There are 5 reasons why this is the best homemade tomato sauce. Find out what they are and get the delicious recipe.
This is a very basic tomato sauce recipe. It’s what I make as a base for spaghetti sauce or meat sauce. I also use it in vegetarian versions of lasagna and on pizza. It’s really simple and really delicious.
Tips For The Best Homemade Tomato Sauce
What makes this homemade tomato sauce so much better than others? There are a few things.
1) It uses San Marzano canned tomatoes. Why? San Marzanos are a variety of tomatoes that are a bit longer, skinnier, and pointier than regular plum tomatoes. Crucially for our sauce, they’re also a bit sweeter and less acidic too. The sauce is then sweeter and less acidic as a result of using them. You can learn more about San Marzano tomatoes and why they’re so good in sauces over here.
2) Butter. I use butter instead of olive oil in this sauce. It adds so much richness to the mix.
3) Raw onions and garlic. Instead of sautéing the onions and garlic before adding the tomatoes, I add them raw right to the canned tomatoes (with the juices from the can too). This gives a slightly stronger onion and garlic flavor to the tomatoes as they cook together. It’s not overpowering at all. Just more there than if you sauteed them first.
4) Control over the salt. I prefer homemade tomato sauce over canned sauce because I have control over the salt. You may not know this but canned tomato sauce has A LOT of sodium. You can buy salt-free tomato sauce instead but it’s incredibly bland and if you add salt to it, you really taste the salt. Instead, I like a sauce that has some salt added at the beginning of cooking, but not as much as you find in canned sauce.
5) Sugar. Once your sauce is finished simmering, give it a taste. You can add more salt and pepper at this point. The other thing to add though is sugar. Not a lot. A teaspoon at a time then stir and taste. What it does is to bring out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes. It’s so so good.
There you have it. The reasons why this is my favorite homemade tomato sauce.
How To Make Homemade Tomato Sauce
To make this best ever basic tomato sauce, first add your tomatoes, onion, garlic, butter, salt, and pepper to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook partially covered for about an hour.
Puree the sauce with an immersion blender or transfer in batches to a standard blender.
Tip: Using an immersion blender not only allows you to puree right in your saucepan, but it also allows you more control over how smooth you want your sauce. (I use it for soups a lot, too!)
Taste! If the sauce isn’t sweet enough, add sugar 1 teaspoon at a time. Stir and taste after each addition, I find that 1 teaspoon is usually enough for me. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.
That’s the end of the super basic recipe, but you can enhance from there. If you like a spicy tomato sauce, add crushed red pepper flakes when you add the canned tomatoes. You can also add herbs to the mix like oregano and basil. Then, you are ready to use your delicious sauce for spaghetti, pizza, and beyond!
Storing Homemade Tomato Sauce
Any leftover sauce you have can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. It’s best to use within 3-4 days of preparing it.
Want to make a big batch for meal prep? No problem. First, let the sauce cool to room temperature. Then divide it into convenient portions and put into zip-top freezer bags or freezer safe containers. Depending what you’ll be using it for, two or four cup portions work well. The sauce can be stored for 3 months in the freezer.
More Amazing Sauce Recipes
If you love tomatoes, you should give my Southern Tomato Gravy recipe a try, it’s amazing over biscuits. But, if you’re looking for more pasta sauce recipes, try one of the ones below.
If you like a spicy tomato sauce, add 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes when you add the canned tomatoes. You can also optionally add 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano and 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil to the mix. I’ve kept this version plain though so that you can adapt it however you’d like.
- 2 (28 oz.) cans whole tomatoes with juices (ideally San Marzano tomatoes)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- Black pepper
- Sugar (optional)
- In a medium sauce pan over high heat add tomatoes, onion, garlic, butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook at a low simmer partially covered for 1 hour.
- Use an immersion blender to puree it or transfer it in two batches to a blender.
- Taste. If the sauce isn’t sweet enough, add sugar 1 teaspoon at a time, tasting after each addition to see if it has the flavor you’d like. I usually add only 1 teaspoon. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.
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This post originally appeared in January 2017 and was revised and republished in October 2022.