Easy Pasta Sauce. It’s so easy to make homemade tomato sauce, you’ll (probably) never buy the stuff in the jar again. Great with pasta, grilled sausages, polenta, and more.
I’m Italian-American. So I don’t even have to tell you that I grew up in a house where tomato sauce was regularly made from scratch. But I’ll tell you anyway: At home, I never ate store-bought sauce during my childhood. Ever.
During those Ragu commercials, where they declared “It’s in there!”, my mom would scoff as if she’d been personally offended by the commercial.
Her sauce was amazing. It cooked for hours and, let me tell you, was the best sauce most folks had ever tried. (Unless they too were Italian-American, then their mother’s or grandmother’s or father’s sauce was the best sauce they’d ever tried.)
The recipe I’m sharing today is not my mother’s sauce.
This tomato sauce cooks in less than an hour but, let me tell you, it’s good.
How good is it?
Glad you asked! It’s so good that my mom likes it.
If you’re in the habit of buying expensive sauce from a jar, this recipe might just help you break that spendy habit.
All you need is a few ingredients and a bit of time.
This recipe uses crushed tomatoes. This is key for this sauce. Diced tomatoes work but the consistency of the sauce won’t be the same. Crushed tomatoes tend to vary in thickness from brand to brand and sometimes from season to season. Start the sauce by adding 1/4 cup of water. If your sauce seems thick, add a little more water.
Cook’s Tip: The sauce thickens as it cooks. When you start the sauce, you want it thinner than you want the finished sauce.
Onions and Garlic
Onions and garlic bring a lot of flavor to the sauce. Use one medium onion and three to five cloves of garlic. Yes. You read that right. Three to five cloves. Why the range? If the cloves are small, use more.
This makes a somewhat chunky pasta sauce. The consistency comes mainly from the diced onions. I roughly chop them. If you want a silky smooth sauce, you’ve got three options:
- Dice the onions very finely.
- Dice the onions in a food processor until they’re almost a paste.
- Puree the sauce after it’s finished cooking.
I don’t know when I started adding a pat of butter to my sauce but I did and, woah, it makes a difference. A mere pat of butter adds a roundness to the sauce that you’ll love.
I know. I know. All the cool culinary snobs say that dried herbs don’t add any flavor. Do you know what I say? ‘Eff em. Seriously. Buy a good dried basil and you’ll be fine. Is dried the same as fresh? Nope! But it will add flavor.
An easy way to know if the dried basil you’re using is good is to smell it. Even without rubbing it between your fingers, you should be able to detect a summery-basil smell. If you can’t smell anything, it’s probably time to buy a new jar.
This sauce only requires 10 minutes of simmering. Seriously. For a deeper flavor, cook it longer, up to one hour. The longer you cook the sauce, the thicker it gets. Be sure to stir it occasionally and add additional water as needed.
Salt, Pepper, and Other Good Flavors
Think of these ingredients as a starting point. Sometimes you might want to add a pinch more salt or a sprinkle of additional red pepper flakes. Other times, you might want to stir in some additional herbs, like oregano, or add freshly grated parmesan at the end of cooking. You can do that with this sauce. It’s yours. Have fun with it!
Can I use this sauce for pizza?
Sure! I prefer a thick sauce for pizza; so I’d suggest you cook it until thick before using it on pizza.
How do I freeze tomato sauce?
Allow the sauce to cool completely. Place into a freezer-safe container. Freeze for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Heat thoroughly before serving. Adjust consistency as needed.
Can I use fresh tomatoes?
I wouldn’t. Fresh tomatoes are amazing. But this recipe was developed for canned tomatoes.
Can I can this sauce?
Nope! It’s not an approved recipe for canning.
Can I omit the sugar?
Absolutely! The 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar enhances the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and, believe it or not, does make a difference. If you want to leave it out, go ahead.
Easy Pasta Sauce
Easy Pasta Sauce. Cooks in 10 minutes.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion finely diced
- 3-5 cloves garlic minced or put through a garlic press
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- pinch red pepper flakes about 1/4 teaspoon
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 pat butter, about 2 teaspoons
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup water
Heat the olive oil over high heat until it shimmers. Saute the onions, stirring frequently, until they soften and shine, about three minutes. The onions should sizzle and hiss as they cook. Add the garlic. Stir to combine. This prevents the garlic from burning. Cook an additional two minutes. Add the basil, red pepper flakes, salt, and sugar. Stir to combine. Add the butter. Stir, cook for about a minute.
Add 1/2 can of the crushed tomatoes. Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any stuck on bits. Reduce heat to low. Add remaining tomatoes. Stir in 1/4 cup water. If the sauce seems too thick, add additional water.
Allow sauce to simmer for 10 minutes to up to one hour. If simmering for a longer, stir the sauce occasionally and add additional water as needed to keep the sauce at the correct consistency.
Nancy E Troeger says
Fast and delicious. Thank you!
I am sure you heard it before but this is a wonderful recipe. I made a batch for pizza sauce and will never purchase jar sauce again, well a lazy day may come around and the jar sauce will be my friend, hahahha. Thank you for sharing!
Mo Allen says
Delicious. I used fresh plum tomatoes and squashed them with a potato masher. I added a splash of sweet chilli dip also as I didn’t have chilli flakes. Will definitely make again. It’s lovely as bruschetta too.
Tallulah Stewart says
I forgot to put the water in but it’s still super good
Janeel Shulmister says
OMG I made this tonight!
My husband took one bite and declared “This is the only way I want spaghetti from now on. No more store bought sauce!”
It was so simple to make and so delicious. Thank you so much for sharing!!!!
Ah! This made my day! Glad you liked it!
Marti Fernandez says
This sauce is amazing! I actually added about ¼ C butter and just a bit of oregano. This will be my new “go to” for sauce, it just absolutely perfect
mark m says
great sauce but I added 1\4 cup of white wine instead of water turned out great.
Great idea! I’ll do this next time
Lavina Jones says
This is yummy ?, my pasta sauce is usually quite bland and I think the butter is a great addition. My kids have told me to save this recipe and not revert back to my old ones ?
This was an amazing recipe!!! Easy to make!!!
Very helpful , my pasta sauce and my pasta turned out very delicioso
It turned out soooo good but I feel like I should have definitely purchased a good fancy brand of crushed tomatoes. The cheapest one at the store just didn’t do it for us. Would definitely recommend making sure you use some goooooood crushed tomatoes and adding maybe more butter and tiny bit more sugar. The white wine idea sounds so cool too.
I never imagined such an easy sauce would be so tasty. A+++++++++ ?
Awesome recipe! I made it for my family and they loved it!
Terre B says
Love love love this sauce, I made it a couple weeks ago and couldn’t believe how easy It is and cheaper than using name brand sauces to feed my family the leftovers work great for stuffed shells and lasagna…thank you so much
Terre B says
Forgot to add… I am making another big batch tonight for dinner to prep for meals this week ??
Bernie Heenan says
How long can you leave in fridge without freezing
About four days.
I love the versatility of this recipe. I’ve made it many times, sometimes just as is (it’s delicious… trust me) and other times, I add some oregano or Italian seasoning. Sometimes I add a little extra garlic or throw in a few veggies and some plant based crumbles! The possibilities are endless, but it’s because the sauce is so delightful just as it is!
David Cameron says
A teaspoon of dried instead of basil. Thank me later.
Shawna Manno says
Hi. I think you’re saying use dried instead of fresh it sounds like? But in the recipe just FYI a calls for dried basil.😀
my sauce is looking more orange then red like your pictures. any idea why?
The color of canned tomatoes varies a lot by band. My guess is that it’s the type of tomatoes they use and how it’s processed.
Tomatoes turn orange when they oxidize. If you do less stirring, they won’t turn as orange.
Terry C. says
This is so fast and easy and so good! I made the sauce according to directions then added browned ground Turkey sautéed with additional onion, salt and pepper, a glug of red wine and about 1/3 cup of finely grated Parmesan. Simmered low for about 45 minutes. My husband loved it! ❤️
Easy to make, tastes great. Good with spaghetti or Italian Sausage
Mark J Mc Donnell says
this is the and easy to make. I use white wine instead of water and also 1/4 tsp of oregano. but the key is the tomatoes I use delallo san marzano or tuttorosso hand crushed tomatoes makes all the difference
Would not have believed a really good sauce could be made without simmering for hours.
Turned out great. However, I cheated a bit and added a little red wine and a few fennel
seeds to the pot.
Also, I think 10 minutes prep time is too short.
With choping dicing, getting ingredients lined up I would say 20-3 minutes.
Anyway, it’s a great sauce
Anna Philbert says
I made this for dinner today. It was fast, easy and very delicious! I loved it and will add it to the regular rotation!
Bobbi Shingleton says
I’ve made this several times. It never disappoints! Best sauce ever.!
Awesome sauce! I added a half TSP of fennel seeds & a lot more chili flakes (we like it spicy) but this was so flavorful & easy to make. I need to work on dicing my onions more finely though haha
OLGA KATSOULI says
for approximately how much grams of pasta is this sauce for? its delicious but im not sure if im making the correct amount
Just made this and we both agree it tastes really nice, will defiantly make this again ?
Shabnam Rashid says
Tasty and fast. Thank you for the easy recipe! Lots of room to add other ingredients – I added some Italian sausage and other spices. Everyone was happy!
I used this recipe and loved its simplicity. Tasted better than anything I’d made before.
I actually lost the method and ingredients but have just found it again now. Happy days.
Glad you found it again!
Blending a tin of whole tomatoes and the onion and garlic after they’re simmered is a complete game changer. The texture is finally right! Thanks so much.
Hey there, Elizabeth! I am half Italian too, so pasta is a very serious matter around here. I’ve tried your recipe with a (not so) small modification: in the absence of canned tomatoes, I had to resort to a mix of fresh tomatoes (minced), tomato puree and a bit of water, cooked in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes. The results were superb! Thank you for the tip!
Melinda Harris says
Excellent! Light, flavorful and delicious. My family likes a smooth sauce so I diced the onion super fine and used Pomi Strained tomatoes. It was a big hit
Salud Guillen says
Just made this for my 5 year old son for his spaghetti and he loved it… he’s a very picky eater so no more store bought that’s for sure… thank you so much for sharing!
Christina Negrete says
Great recipe. I won’t be buying the canned/ bottled marinara sauce after this recipe. I added some red peppers and celery to the onions and garlic to make it a bit
Christina Negrete says
Great recipe. I won’t be buying the canned/bottled marinara sauce after this. I added some red peppers and celery to the onions and garlic to make it a bit more chunky. Next time I will try some wine as suggested by another person. Delicious recipe and easy to prepare. Thanks.
I have never before left a review for a recipe, but this was so good I literally had to. This sauce was so quick and easy to make, and it tasted out of this world. I will literally never make a different pasta sauce.
I made this sauce a few weeks ago for my sons engagement dinner. It was so good! I put it over stuffed shells and meatballs. This is my new go to! I tripled the recipe and wish I would have made a little more. Thanks for sharing!
Making for a second time now! Great sauce! Super flavourful and worlds better than store bought. Thx!
Thanks for sharing! I made this recipe as I was out of store bought sauce and really wanted to cook up some fresh pasta I picked up.
This is amazing and so easy to make. It’s zesty and full of flavor. Not having an Italian bone in my body, I’ve always been intimidated by spaghetti sauce. This recipe is great and far superior to the store bought sauce. Thanks again for sharing! I’ll be making this again soon. Whoo, I feel like an Italian chef now 🙂
So good, honestly life-changing. I’m never buying pasta sauce from the store again, it is THAT good. Thank you for giving a recipe that we don’t need to slave over to make a great, homemade sauce.
I am so impressed first time ! Having covid can’t go out ! And for some reason I fancied spaghetti so I followed you recipe it looks good and taste amazing thank you I now have to go sit down as energy limited.
Made once loved it. Made again added oregano thyme rosemary just a bit of each and doubled the portions so I could can a few jars to save. Thanks
When you double do you use another onion per can of crushed tomatoes?
jackie fullmer says
Can I use fresh tomatoes instead of the canned ?
Yes I used very ripe tomatoes and oh so yummy ?
I forgot the red pepper flakes, sauce is done, is it too late to add them?
Nope! Go ahead and add it.
Pat dowling says
Can you use less onions
Never buy sauce again. This is so great. It’s fast, easy, and ultra tasty. I freeze the portion we don’t eat when I make it fresh, which makes a future dinner even easier.
Megan K. says
I LOVE this recipe. Not only is it delicious, it’s also cost effective. The flavor is just so good. We had a very lazy night recently, resorted to a jar of sauce – the taste just wasn’t there. My next plan is to make a couple batches of this for the freezer!
This is delicious and highly adaptable. Really good recipe, even the kids that never finish came back for seconds.
I did not have crushed tomatoes so I subbed diced tomatoes. I put the diced tomatoes in my mini food processor to crush them. A little more like marinara than a sauce, but the taste was great!
I’ve been looking for a basic tomato sauce all my life. This is it. Easy and delicious. I’ve made it three times now and each time I’m still impressed by it. Thank you!
I used avocado oil and a 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes and a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce because that’s what I had. Turned out great! Thanks
Killer sauce. I skipped all the oils and fats, and used canned mushroom liquid in place of the water and salt since I used mushrooms with the pasta I was making. I was also in a hurry so I used dried onions and garlic powder in place of the fresh ingredients. Couldn’t believe how great this was for such a simple recipe, especially with all of my shortcuts. Definitely my go to from now on because it is such a low calorie pasta sauce with the omission of the fats but it’s still delicious!
Eric R says
Absolutely amazing! My roommate and I also just bought a 12 pack of lime LA Croix and we were wondering if we could use that instead of water to add some zest?
Love this recipe! I split the canned tomatoes to 1 can (14.5-oz) crushed tomatoes and 1 can (14.5-oz) fire roasted diced tomatoes. I also added a small can of tomato paste and 1/3 cup water along with 1 tsp oregano. Then 1 package of cooked ground Turkey and it was delicious! Thank you for the inspiration!! 🏼
Samantha Stultz says
I made this last night when I realized I didn’t have a jar of pasta sauce. It was fantastic – the whole family agreed we never return to store-bought jar pasta again. I had two lbs of ground beef. This amount covers one lb, so if you have more meat, double for each lb of beef.