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Tomato Sauce Recipe for Italian Cuisine

Updated on January 3, 2013
Basic Tomato sauce can enhance any number of dishes.
Basic Tomato sauce can enhance any number of dishes. | Source

Over the years, tomato sauce has become a staple in the U.S. and all over the world. The number of brands and varieties available on store shelves is mind-boggling.

I used to buy whatever was on sale any given week. So you can imagine the quality, and our enjoyment level, would vary each time. I wondered about making sauce myself, but thought it would be pretty involved and time-consuming.

My husband, who happens to be of Italian stock, gave me some advice: keep it simple and as fresh as possible. With that in mind, I set out to find a recipe that would please his palate without requiring me to spend hours watching a pot.

After some research, and trial and error, I hit upon a basic recipe that works for a quick weeknight meal and that can be tweaked for use in other meals.

A Short History Of Tomatoes In Italy

Tomatoes were given the name "pomidoro" by Italians when they first wrote about them in the 16th century. The fruit originally came to Europe from South America, and began being grown in regions like San Marzano.

By the late 1800's, tomatoes were being used all across the country in daily meals.

And as great numbers of Italians immigrated to America, they brought their "homeland" recipes with them. Demand for tomatoes grew, and both mass canning and importing helped meet the need.

Types Of Italian Sauces

Main Ingredients
Pasta Usually Served With
Al Pomodoro ("tomato")
Light, sweet
Fresh tomatoes, basil and olive oil
Thin spaghetti or angel hair
Tangy, salty
Tomatoes, olive oil, olives, garlic and capers
Arrabbiata ("angry")
Tomatoes, garlic and red chili pepper

My Favorite Recipe

My go-to sauce recipe is of the Pomodoro variety. It takes very little prep, and the result is a bright, delicious sauce that can be used as is on pasta or to enhance other dishes.

Other recipes call for fresh tomatoes and I like to use those in the summer when I can get some from a neighbor's garden or farmer's market. It's easier other times to substitute canned tomatoes. I've tried adding meat to it as well, but it seems to lend itself more to staying vegetarian.

Cast your vote for Basic Pomodoro Sauce

Cook Time

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 40 min
Ready in: 50 min
Yields: 3 cups sauce


  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1/3 cup onion, diced
  • 1 can whole peeled tomatoes, or 5 fresh tomatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp sugar, (optional)
  • 1/2 tbsp butter or margarine, (optional)
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Olive oil is the basis of every good Italian sauce!Onions add both bite and sweetness to sauce.Good quality canned tomatoes can sub for fresh in sauce.
Olive oil is the basis of every good Italian sauce!
Olive oil is the basis of every good Italian sauce! | Source
Onions add both bite and sweetness to sauce.
Onions add both bite and sweetness to sauce. | Source
Good quality canned tomatoes can sub for fresh in sauce.
Good quality canned tomatoes can sub for fresh in sauce. | Source


  1. In a large sauce pan, heat up the olive oil on medium for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat back and put the onion in, cooking it for about 3 minutes, until the pieces are tender and translucent.
  2. Spoon in the tomatoes into the pan, then gently break each one open. Reserve the juice in the can. Add the pinch of sugar (to help ease some of the acidity), and leave the mixture to simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Add in the juice and let it cook in for another 10 minutes. Take the pot off the stove and transfer the sauce to a food processor. (You can also use an immersion blender right in the pan). Pulse on high until the sauce is broken down but still a bit chunky.
  4. Return the sauce to the pot, add the pat of butter. Turn the burner heat to low and let it sit until you want to serve it. Or, keep it off the heat to cool and store in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Where To Find Other Recipes

At the Food Network website, you can find Mario Batali's Basic Sauce, that uses thyme instead of the usual oregano.

Lesiie Bruni's recipe for meat gravy has been featured in the NY Times.

Ways I Use Basic Cooking Sauce

On Calzones

Just add 1 tsp tomato paste and 1/2 tsp oregano to the sauce and cook for about 20 minutes to thicken it up. Then drizzle it over baked calzones and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

For Eggplant Parmesan

In a lasagna pan, layer sliced eggplant, sauce and a combination of ricotta and mozzarella cheese. Repeat the layers, then bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the cheese lightly browns and the sauce is bubbling.

In Stuffed Peppers

Combine 2 cups cooked rice, 3/4 cup of sauce and 1 cup browned hamburger. Remove the top and seeds from 4 green peppers. Spoon equal amounts of the mixture into each pepper. Put a scoop of mozzarella cheese on top of all, then bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted.


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