start by slicing in half your canned tomatoes lengthwise.

Remove as many seeds as possible, then chop the tomatoes into small chunks and set aside.

Don't throw the juice in the cans away, as you will need it later.

Step 2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan ( alternatively, you can opt for a cast-iron pot too).

Add in the onion and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.

Then add chopped tomatoes, basil leaves and the bay leaf.

Step 3. Now, add into the pan the reserved tomato juices from the cans.

Fill one of the cans with 80 ml of water (&frac13 cup) and pour it into the sauce.

Step 4. Let it cook gently over low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Once it's ready, season with sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper to taste.

Now, cook some pasta, set the table and grate some awesome Parmigiano. Fold the pasta into the sauce, serve, top with cheese and enjoy every single bite!

How do you take the bitterness out?

Let's start by saying that what makes the sauce bitter is the tomato itself.

Canned tomatoes are usually more bitter than fresh ones, so here are a couple of tricks Italian nonnas use to take the bitterness out.

Simply add a pinch of sugar whilst cooking up your sauce. Even better, add a bay leaf, it will give your sauce the perfect sweetness balance.

Make sure you remove as many seeds as you can from the tomatoes, as they also add bitterness to the sauce.

How to store leftovers

Once ready, use it up straight away, and store the leftover sauce in an airtight jar, in the fridge for up to 1 week. Or freeze in freezer-friendly containers for up to 6 weeks.

A great base for so many dishes!

This is the only basic red sauce you'll ever need in your life.

It's conveniently vegetarian, dairy-free, vegan and gluten-free, and a great base for so many Italian dishes (including my favourite Sicilian eggplant spaghetti sandwiches and my famous Sicilian Pasta alla Norma).

It's an amazing base for vegetarian or meaty sauces. And you can serve it with meat/vegetarian/fish meatballs, lasagne or any other pasta you fancy.

Best Italian tomato sauce recipe for pasta

In this videorecipe I will show you how to cook a super tasty Italian tomato sauce for pasta, which we will mix with with Parmesan cheese and butter. Sounds tasty? That’s because IT IS!

The recipe we will cook today is part of the menu of a famous Italian restaurant (“Da Vittorio”), a restaurant that won 3 Michelin stars. I will show you how to replicate their dish (known as “Paccheri Da Vittorio”) from the comfort of your own home (and without the $45 pricetag it comes with)!

If you liked this recipe (I mean… the best Italian tomato sauce recipe for pasta!), remember to SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel and HIT the bell, to always be up to date with the tastiest and most authentic Italian food! Let the ‘likes’, the ‘comments’, the ‘follow’ and the ‘share post’ rain please! Enjoy the video recipe!

Simple Steps To Avoid an Acidic Sauce

Use quality tomatoes: as stated above, this is the first step to ensure your sauce is less acidic. Use quality San Marzano Italian tomatoes (which are naturally less acidic) for your sauce to be rich and sweet in flavor!

Add a carrot to simmer in the sauce: this is something my mother always did and is very traditional in Italian sauces. The sweetness of the carrot releases its flavor and naturally absorbs any acidic flavors from the tomatoes. How to: remove the stem, peel the carrot skin off, and place the whole carrot into the sauce to simmer. Remove carrot once the sauce is finished.

Use stainless steel: whenever making tomato sauce, it’s important to choose the right pot. My top recommendations for sauce are stainless steel. Any other pot like non-stick or cast iron can cause the acid in the tomatoes to mix with the metal and results in an unpleasant metallic taste.


  • 4 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, preferably imported D.O.P. San Marzano tomatoes (see note)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing.
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into large chunks
  • 1 medium onion, split in half
  • 1 large stem fresh basil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional), such as Red Boat
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley or basil leaves (or a mix of the two)

Tomato recipes

Italy grows a staggering 4.9 million tons of tomatoes a year, and for many the ingredient stands as a symbol of Italian cuisine. However, despite its contemporary ubiquity the tomato is a relatively recent phenomenon in Italian culture, and only became introduced into the culinary canon after the Spanish conquistadors brought the fruit back from the South American Andes in the sixteenth century. Its popularity spread rapidly, becoming the base for millions of sauce, soup, salad and pasta recipes thanks to its colour, flavour and inherent versatility.

Over one hundred varieties of tomato are grown in Italy, with the country’s southernmost regions known in particular for producing the most delicious varieties (including the famed San Marzano plum). In fact, it is said that the Neapolitans introduced the tomato into Italy’s kitchens, and today it is almost impossible to imagine an Italian kitchen without the fragrance and colour of fresh pummarola. This collection of delicious Italian tomato recipes provides plenty of inspiration for bringing these classic aromas into your own home.

Create your own true Italian tomato sauce with Andrea Migliaccio’s Passata recipe, using glorious San Marzano tomatoes, or combine two different varieties as seen in the Cerea Brothers’ traditional northern Italian recipe for Paccheri with tomato sauce and Parmesan. If you prefer the sweeter flavours of plum cherry tomatoes, you could try Mauro Uliassi’s Smoked spaghetti, clams and grilled plum cherry tomatoes recipe, a Michelin spin on the classic spaghetti alle vongole. For salty-sweetness olives, capers and tomatoes are a match made in foodie heaven, epitomised in this collection with Gaetano Trovato’s recipe for Rabbit, olives, capers, dried tomatoes, potatoes and the Costardi Brothers’ Red mullet with capers, black olive and tomato dish.

Italian Tomato Sauce

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Like this? Here's More:

This is one of those recipes that acts as a foundation for all kinds of great dishes. Lasagna, baked ziti, spaghetti, spaghetti pie. It’s even delicious as a breadstick dipping sauce.

About once a month, you’ll find a giant pot of this Italian Tomato Sauce bubbling away on my stove, making the house smell scrumptious.

Usually when I make a big ol’ pot of it, I spoon some over spaghetti for an easy dinner that evening. Then I scoop the rest into labeled freezer bags and freeze and use later on.

It’s a terrific red sauce – I’ve found none better. It’s perfectly balanced – not too acidic, not too sweet – with loads of flavor thanks in part to lots of Italian seasoning, green peppers, garlic, and parsley. And when you make it with fire-roasted tomatoes … yes.

Sometimes, after it’s all done, I’ll add some to a pot of browned hamburger and spicy sausage, where I let it simmer away for another 20 minutes or so, and voila – this Italian Tomato Sauce for the vegetarian can convert to Italian Meat Sauce for the meat-eater.