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: 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 is 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 1-1/2 pounds of pasta)

Ingredients

  • 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
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Instructions

  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 1/4-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 1/2-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 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 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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Reviews & Comments

  • Hey Jen,
    Absolutely love this recipe! Is it necessary to actually cut the tomatoes or can I just throw them in the pot and smash them with a potato masher?

    Thanks!

    • — Alexis on January 21, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Alexis, It’s fine to smash them with a potato masher. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 22, 2020
      • Reply
  • The perfect simple, delicious sauce! I love garlic and dislike basil, so I used a ton of garlic and omitted the basil and it’s wonderful. Freezes well and everyone I’ve shared it with loves it too!

    • — Kathy on November 24, 2019
    • Reply
  • Hi, About how many plum tomatoes would you need for this recipe? Thank you.

    • Hi Rose, It’s hard to say for sure, and it depends on size, but I suspect you’ll need 18 to 20 plum tomatoes. (Feel free to use the scale in the produce section of the grocery store to be sure.) Hope you enjoy!

  • I can’t wait to try this…I’m having a casual dinner party soon and 4 of my guests are vegans….I thought I would make this along with the ratatouille….my question is if I make this ahead of time and freeze it, I’m assuming I add the basil after it defrosts? Looks delicious….all of my tennis team and friends know all about you…they specifically request your recipes!! You have spoiled us so!!! THANK YOU!!

    • — Wendy Schoenburg
    • Reply
    • Hi Wendy, Yes, that’s correct – add it after defrosting. Hope everyone enjoys and so glad you like the recipes! 💕

  • Hi Jenn,

    Can I stir in the cooked 1-1/2 lbs. of pasta into the pot of sauce and serve that way or is it important to keep the two separated? I like the look of a one pot meal and am wondering if I can convert it into that.

    Thanks!

    • Sure, Chad – that’s fine. Enjoy!

      • Thanks! One more question: What might you suggest/advise if I were to incorporate a protein, such as shrimp, either into or separate from the sauce?

        • I’d sauté some shrimp with olive and garlic in a separate pan, then add it at the very end or just on top of the pasta when serving.

  • Oh my gosh! There is no comparison between this sauce and store-bought–Jen’s is so much better! Vibrant and rich (it must be the butter) and easy to make! I used canned plum tomatoes from Italy. No leftovers last night!

  • Wow, this is a simple and perfect sauce! I make as much as my largest pot can hold and freeze some. Everyone who’s had it at wants the recipe.

  • Excellent and simple sauce. The butter really mellows the acidity of the tomatoes. I have used fresh, home-canned, and store-bought canned tomatoes, all with great success. The whole family loved it. Easy to throw together when you have unexpected company or when you just don’t have time to meal plan.

  • 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.

  • 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…..how rude! Thanks, Jenn, for just being you.

  • Loved this! Used fresh tomatoes & leftover Parmesan rinds. Reheats well. Would definitely make again!

    • Hello….I too save my rinds for this purpose 👍

      • — Gail on January 24, 2020
      • 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

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

  • Can this sauce be frozen?

    • Sure – it freezes well! 🙂

  • Delicious. Buttery goodness. I used my homegrown tomatoes. A simple easy summer recipe that is satisfying.

    • — Emily Sudermann
    • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Yummy. Did not need butter or sugar. Great without it.

  • 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?

    • 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!

  • How much flavor is reduced by only using olive oil for health reasons?

    • Hi Jane, As we all know butter makes everything taste better :), but this will still be good with just the olive oil.

  • 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
    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!!!!

    • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

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

  • Incredible sauce! Very straightforward recipe. Tasted just like the spaghetti pomodoro at our favorite Italian restaurant.

  • Can extra sauce be frozen?

    • Sure Racquel, it freezes nicely!

  • 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.

    • 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!

  • 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!

    • Sure, Sue, that should work well.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • this was so simple and delicious. my husband loved it too (and he’s VERY picky)

  • 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.
    Thanks
    Rachel

    • — Rachel Barrett
    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • This is the ultimate quick summer dinner. Add a side of chicken or shrimp and you have have a quick nutritious meal.

  • This tomato sauce is AMAZING! My husband who claimed he was “allergic” to tomatoes loved it. Thank you, Jen!

  • Love this recipe! I made it tonight for the first time and it was delicious. Thank you!

  • 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!

    • Hi! If using canned diced tomatoes, do they need to be drained? Thanks for all of your delicious recipes!

      • — Robyn on May 15, 2021
      • Reply
      • No need to drain them. Hope you enjoy!

        • — Jenn on May 16, 2021
        • 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!

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Debbie!

  • 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

    • Hi Ken, You can leave them in the sauce if you’d like.

      • Thank you.

  • 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
    • 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.

  • 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.

    • Sure, you can scale back or replace some of it with more olive oil.

  • Hi, Jenn. How long will the sauce keep in the fridge? What about freezing?

    • Hi Elodie, I’d say about a week. And it freezes well!

  • Yummy! Could you tell us your fav store bought ones too, for those rushed days? 🙂

    • Hi Tina, I like Rao’s — it’s a little pricey, but good!

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