Basic Tomato Sauce





Introduction: Basic Tomato Sauce

About: I work at instructables by day, and turn into a stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @jessyratfink to see what i'm working on! ^_^

This is an easy tomato sauce that you can make from canned tomatoes and season to your tastes. It'll take about a half hour and requires very little work. And it's 8 million times better than the stuff you'll get in a jar.

Step 1: Ingredients:

  • one 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce, no salt or low salt preferred
  • one medium onion
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Italian seasoning or oregano & basil
  • red chili flakes or dried red chilies
  • red wine vinegar
  • olive, canola or vegetable oil, for sauteing
You'll notice I didn't put exact measurements for many of the ingredients - you'll do pinches here and there to taste. If you like a sweeter tomato sauce, add extra basil. If you like stronger tomato sauces, add more oregano and/or chiles.

I also prefer crushed tomatoes to tomato sauce - crushed has a lot more body and some chunks. But sauce is great if you like little to no chunks.

If you'd like to do a marinara style sauce, use half an onion and equal amounts of diced carrots and celery. They add tons of flavor!

Step 2: Dice Onion, Mince Garlic.

You can mince the onion too - it's all personal taste. I even know people that grate the onion - all up to you.

Step 3: Saute the Onions.

Add about a 1/2 tablespoon of oil to a pan, enough to cover the bottom. Heat over a medium flame until the oil shimmers.

Drop in your onions, and cook until soft and slightly translucent.

Step 4: Add Garlic, Herbs and Spices!

Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, making sure to stir often. Now you'll add your seasonings!

I like to add a good pinch of salt and black pepper to start, at least one red chili or about 1/2 tsp red chili flakes, and at least a teaspoon or so of Italian seasoning. 

Stir this around and cook until very fragrant.

Step 5: Add Tomatoes!

Pour in your tomatoes! Once in, mix thoroughly. At this point, I normally like to add a bit of water (1/4 to 1/2 up) to the tomato can and swish it around to get all the tomato-y goodness, and pour that into the pot as well. This will thin the sauce a little and let it simmer longer without burning to the bottom of the pan.

Step 6: Simmer!

Cook it as long as you can - I normally try to do at least 30 minutes. If I'm ever making tomato sauce for dinner, I'll start the sauce before I do anything else so it has time to simmer.

After it's simmered for 10-15 minutes, check the seasonings. Now you can add a little more of whatever you like.

As an added bonus, adding a bit of red wine vinegar at the end makes the sauce infinitely tasty. I recommend adding at least a tablespoon or so in the last five minutes of cooking.

It's perfect over pasta of any kind, in lasagna, or mixed into rice. I really enjoy using half over pasta, and adding sriracha to the second half and mixing it into rice. I'm actually doing that tonight, Rice and sriracha tomato sauce is the best.



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    31 Discussions

    Simmering now! Smells amazing!!

    Dear Jessy,
    Thank you for all your wonderful recipes, You are some lady.
    Kind regards.

    I find an nice aged Basalmic Vinegar does wonders for any tomatoe sauces I've made.

    I will try this! I hate the bottled stuff but it always takes longer I thought to make your own. Thanks for sharing!

    if you like that rooster sauce, try LEE KUM KEE brand sweet garlic chili sauce. i like it even better than sriracha (which i call rooster sauce). it has a fuller taste and you dont have to mix it with anything like ketchup, harder to find tho.

    Pretty much my favorite recipe, cheap and easy to make but so much more rewarding than just opening a can!
    If you want to get a bit more fancy, I recommend adding one or two pieces of star anise. You might think that's a bit exotic for an otherwise traditional italian tomato sauce but it really just helps rounding it off. Don't forget to take them out again before you serve/puree it.

    1 reply

    I did this for year until I found out about the health dangers of tin canned tomatoes. Now I use tomatoes from glass jars, tetrapaks, or fresh.

    See this link for more info:

    Can this sauce be made from fresh tomatoes? Do you have an instructable on how to do it? Thanks!

    2 replies

    You definitely can! I do it whenever I buy too many tomatoes or my friends unload some on me. I'd say it takes a few large tomatoes or a medium container of cherry or grape tomatoes.

    Depending on your preference, you can peel the tomatoes or not. ( I never do, but some people hate the peels. I always de-seed them, though! Only they're cleaned out and possibly peeled, roughly cut them into chunks and throw them in a hot pan with some olive oil and diced onion and let them cook down for a few minutes. Mash them up with the back of a wooden spoon and add some salt to get the onions and tomatoes to release some water.

    After the onions are soft, add the garlic and spices and saute for a moment, and then add a small amount of water (normally no more than 1/2 cup) to make it more saucy and let it simmer for 15 minutes with a lid on, and then break up the tomatoes some more. You just keep beating up the tomatoes and adding water until it's a consistency you like, really. :) I like mine chunky, but you could always blend it, too.

    use crushed or whole (then you puree them) , tomato sauce IS nothing more then tomato paste and water, which is ok if you use it with a few cans of home puree'd whole tomato. Sauce made just from paste is limp.

    Celery is not added to sauce, gravy (like chicken/beef/lamb) yes yes yes, not tomato sauce.

    use crushed or whole (then you puree them) , tomato sauce IS nothing more then tomato paste and water, which is ok if you use it with a few cans of home puree'd whole tomato. Sauce made just from paste is limp.

    Celery is not added to sauce, gravy (like chicken/beef/lamb) yes yes yes, not tomato sauce.

    Oh yes FERGIT THE VINEGAR .......Are you making bar-BEEE-QUE sauce?

    RED WINE is what you want.

    2 replies

    leave it and celery out , although a teaspoon or so mightn't be noticeable. For Marinara (spling?) I do not add wine at all in. For red sauce OT Marinara I do. I have heard of many non Eyetalians who add lemon juice. In Sicilia , the land of Almonds and Lemons I have not met a single Siggie who uses lemons. They would add wine or brandy first.Never ever sugar (uneeded). Just do not over cook sauce and it wll stay reasonably sweet. When in certain dishes you want it very sweet , you will find some do use a carrot I have known chefs who puree the carrot, less the people figure it out, since their claim is "we add no sugar".

    Happy cooking I am off to make Stuffed peppers maybe mexican, maybe plain maybe Eyetalian, not sure yet..........mmmmmmm

    Yes, Sriracha is GOOD. It is plenty HOT, and may be to powerful straight for some people..I mix it 50 - 50 with ketchup...NOM

    1 reply

    8million times better may be stretching it a bit...maybe 5million?

    When I'm in a hurry I add a jar of chunky salsa to a jar of sauce, some extra spices and what nots and let it simmer for a bit.

    When I have the time I do pretty much like you did except I use a slow cooker and fire roasted tomatoes, the ingredients you listed along with bell peppers and a good red wine. After it has cooked awhile I hit it with an immersion blender.

    For a meatier tasting sauce, add roasted beef or lamb bones to the cooking sauce.

    For a spicier sauce (mine when not expecting company) add some jalapenos or habaneros