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

  • I made this sauce yesterday from my vine ripened tomatoes from my garden. It was delicious! I left the onions and garlic in the sauce and puréed it with my immersion blender. Can’t wait to try more of your recipes😊

    • — Bonnie Coffin on August 31, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can you can this sauce in a Ball jar?

    • — Keith on August 25, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Keith, This recipe wasn’t designed for canning, so I’m not sure it’s safe — I’m sorry!

      • — Jenn on August 25, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    Made this before and loved the taste! I am now wondering if I can double this recipe. Found a deal on fresh tomatoes that I couldn’t resist. 🙂

    • — Kim on August 25, 2021
    • Reply
    • Yes, you can definitely double it (and glad you like it)!

      • — Jenn on August 25, 2021
      • Reply
  • Thank you for this recipe! I made it as directed with fresh tomatoes from our garden. Yummy! I put that batch in the freezer. Tomorrow, I will be making another batch for dinner!

    • — Christine on August 11, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this sauce yesterday, it was delicious!! I’ve tried making sauce with fresh tomatoes but never did very well with it. This recipe was easy and delicious. A must make and will share with my friends and family.

    • — Betty Blair on August 8, 2021
    • Reply
  • I thought I’d test out half a recipe before using my garden Romas, which will ripen in a few weeks. So I used a can of Italian plum tomatoes. The sauce is surprisingly piquant and tasty. As others have said, must be the butter. And it could hardly be easier to make. Took about 1.5 hours to reach the proper consistency. Next time I might mash up the onions and leave them in – they looked so good I hated to discard them. I’m going to serve the sauce with meatballs and a small side of pasta.

    • — Jim on August 6, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can this recipe be preserved in a canner

    • — Judith Kerr on August 5, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Judith, Unfortunately, I don’t think this recipe is safe for canning. Sorry!

      • — Jenn on August 6, 2021
      • Reply
  • this sauce was delicious! I have never made pasta sauce with butter like this before. I used fresh tomatoes and freeze dried basil. I thought it was great! The flavor was just right and, in my opinion, the butter mellowed the flavor in best way.

    • — amy on August 5, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I make the sauce the same way with some small changes. I leave the salt and sugar, other spices out till I use it. I also roast my tomato’s whole in the oven (broiler) first which adds a depth of flavor and after 20 minutes under the broiler the tomato’s loss 90% of their liquid so they cook down to a rich sauce very quickly. I make around 50 quarts each year packing the sauce in air tight bags and enjoy the flavor of fresh tomato sauce till the next harvest in early June. Not to mention all the fresh salsa I make and freeze.

    • — Rick Smith on August 5, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can you use tree vine size tomatoes and if so, how many to use?

    • — Renee on August 5, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Renee, It’s fine to use another type of tomatoes, but it’s really hard to say how many you’ll need since size can vary by a lot and I measure by weight here. I typically use 16 to 20 plum tomatoes to get 4 pounds if that helps to compare.

      • — Jenn on August 6, 2021
      • Reply
  • So rich ad flavorful! I use 3/4 Roma and 1/4 various round tomato varieties to add flavor. Increasing the temp slowly and adding tomatoes as I go keeps it from separating (an old crushed tomatoes canning technique) and you don’t need to simmer any longer for the non-paste tomatoes.

    • — Georgia on August 5, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can you used a vegan butter substitute (Miyoko’s) for the real butter?

    • — patty a uematsu on August 5, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, that should be fine. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on August 9, 2021
      • Reply
  • Best sauce! Cannot be any easier to prep/make. My honey can get bad reflux with most tomato sauces, but not this one! I’m looking forward to my garden tomatoes coming in and I will try the fresh version. Thank you for sharing ❤️

    • — Heidi on June 13, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I love this sauce. It’s so light and flavorful. When I make it, I’m always proud that I made something so good. What would you think about adding some baby spinach to the pot and just wilting it in? I’ll feel better about eating a bowl of pasta if I have some veg in there. I know it’s changing the recipe — but do you think it would taste good? Thank you!

    • — Melinda on April 10, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, I think it’s perfectly fine to add some spinach here (and so glad you like it)!

      • — Jenn on April 10, 2021
      • Reply
  • I made this sauce tonight and it turned out so yummy! I didn’t have 4 lbs. of plum tomatoes, so I did a mixture and just simmered it a bit longer to boil off the extra liquid. After pulling out the onions, I used my immersion blender to blend it into a beautiful consistency. I’m planning on freezing this sauce to use in winter. Question – seems like a waste to throw out the onions after simmering in all that great flavor. Ideas on how I could use them?

    • — Jennifer Dingman on September 11, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Jennifer, Glad you liked it! You could dice the onions and add them to soups, stews or even scrambled eggs (or for next time, just leave them in the sauce). Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on September 11, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn – I have been making your recipes now for a couple of years I think. I’ve found you are my “go to” site and everything I’ve made has been amazing. Friends started giving me tomatoes a month or so ago so I started making this sauce. And the first time I had a friend over, and he kept complimenting me on how good it is. So, then he gave me tomatoes and I made more for my freezer (and his fridge). I’m making it for the 3rd time tonight with some friends to go with fresh homemade sausage ravioli. The first couple of times I used random garden tomatoes and tonight I’m using romas from a local farm stand. I don’t think it really matters which tomatoes you use – if you can get garden or farm tomatoes, the sauce will be amazing. For those curious, I never put in the sugar (don’t think it needs it and I try to avoid sugar). Also as a garlic lover, I add extra garlic and rough chop it and leave it in the sauce. Also, I tend to just smash the tomatoes as I’m peeling them (I probably leave them in the water too long so they start to stew), and depending on the tomatoes and the amount of juice, I just let it simmer for as long as it needs (could be 2 hours). The butter makes this so rich and gives it that unexpected flavor. Thank you for another amazing recipe. I have shared so many of your recipes with friends.

    • — Nicole on September 6, 2020
    • Reply
  • I’ve made this twice and both times it comes out very watery. I use fresh tomatoes. Any suggestions on how to thicken it up?

    • — sara on August 28, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Sara, I would just simmer it a bit longer until it thickens up to your liking. 🙂

      • — Jenn on September 1, 2020
      • Reply
  • Made this for the first time and my family loved it I added some Adobe to give it a kick with olive oil I used canned tomatoes and it was a thumbs up

    • — Dee on August 4, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hey Jenn still loving all your recipes! Had a great homemade pizza the other night . My friend stated she made her own sauce which lead me to search for one on your site. I’m assuming this can be used for pizza sauce as well? Quick question …any suggestions as to how to use slow cooker with this sauce? Any tips would be appreciated and time saving for me as I’m on the go a good bit!
    Thanks, Staci

    • — Staci on July 8, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Staci, So glad you like the recipes! This would work as a pizza sauce but it would be pretty chunky. If you wanted to smooth it out a bit, you could blitz it briefly in a food processor. Another option is the sauce from this pizza recipe. Hope you enjoy whatever you try!

      • — Jenn on July 9, 2020
      • Reply
      • Looks delicious! Do you think it would turn out ok if I subbed olive oil for the butter to make it vegan?

        • — Suzanns on July 23, 2020
        • Reply
        • Hi Suzanns, I love the flavor that butter adds here, but yes, it’s fine to use olive oil in place of it. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

          • — Jenn on July 23, 2020
          • Reply
  • Hi, at what point would you add the minced meat if making a bolognese sauce? Or do you need to cook the meat separately?? Thank you.

    • — Jackie on April 21, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Jackie, I would use this recipe as a guide for bolognese.

      • — Jenn on April 22, 2020
      • Reply
  • Delicious! I have my own sauce recipe that I’ve been using for years that my family loves, so my teenagers were very skeptical when I said I was trying a new sauce recipe. The reviews of this one prompted me to make it. It must be the butter that makes the difference. Loved it!! Will definitely make again.

    • — Amy on April 9, 2020
    • Reply
  • Love this recipe! It’s my go-to recipe for any pasta dish!

    • — Mrs. L on March 24, 2020
    • Reply
  • Thank you, Jennifer for all your wondrous recipes! My better half’s newest request is that I cook every one of your recipes! Thank you, too, for the step by step pictures— most helpful. This dish—like every one I have tried—is exceptional.

    • — Pat on March 20, 2020
    • Reply
    • So glad you and your better half are enjoying them! 🙂

      • — Jenn on March 21, 2020
      • Reply

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