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Homemade Tomato Sauce

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Based on Marcella Hazan’s famous recipe, this is a simple and rich homemade tomato sauce.

I admit that I have an entire shelf in my pantry devoted to my favorite jarred tomato sauce, 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 wonder how I can ever eat that run-of-the-mill jarred stuff! My go-to recipe is based on cookbook author Marcella Hazan’s famously simple tomato butter sauce, although I’ve tweaked it over the years to make it my own. It’s such a rich and flavorful sauce, it doesn’t even need Parmesan cheese when tossed with pasta. If fresh tomatoes aren’t in season or you want to save time, feel free to use canned whole peeled tomatoes; just avoid canned diced tomatoes, as they are treated with a chemical that prevents them from fully breaking down.

What you’ll need to make Homemade tomato sauce

tomato sauce ingredients

Step-By-Step Instructions

Begin by scoring the tomatoes with an X on one end. Don’t cut too deep – about 1/4 inch is good.

scoring the tomatoes

Place the tomatoes in boiling water and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the skins start to peel back. Be careful not to cook too long, or the tomatoes will become soft and difficult to handle.

boiling the tomatoes

Plunge the tomatoes into an ice-cold water bath to stop the cooking process.

tomatoes in water bath

Transfer the tomatoes to a cutting board and peel the skins off.

peeling the skins off of the tomatoes Cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch chunks.

cutting the tomatoes

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

tomato sauce ingredients in Dutch oven

Bring to a gentle boil.

boiling tomato sauce

Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours, until the sauce is no longer watery.

tomato sauce after simmering

Remove the onion and discard. Use a wooden spoon or potato masher to smash any large chunks of tomatoes or garlic to make a slightly chunky and thick sauce.

smooth tomato sauce

Before serving, stir in the basil.

adding the basil to the tomato sauce

The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for about 4 days, or can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

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Homemade Tomato Sauce

Based on Marcella Hazan’s famous recipe, this is a simple and rich homemade tomato sauce.

Servings: About 1 quart (enough for 1½ pounds of pasta)


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


  1. If using fresh tomatoes: Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Fill a large bowl halfway-full with ice cubes and cold water. Using a sharp knife, cut a ¼-inch deep X on one end of each tomato. Place the scored tomatoes into the boiling water and cook until you see the skin starting to wrinkle and split, 1 to 2 minutes (be careful not to cook too long, or the tomatoes will become soft and difficult to handle). Using a slotted spoon, lift the tomatoes out of the pot and plunge them into the ice-cold water bath. Let sit for a few minutes to cool, then transfer the tomatoes to a cutting board and, using your hands, peel off their skins. Cut the tomatoes into ½-inch chunks (discard the cores at this point) and transfer them, along with all of their juices, into a Dutch oven or saucepan.
  2. To the chopped tomatoes, add the butter, olive oil, onions, garlic, salt, and sugar. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 1½ to 2½ hours, stirring occasionally and mashing the tomatoes, until the sauce is no longer watery. Remove and discard the onions. Using a wooden spoon or potato masher, mash any large chunks of tomatoes and garlic to make a slightly chunky and thick sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Before serving, stir in the basil.
  3. Make-Ahead Instructions: The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • 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, Edamam.com. 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.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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  • Can frozen garden san marzanos or romas leftover from summer be used to make this in winter?

    • — Kristen Henry on January 8, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure, Kristen, that should work. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 9, 2023
      • Reply
  • I made this for the first time today using canned whole tomatoes. After 2 hours on a low simmer, I put my stick blender in the cooking pot and blended everything, including the onions, until it was completely smooth. It is easy and delicious. No more buying jars of marinara sauce for me!

    • — Janette on January 4, 2023
    • Reply
    • I forgot to give it 5 stars!

      • — Janette on January 4, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    We love all your recipes. Would this sauce work in your classic lasagna recipe? Thanks!

    • — Danielle Witthoft on December 21, 2022
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes! Technically using this sauce would work, but because of the no-boil noodles in the lasagna, the amount of sauce is really important and I’m not sure how the amounts of the two sauces compare so, to be safe, I wouldn’t recommend it. Sorry!

      • — Jenn on December 22, 2022
      • Reply
  • This is the best sauce ever!! I made it at the end of tomato season with random garden tomatoes. I had to simmer it at least an hour longer and pureed the onions instead of taking them out. I just took a portion out of the freezer today, simmered with Italian meatballs (Unpeeled recipe) , and served it over bucatini. Very Rich! Such a nice change from traditional spaghetti sauce! Thanks again Jenn!

    • — Kathy on November 12, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this yesterday with canned crushed tomatoes. It is wonderful!

    • — Marcia on November 10, 2022
    • Reply
  • Could you can this sauce? If not, what would I have to add, if I wanted to do so?
    Thanks, Cathy

    • — Cathy M on November 6, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Cathy, I didn’t develop this recipe for canning so I can’t say for sure that it would be safe. Sorry!

      • — Jenn on November 7, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    My husband & I made this wonderful sauce yesterday. We followed your recipe to a ” T ” & it turned out perfect. We let it cool and then put it in the frig for the night & sealed it in freezer bags today. We ended up with five bags & put them in the freezer. Thank you for sharing your recipe. Your directions were so easy to follow. You are so amazing.

    • — Janie & Ed on October 29, 2022
    • Reply
  • Could canned crushed tomatoes be used instead of whole tomatoes? If so, would the measurements be the same?

    • — GeeBee on October 24, 2022
    • Reply
    • No, I wouldn’t recommend it. Sorry!

      • — Jenn on October 25, 2022
      • Reply
  • I love this recipe, and so does my husband! I used it with spaghetti and added meatballs and a tablespoon of jalapeño for heat, though I could have eaten it as is. The sauce is flavourful but also has a nice lightness. Thank you.

    • — Barbara Jeffrey on September 28, 2022
    • Reply
  • It was delicious.

    • — RAD on September 24, 2022
    • Reply
  • Can you can this recipe instead of freezing?

    • — LisaI on September 22, 2022
    • Reply
    • I didn’t develop this recipe for canning so I can’t say for sure that it would be safe. Sorry!

      • — Jenn on September 23, 2022
      • Reply
  • Delicious and pretty easy! I left the onions in and blended 2/3 of the batch in a blender before stirring it back in. The butter and oil seemed to make it so smooth…it was wonderful!

    • — Shannon on September 12, 2022
    • Reply
  • I’ve made this a few times now and it’s delicious. Do you think it could be made successfully in the slow cooker?
    Thank you 🙂

    • — Catherine on September 12, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Catherine, I don’t have a slow cooker so I haven’t tried it myself, but I think it could work. You’d need to occasionally lift the top off and mash the tomatoes while they’re cooking. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on September 13, 2022
      • Reply
  • My husband at supper: “I think this is the best spaghetti sauce I’ve ever had!” This was phenomenal. The simple tomato basil sauces are such a hit!

    • — LT on September 6, 2022
    • Reply
  • This is my first year growing a surplus of tomatoes, so also my first time making tomato sauce. This recipe is a keeper!! I used a variety of garden tomatoes. The sauce turned out sooo good! Even my Italian husband loved it. We were tempted to eat it like soup with bread for dunking! That’ll be my next experiment – won’t need to change much with such delicious flavor!

    • — Katie on September 5, 2022
    • Reply
  • I’m making this today. Why do you have to remove the onion? Can I blend it in with my hand blender? It seems like such a shame to throw them out. Also can I use Roma tomatoes instead since that’s what I have on hand? And I don’t have any fresh basil so I will have to substitute dried and I’m assuming that’s OK.

    • — Judy on September 5, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Judy, it’s perfectly fine for you to blend the onion in with your hand mixer. Also, using Roma tomatoes is fine. Regarding the basil, I definitely prefer fresh over dried, but it’s OK to use dried in a pinch (you’ll only need 2 teaspoons instead of 2 tablespoons). Hope you enjoy the sauce!

      • — Jenn on September 6, 2022
      • Reply
      • The sauce was out of this world. Another home run Jenn! Thank you.

        • — Judy on September 7, 2022
        • Reply

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