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Tomato Sauce with Basil

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tomato sauce

I have to admit: I have an entire shelf in my pantry devoted to my favorite jarred tomato sauce. I’m usually in a hurry when I make pasta for dinner — and who has time to simmer a sauce on the stove for over an hour?! But when tomatoes are in season, and I’ve got a little extra time, I love to make tomato sauce from scratch. It’s so delicious and always makes me question how I can ever eat that run-of-the-mill jarred stuff! My recipe is based on one of the most popular Internet recipes, cookbook author Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Butter Sauce. Over the years I’ve tweaked it a bit to make it my own, adding a little olive oil, garlic, sugar and basil. The recipe calls for fresh tomatoes, which need to be peeled (no worries, I show you how below), but you can use canned if you don’t want to bother. This is such a mellow and rich sauce; it doesn’t even need Parmesan cheese.


Begin by scoring the tomatoes on one end. Don’t cut too deep — about 1/4-inch is good.


Boil the tomatoes for a few minutes.


Then plunge into cold water.


Peel the skin off the tomatoes (it should come right off), then cut them into 1/2-inch chunks.


Place the chopped tomatoes, along with all of their seeds and juices, into a large sauce pan, along with the butter, olive oil, onions, garlic, salt and sugar.


Bring to a simmer.


Cook over low heat, uncovered, for 75-90 minutes, or until the sauce is no longer watery.


Remove the onion and discard. If there are any large chunks of garlic, remove those as well (mine usually dissolve into the sauce).


Add the basil right before serving for the freshest taste.


Toss with pasta and enjoy!


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Tomato Sauce with Basil

Servings: About 3 cups, or enough for 1-1/2 pounds of pasta


  • 4 pounds plum tomatoes (or two 28-ounce can diced plum tomatoes)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and cut in half
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil


  1. If using fresh tomatoes: Using a sharp knife, cut an 1/4-inch deep X on one end of each tomato. Then, place scored tomatoes into a pot of boiling water and cook until you see the skin starting to wrinkle and split, 1-3 minutes, then lift the tomatoes out with the slotted spoon and plunge them into a bowl of ice cold water. Peel the skin off of the tomatoes and cut into 1/2-inch chunks. (Cut off and discard the cores at this point.)
  2. Place the diced tomatoes and all of their juices into a large saucepan. Add the butter, olive oil, onions, garlic, salt and sugar and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 75-90 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sauce is no longer watery. Remove and discard the onions and any large chunks of garlic (the garlic should have mostly dissolved into the sauce). Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add basil right before serving.

Nutrition Information

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  • Serving size: 1/2 cup
  • Calories: 256
  • Fat: 21 g
  • Saturated fat: 9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 17 g
  • Sugar: 10 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 3 g
  • Sodium: 503 mg
  • Cholesterol: 31 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Reviews & Comments

  • Hi again, Jenn,
    Just want to say that I clicked out of my comment before giving a rating…..5 stars definitely.
    Thanks for all your 5-star recipes.

    • — Geraldine on January 25, 2019
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    Thanks for this tasty recipe. Also like that your recipe does not call for “good” olive oil like another well-known TV chef puts in her recipes. I ask myself if I should make her recipe at all if “good” olive oil doesn’t fit into my budget… rude! Thanks, Jenn, for just being you.

    • — Geraldine on January 25, 2019
    • Reply
  • Loved this! Used fresh tomatoes & leftover Parmesan rinds. Reheats well. Would definitely make again!

    • — Carolyn on October 4, 2018
    • Reply
  • Hi Jen! Looks like I have missed fresh tomato season… If I make this recipe with the canned plum tomatoes, is there a brand that you prefer? Also, should I look for the unsalted variety if available? Thanks for all you do. I bought your cookbook and am LOVING IT!!

    • — Amy Sakasegawa on October 2, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Amy, so glad you’re enjoying the cookbook! I like Pomi or Hunts tomatoes, but any brand will do. 🙂

      • — Jenn on October 3, 2018
      • Reply
  • Can this sauce be frozen?

    • — lizstrodtman on August 2, 2018
    • Reply
    • Sure – it freezes well! 🙂

      • — Jenn on August 2, 2018
      • Reply
  • Delicious. Buttery goodness. I used my homegrown tomatoes. A simple easy summer recipe that is satisfying.

    • — Emily Sudermann on July 12, 2018
    • Reply
  • We have some IBS issues in our family and tomato sauce is usually not on our menu. However, this particular tomato sauce has made it to our regular recipe list. It is very light, flavourful and does any kind of pasta great justice. I have made it both with fresh tomatoes and with canned tomatoes (or with a mixture of the two) and it never fails. My husband has even devoured it as tomato soup on one occasion.

    • — A. on November 30, 2017
    • Reply
  • This is a marvelous sauce that blends all the flavors of summer. Fresh and soft on the palate, The sauce is reminiscent of my Italian heritage. I like it best when it’s played with farfalle.

    • This is a marvelous sauce that blends all the flavors of summer. Fresh and soft on the palate, The sauce is reminiscent of my Italian heritage. I like it best when it’s plated with farfalle.

  • This is an excellent flavour and reminds me of the sauce I ate in Italy. It is so simple to make, I am going to the tomato farm this weekend and get more roma tomatoes to make a bigger batch. Thank you so much. Penny

    • — Penny on September 8, 2017
    • Reply
  • This sauce was delicious! I made it using regular (not Roma) tomatoes from the garden, so I had to cook them down a little longer, but the flavor was fantastic! I also chopped 1 large onion and sautéed it in the butter until translucent before adding the tomatoes rather than discarding the onion later. Anyway, thank you so much for sharing this wonderful recipe.

    • — Christina H. on August 29, 2017
    • Reply
  • Yummy. Did not need butter or sugar. Great without it.

    • — susan bliley on June 22, 2017
    • Reply
  • Hey Jen! Stupid question…but BIG HUGE FAN. If I were to cut the recipe in half, does it take the same amount of time to reduce? Or do you cut that time in half as well?

    • — P on May 18, 2017
    • Reply
    • Not a stupid question, P! Due to less volume, it’s likely to take less time for the sauce to reduce, but probably more than half of what the recipe indicates. Just simmer it until the sauce is no longer watery. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 19, 2017
      • Reply
  • How much flavor is reduced by only using olive oil for health reasons?

    • — Jane Zirin on April 22, 2017
    • Reply
    • Hi Jane, As we all know butter makes everything taste better :), but this will still be good with just the olive oil.

      • — Jenn on April 23, 2017
      • Reply
  • This was such a great recipe and you made it so simple by your step by step directions. Thank you so much!

    • — Lisa Coomer Queen on March 7, 2017
    • Reply
  • This is exactly how I have made my sauce for years. It is delicious and natural, doesn’t taste processed. It freezes well too.

    • — Sue Morgan on March 2, 2017
    • Reply
  • Excellent sauce. I added Romano cheese to sauce while cooking, about 1/2 c. I liked it. So did he. A lot!!! We ate spaghetti for 2 days and then it was all gone. Will make again. Home grown tomatoes are good for this. Will tried canned next time.

    • — Marlene on February 14, 2017
    • Reply
  • Silly question here…. How exactly do you smash garlic? I usually use a garlic press…will that work or should I do something else? Thank you!!!!

    • — Rebecca on December 31, 2016
    • Reply
    • Hi Rebecca, When a recipe calls for smashed garlic, I hold the flat edge of a knife over the clove and smash it with the palm of my hand – this smashes the clove flat and releases it from the skin. This is an easy technique for recipes that call for garlic that does not need to be minced or chopped.

      • — Jenn on December 31, 2016
      • Reply
  • So simple and delicious! You are my main go-to for all recipes because you never disappoint Jenn! Thank you so much for sharing your talent with us! My hubby is happier after I started using your recipes!

    • — Sophia on December 27, 2016
    • Reply
  • Easiest and most delicious basic tomato sauce I have tried! I have incorporated it into numerous other dishes. Much as I love basil, some marinaras use too heavy a hand. This is perfectly balanced.

    • — PaulainVA on October 6, 2016
    • Reply
  • Can I use regular (round) tomatoes? How many medium-sized tomatoes would be 4 pounds? I live in NJ and garden tomatoes are plentiful at the moment!

    • — Leslie on August 30, 2016
    • Reply
    • Hi Leslie, Yes, any tomatoes are fine. It’s hard to say exactly how many you’ll need, but I’m guessing 12-14.

      • — Jenn on August 30, 2016
      • Reply
  • Incredible sauce! Very straightforward recipe. Tasted just like the spaghetti pomodoro at our favorite Italian restaurant.

    • — R on August 27, 2016
    • Reply
  • Can extra sauce be frozen?

    • — Raquel on August 27, 2016
    • Reply
    • Sure Racquel, it freezes nicely!

      • — Jenn on August 29, 2016
      • Reply
  • Jenn,

    Can you can your Tomato Sauce with Basil recipe? I have many tomatoes from my garden. If not, do you have a recipe for canning tomato sauce? Thank you very much.

    • — Mary Ann on August 26, 2016
    • Reply
    • Hi Mary Ann, I don’t know enough about canning to say it would be safe to do with this recipe (and unfortunately, I don’t have a recipe that I know for certain is safe for canning). Sorry I can’t help more!

      • — Jenn on August 29, 2016
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, instead of blanching and chopping, may I use a food mill for the tomatoes? And just continue on with the recipe as written? Thanks, Sue

    P.S. Can’t wait for the cookbook!

    • — Sue Shortley on August 25, 2016
    • Reply
    • Sure, Sue, that should work well.

      • — Jenn on August 25, 2016
      • Reply
  • Can I can this sauce using canned tomato receipe of 325 oven for 1 hour and 25 minutes, lowest rack position with lids just placed on jar. Screw bans secured upon removal.
    From canning book:
    The complete book of preserving
    By: Maryellen Cameron-Smith

    • Hi Sheila, Unfortunately I don’t know enough about canning to tell you this would work– sorry I can’t be more helpful!

      • — Jenn on August 29, 2016
      • Reply
  • Out of the numerous tomato sauce recipes I have made this is by far the best one! And so easy to make as well. I pureed the onion into my sauce.

    • — Brandi on August 13, 2016
    • Reply
  • this was so simple and delicious. my husband loved it too (and he’s VERY picky)

    • — brittany on August 2, 2016
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, just had to tell you since finding your website I love all of your recipes, had to let you know I made the tomato sauce with basil for my 11 year old’s birthday and he loved it. The kicker was the other evening I made it again and he said at dinner, Thank GOD for the woman who made up this recipe. I could have died laughing. Keep coming up with great recipes.

    • — Rachel Barrett on May 18, 2016
    • Reply
  • At what time should I add sausages to the mix?

    • Hi John, I would cook the sausage separately, then add it towards the end.

      • — Jenn on September 15, 2015
      • Reply
  • All you recipes look so good… I have added this one to my grocery list. I have heard nothing but good things about your recipes.

    • — Andrea Crane on August 27, 2015
    • Reply
  • I’m on a tomato kick this week with all of the farmstand August tomatoes available this time of year and this was delicious. Also made the caprese salad and the roasted tomato salsa. I typically make recipes exactly as-is the first time and without fail, Jenn’s recipes need literally no tweaking. loved this!

    • — Lindsay on August 27, 2015
    • Reply
  • This is the ultimate quick summer dinner. Add a side of chicken or shrimp and you have have a quick nutritious meal.

    • — Paula on August 27, 2015
    • Reply
  • This tomato sauce is AMAZING! My husband who claimed he was “allergic” to tomatoes loved it. Thank you, Jen!

    • — Lu on August 17, 2015
    • Reply
  • Love this recipe! I made it tonight for the first time and it was delicious. Thank you!

    • — Anna on August 6, 2015
    • Reply
  • This sauce could not be more perfect! Easy, and delicious. The leftovers were even better for lunch the next day! Your recipes are fool-proof. Thank you for sharing them!

    • — Edi on August 5, 2015
    • Reply
  • FABULOUS recipe! So simple to make, yet so flavourful! I paired the sauce with your balsamic glazed chicken meatballs (minus the glaze) and it was a huge hit! Tried this new recipe on a guest with no hesitation.
    PS-I was the person who requested a tomato sauce recipe; thanks for providing this awesome recipe so quickly!

    • — Debbie on August 3, 2015
    • Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed it, Debbie!

      • — Jenn on August 3, 2015
      • Reply
  • Thank you so much for this recipe. It breaks my heart to discard onions and garlic. Can they be reused somewhere else? Thanks again

    • — Ken on August 2, 2015
    • Reply
    • Hi Ken, You can leave them in the sauce if you’d like.

      • — Jenn on August 3, 2015
      • Reply
      • Thank you.

        • — Ken on August 3, 2015
        • Reply
  • Sounds really good. I’d probably puree the whole sauce as I don’t care for tomato chunks but it sounds really easy and good for topping ravioli and the spaghetti pastas! Maybe even as a pizza sauce. Hmmm…when those Romas go on sale….

    • — Timaree Cheney on July 31, 2015
    • Reply
  • This is a marvellous tomato sauce, have been using it for years. You shouldn’t have to use sugar unless your tomatoes are under ripe. Also you really don’t need olive oil, the butter flavor by itself is wonderful. A hard to improve sauce altogether.

    • — Judy on July 31, 2015
    • Reply
  • Could you scale back on some or all of the butter? My husband has high cholesterol so we try to use olive oil for good fats. Thanks.

    • — Coastalsuzz on July 31, 2015
    • Reply
    • Sure, you can scale back or replace some of it with more olive oil.

      • — Jenn on July 31, 2015
      • Reply
  • Hi, Jenn. How long will the sauce keep in the fridge? What about freezing?

    • — Elodie on July 30, 2015
    • Reply
    • Hi Elodie, I’d say about a week. And it freezes well!

      • — Jenn on July 31, 2015
      • Reply
  • Yummy! Could you tell us your fav store bought ones too, for those rushed days? 🙂

    • — Tina on July 30, 2015
    • Reply
    • Hi Tina, I like Rao’s — it’s a little pricey, but good!

      • — Jenn on July 31, 2015
      • Reply

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