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Homemade Tomato Sauce

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

Wooden spoon in a Dutch oven of homemade tomato sauce.

I’ve got a confession: there’s a whole shelf in my pantry reserved for my favorite jarred tomato sauce — perfect for those hectic nights. But when tomatoes are in season and I’ve got some time on my hands, there’s nothing like making tomato sauce from scratch. It’s so delicious and makes me wonder how I can ever settle for 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’re in a time crunch, feel free to use canned whole peeled tomatoes (select the San Marzano variety for the best results). Just steer clear of canned diced tomatoes; they’ve got a chemical in them 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.

Wooden spoon in a Dutch oven of tomato sauce.

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Homemade Tomato Sauce

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

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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  • I love the butter in this recipe. I tried it for my husband who now has stomach issues with tomato acids. This seems to cut that back and allows him to enjoy the sauce.

    • — Megan on December 8, 2023
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  • Hi! This will actually be my first time making sauce! Can I follow the recipe and then add in meatballs and sausage at the end to cook? Will it change the flavor at all? I have hot and sweet sausages. Thanks!

    • — Sophie on December 3, 2023
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    • Hi Sophie, I’d actually cook both the meatballs and sausage separately and stir them in at the end. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 5, 2023
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  • If using canned tomatoes, do you drain them first?

    • — Susan H Fry-Rayfield on November 28, 2023
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    • No need to drain them. 😊

      • — Jenn on November 29, 2023
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  • A very good sauce. Nothing I have had beats this. No need to look any further. What a meal

    • — Kimberly Maxey on November 22, 2023
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  • I’ve made this recipe a couple of times, and the best success I’ve had is using 2 lbs of fresh tomatoes and 1 28oz can of diced tomatoes. The fresh tomatoes are nice, but the sauce comes out very light (as in orange) and watery. Canned tomatoes are more convenient, but ultimately tastes like canned tomatoes. Combining the two gives me a nice flavor, consistency, and color.

    • — David on November 17, 2023
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  • Hi! I’m making this sauce right now and accidentally added the basil with the onion and everything else. Is my sauce still going to turn out okay? I was a little light on the basil because it can be overwhelming for me.

    Thank you!!

    It smells great already.

    • — Shay on November 2, 2023
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    • Hi Shay, it should be fine. 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 2, 2023
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    • The only tomato sauce I make now. It’s a big hit with everyone. Delicious!

      • — Melanie on January 10, 2024
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  • Absolutely delicious! I used a little less butter, a little more garlic, and added a splash of balsamic vinaigrette & red wine.

    • — Desiree Hendricks on October 13, 2023
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  • Made this today, picked tomatoes fresh. Instead of taking onion and garlic out, I stick-blended the entire pot. It was so good. I added partially cooked rigatoni and ground beef spiced with Italian spices. This was restaurant quality. Sorry no picture, Next time.

    • — Merry Alice on September 27, 2023
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  • This sounds amazing! If you use the canned tomatoes is it the same process with the boiling and ice water?

    • — Samantha on September 22, 2023
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    • Hi Samantha, no need to go through those steps with canned tomatoes. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 25, 2023
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  • My garden is just now providing an abundance of ripe tomatoes. Is it safe to can this sauce since there’s butter in it?

    • — Mike on September 13, 2023
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    • Hi Mike, I’d be hesitant to can this one – sorry!

      • — Jenn on September 14, 2023
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      • Why is that?

        • — Laurene A Johnson on September 17, 2023
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        • Hi Laurene, I didn’t develop this recipe with canning in mind, so I don’t know that it would be safe.

          • — Jenn on September 18, 2023
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  • Delicious. First time I’ve ever made homemade tomato sauce. It was simple, only change I made was to leave one onion in, I just chopped it a bit. So good 😀

    • — Sharon on September 12, 2023
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  • My husband makes and processes between 60-80 jars of sauce every summer from our garden tomatoes. It is a very tasty sauce, but I have been wanting to try and make one on my own that has far fewer ingredients. This recipe caught my eye because of the butter. It made me wonder if that was what is needed to get the flavor just the way I want. Sure enough, it is. When I was done with the first batch using this recipe, I tasted it and it reminded me of the local Italian restaurant’s sauce as well as one in the North End of Boston, MA. It is just the perfect blend of ingredients. Today, I made a double batch of the sauce and my husband intends to can it when done. Thank you for the perfect recipe!

    • — Suzanne on September 9, 2023
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    • Hi Suzanne! How long do you pressure can pints for? Do you think it’s ok to can with the butter that’s incorporated into it (will it go bad?)

      • — Denise on September 9, 2023
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  • Exceptional taste for such a simple recipe! It’s by far the best tomato sauce I have ever had,even better than those served in restaurants!

    • — Vivi on September 8, 2023
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  • This is honestly the best tomato sauce that I’ve ever made. The slow cooking of the tomatoes, garlic and onions gives it an amazing taste. Make sure to use good quality olive oil. Also I sprinkle in some red pepper flakes. Yum!!

    • — Wendy R. on September 4, 2023
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  • Can this recipe be canned? I am looking for a good tomato sauce recipe to bottle up for the winter.

    • — Tim on September 3, 2023
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    • Hi Tim, I didn’t develop this recipe with canning in mind, so I’m not sure it would be safe — sorry!

      • — Jenn on September 4, 2023
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  • My kids look forward to our tomato crop every year solely because of this recipe. We grow and use San Marzano tomatoes for this sauce. Delicious every time!

    • — Connie on September 3, 2023
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  • This recupe is wonderful! So good! I tried it last weekend with tomatoes from my raised beds and we loved it so today I made another batch (as soon as I had 4 more lbs. of tomatoes harvested) to freeze for later use.

    • — Theresa C. on September 2, 2023
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  • This was fabulous and a great way to use tomatoes from my garden. Thank you.

    • — Patty on August 29, 2023
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  • I see a few people asking about what to do with the leftover onions. Easy peasy! Cut them up and put them in your meatballs 😋 I followed this recipe relatively closely. The biggest change I made was discarding only 1 onion half (used it in my meatballs), and removing the roots from the other three and blending the sauce together. Then I added 1 tbsp tomato paste and basil before adding in the meatballs and simmering for another hour. Other than that, I followed this closely. I’m glad I did. The butter added a wonderful balance to the sauce! Simple and delicious! Yum! Thanks for all of your hard work on this one!

    • — Allison on August 25, 2023
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  • I usually do a roasted tomato sauce but decided to try this one. The sauce turned out so so good. The next time I think I will add some Italian herbs, but even without them, this recipe is sure a keeper.

    • — Kay on August 23, 2023
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  • I make lots of tomato sauce and there is no need to boil the tomatoes. Just put a cross in the bottom and pour boiling water over, leave for a minute or two then plunge into iced water.

    • — Jan on August 21, 2023
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    • Jen, I am attempting to reduce fat from my cooking. Would it be advisable to omit the butter or at least reduce the amount of butter?

      • — Kathy M. on August 28, 2023
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      • Hi Kathy, I wouldn’t omit the butter, but you can reduce it. Hope you enjoy!

        • — Jenn on August 29, 2023
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  • This is the second time I’ve attempted this recipe. Is there anyway to thicken the sauce? Both times I’ve made it I followed the recipe exactly and it appears to be far to watery? Has anyone else had a similar experience?

    • — Kevin Wezo on August 20, 2023
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    • Hi Kevin, Sorry that this hasn’t had the texture you’ve been looking for. You can just simmer it until it thickens to your liking.

      • — Jenn on August 21, 2023
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    • Cook it over a low heat or put in the oven (cast iron dutch) at 220F for an hour, stirring every half hour; if not thick enough continue to cook until desired thickness. This will also make the sauce potentially richer.

      • — Dawn on August 27, 2023
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  • I just made this for the first time using home grown Celebrity and some store bought Romas and am amazed at the flavor burst from this easy recipe. Even using a favorite jarred sauce requires my adding a little more seasoning, garlic, etc. This is just perfect as is…although I admit to crushing a few of the onion leaves before removing the bulk of them. Thank you!

    • — Gigi on August 20, 2023
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  • Hi Jennifer,

    I am an avid fan and love your recipes.
    Question….In your blog about homemade tomato sauce, you mention that you have a shelf reserved in your pantry for this sauce. How do you prepare it for the pantry? Boiling water bath? For how long? Otherwise the only options mentioned are store in fridge for four days or freeze for 3 months.
    Please advise the best way to make and store your tomato sauce for use over the cold winter months.
    Interesting to read your comments on canned diced tomatoes. I certainly won’t be buying them in the future!

    Thank you very much for your response and wonderful recipes.

    • — Valerie Wilson on August 20, 2023
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    • Hi Valerie, actually, what I’m referring to there is store bought sauce for when I don’t have time to make homemade – sorry for the confusion!

      • — Jenn on August 21, 2023
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  • Fresh is best but if I use canned tomatoes should I include the juice in the can? Thanks!

    • — Janet on August 20, 2023
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    • Yep I would include the juice. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on August 20, 2023
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  • Hi Jenn – I’ve made this recipe each summer with fresh tomatoes from our garden. It is great! But, I’m curious, why do you core the tomato? How will it affect the recipe if I peel the skin and then cut the tomato into chucks without coring?

    • — Justin H. on August 17, 2023
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    • Hi Justin, The core is hard and a bit bitter, so it’s best to remove it. Glad you like the recipe! 🙂

      • — Jenn on August 19, 2023
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  • This recipe is amazing! It makes my house smell so good.😊

    • — Jennifer L Ocasio on August 10, 2023
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  • Hi Jenn!! Thankful for your recipes!!! If I wanted to remove the seeds from the tomatoes because of diverticulitis, at what step and how would you recommend doing so!?! Thanks and Happy Summer 🍅!!!

    • — Patricia on August 6, 2023
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    • Hi Patricia, Here’s a video that shows you how. (It’s very similar to what I instruct in the recipe with the exception of cutting the cores out the tomatoes before putting them in boiling water.) Hope you enjoy the sauce!

      • — Jenn on August 7, 2023
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  • Hi Jenn, I’ve made this many times with canned tomatoes and love it. I now have lots of fresh tomatoes of several different varieties, no plum though. If I make this using a mix would you suggest any changes?
    Thank you for all the wonderful recipes!

    • — Sharon T on July 27, 2023
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    • Hi Sharon, It’s fine to use other tomatoes with no modifications to the recipe (and so glad you like it)!

      • — Jenn on July 28, 2023
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      • I made a double batch last week and am surprised how much the flavor is elevated with fresh summer tomatoes!!! The only issue is it’s a tad too sweet. I probably shouldn’t of added any sugar until the end. I froze it any ideas on how to correct it when I use it? I haven’t added the basil yet, I don’t know if that will make any difference.

        • — Sharon T on August 6, 2023
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        • Hi Sharon. I’d add some red wine vinegar, bit by bit, until you get to the flavor you’re looking for (and the basil won’t have an impact). Hope that helps!

          • — Jenn on August 8, 2023
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          • That did it! Turned out to be a great sauce used it with your chicken parm…Thank you again 🙂

            • — Sharon T on August 8, 2023
          • So glad — thanks for taking the time to follow up! 🙂

            • — Jenn on August 9, 2023
      • Can I can this sauce instead of freexing it as I have lots of shelf space and tomatoes and little freezer space?

        • — J Gle on August 20, 2023
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        • I didn’t create this recipe with canning in mind, so I’m not certain it would be safe — sorry!

          • — Jenn on August 21, 2023
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  • Very good, easy to make. Just need to allow time for sauce to simmer.

    • — Susan on July 16, 2023
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  • How would I have to alter the recipe if I’m using European butter?

    • — Shu on June 29, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Shu, it should be fine with no modifications. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 30, 2023
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    • I used it in spaghetti, and not gonna lie, it was the best spaghetti bolognese I’ve ever made.

      • — Shu on June 30, 2023
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  • Can you add the basil prior to freezing?

    • — Tami on June 13, 2023
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    • It’s not the end of the world if you do, but I’d suggest waiting until you reheat and are ready to serve it.

      • — Jenn on June 14, 2023
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  • Out of curiosity, why does frozen tomato sauce have a suggested “use by” date of three months? Would it be a little longer if I vacuum pack and freeze my sauce? I have about 10 pounds of fresh tomatoes from the garden spread all over my counters! Love your direct, succinct answers.

    • — Barbara Kelley on May 22, 2023
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    • Hi Barbara, I think use by dates often mean that’s when a product is at its best. How nice that you already have so many fresh tomatoes from your garden! Unfortunately, I don’t know much about vacuum packing so I can’t say whether or not it would last longer that way — I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful!

      • — Jenn on May 23, 2023
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  • Best sauce that I have had and even better the second day!

    • — Kimberly Maxey on March 28, 2023
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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
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    • Sure, Kristen, that should work. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 9, 2023
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      • Mine smells good but looks terrifying. It actually looks like vomit instead of tomato sauce and I’m not exaggerating. But great recipe overall, I guess cooking isn’t my strong suit.

        • — saucy on June 17, 2023
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    • Jenn, first of all, I want to say I love your site! I use your recipes all the time.

      With regard to this recipe, I wanted to make a suggestion on a technique that may (or may not) simplify it a bit. My family comes from Greece and they have many traditional recipes that include fresh tomato sauce. When saucing fresh tomatoes, rather that blanching them, ice bathing them and then peeling them, they simply halve them and use a cheese grater to remove the pulp from the skin. At this point, you can easily core them, remove the seeds, etc. before grating them. Running a fresh tomato half over a cheese grater leaves you with a smooth sauce and a clean skin that can then be discarded. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this technique.

      Thanks and keep the great recipes coming!

      • — Nathaniel Tzimas on August 20, 2023
      • Reply
      • Hi Nathaniel, Thanks for your nice words about the website – so glad you like it! I’ve never heard of that technique; sounds very different! Will let you know if I give it a try – thanks for sharing. 😊

        • — Jenn on August 21, 2023
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      • I saw this in one recipe. (NYTimes)… it seems like more work to me, but also your note let me realize that you are not grating the peel into the tomatoes. This makes more sense now.

        • — Susan on September 10, 2023
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  • 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
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    • I forgot to give it 5 stars!

      • — Janette on January 4, 2023
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    • My husband said best sauce he’s ever tasted. I agree.

      • — Debb on July 28, 2023
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  • Hi Jenn,

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

    • — Danielle Witthoft on December 21, 2022
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    • 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
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      • Best recipe! No more store bought stuff for me. I used my own home grown tomatoes, onions and garlic. It was amazing!

        • — Patti on June 4, 2023
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  • 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
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  • 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
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  • 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
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  • 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
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  • 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
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  • 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
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    • 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
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  • 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
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  • 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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