Basic Tomato Sauce

Even though tomatoes made their appearance in Europe in the 1700s, it took until the beginning of the 1900 for them to reach today’s popularity and central role in Italian cuisine.

This recipe describes one of the most basic pasta sauces: the tomato sauce. The tomatoes, delicately flavored with salt, a hint of onion*, and (optionally) a leaf of basil, are simmered until they reduce their acidity. Smooth and velvety, this sauce is great on its own (like in ‘pasta al pomodoro’), or as a base for many tomato-based pasta sauces and dips (such as the one with bell peppers). These sauces are generally served with plenty of grated Parmigiano cheese.

Other tomato sauces, instead, are only lightly cooked to preserve the fresh flavor of the tomatoes, and are often flavored with garlic and sometimes chili pepper. Examples are arrabbiatamarinara, with clams or mussels. These sauces are served without cheese.

*Shallot, garlic, or a combination of onion and garlic can be used as well.

Basic Tomato Sauce

Yield: 6 servings (as pasta sauce)

Total Time: 45 minutes

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Basic Tomato Sauce


  • 2 pounds fresh or 1 ½ pounds of canned strained tomatoes (uncooked tomatoes, salt)
  • 1 onion wedge, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-3 leaves fresh basil
  • salt


  1. Sauté the onion wedge in the olive oil at medium-high heat until translucent.
  2. Add the strained tomatoes.
  3. Stir until the tomatoes start to boil, then turn down to low.
  4. Simmer for 40 minutes with lid on, stirring every 10 minutes and making sure the boil is always gentle.
  5. Adjust the salt to taste and optionally add a leaf or two of fresh basil.

One thought on “Basic Tomato Sauce”

Comments are closed.