Easy (+ Delicious!) Homemade Tomato Sauce

Easy (+ Delicious!) Homemade Tomato Sauce (click through for recipe)     For the past few years, there's been some tension in my marriage, and the cause, oddly enough, has been tomato sauce. Almost every time I've made spaghetti and used sauce from a jar, my husband takes a taste and says very seriously, "We've got to do something about this sauce situation." We've looked up ways to liven up a canned sauce by adding extra ingredients, and they did help some, but he was still insistent that we find another way to solve the flavorless "sauce situation" crisis. While we were home visiting my parents over Christmas, my foodie sister mentioned that they started making a really easy (and really delicious) homemade tomato sauce, and we told her that we were desperate to try it. She sent us the recipe after we returned home, and we made it that night with high expectationsโ€”let me tell you, it did not disappoint!

I was a little bit skeptical because the ingredient list looked a little too simple and the recipe sounded too easy to be good, but the secret is that it's made with a type of plumb tomatoes called San Marzano tomatoes, and they fill the sauce with a sweet and tangy flavor. We thought that San Marzano was a brand of tomatoes, not the type, so we were a little confused at first, but we found them pretty easily near the canned tomatoes at our local grocery store. If you can't find that particular type near you, just go with plum tomatoes and it should still be delicious.

Easy (+ Delicious!) Homemade Tomato Sauce (click through for recipe)Easy (+ Delicious) Homemade Tomato Sauce, makes about 2 quarts.
Recipe slightly adapted from The Mozza Cookbook's Basic Tomato Sauce

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced (or a Spanish onion if you can find one)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 garlic cloves, chopped
Half a medium carrot, peeled and shredded
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 28 oz cans of whole peeled plum tomatoes (including their juices), preferably San Marzano

Easy (+ Delicious!) Homemade Tomato Sauce (click through for recipe)Add the oil to a large pot and heat over medium heat. Add the onion, salt, and pepper, and cook (stirring occasionally) until the onions are soft and translucent (about 7-10 minutes). Add the garlic and stir often for 1 minute. Don't let the garlic brown during this step, so keep an eye on it. Add the carrot and thyme leaves and cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring often, until the carrot is tender. 

Easy (+ Delicious!) Homemade Tomato Sauce (click through for recipe)Add the tomatoes and their juices, bring to a boil, and reduce heat allowing the sauce to simmer for 30 minutes. You'll want to stir the sauce every few minutes so that it doesn't burn (tomatoes can burn easily). So make sure you are checking back often during that time. The whole tomatoes will break down as the sauce simmers and the sauce will thicken a bit as it cooks. Season to taste with more salt and pepper once the 30 minutes is up. The recipe suggests that you run the sauce through a food mill (or you could use a blender as well) to smooth out the chunky sauce, but I really like chunky sauce. So I just mashed it a bit with a handheld potato masher and skipped the blending step. The sauce can be frozen for up to six months, so you can make a giant batch and keep it around until you need more.

Easy (+ Delicious!) Homemade Tomato Sauce (click through for recipe)Easy (+ Delicious!) Homemade Tomato Sauce (click through for recipe)While we have been using this sauce simply on top of pasta, it can be used in any recipe that calls for a tomato sauce (like lasagna or other Italian dishes). I can't tell you how glad we are to have discovered this recipe (thanks, Sis!), and I'm planning on adding thyme to my back porch garden this summer just so we can use it for this sauce. Finally, there is peace and quiet in our house on spaghetti nights, but that may also be partially because our mouths are too full of delicious sauce to talk! xo. Laura

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

  • Looks good, and please take no offense but I don’t understand… why using tomatoes from a can? Why don’t you just peal and cut some fresh tomatoes? Trust me, it takes only 5 minutes more and the taste is much better and more natural.

    Sorry for my poor english, and OK, I don’t like tomatoes from a can but I do love the blog and I enjoy every post, I’m kind of a fan since 2010 ๐Ÿ™‚

    Marta

  • I too am one of those who make spaghetti from a store-bought jar. Guilty here and God forbid any of my Italian friends find out! I always add in more ingredients to the mix, especially love (totally corny joke, I know)! I would have never guessed to add carrots, which probably add sweetness to the sauce. Might have to try this recipe. Thanks!

  • The blending not only gets rid of the chunks, but also emulsifies the oil in the sauce and gives it this extra velvety texture, after you blend it it is good to put it back to simmer for couple of minutes and add a tiny dash of olive oil, small thing, but makes a big difference.

    It is also good to add half of your garlic in the beginning and half towards the end for deeper flavour, in my opinion the same with thyme and other herbs. enjoy!

  • I enjoy making my own sauce too, I add a bit of tomato paste as well. I also add a laurel leaf to the water that cooks the pasta, really makes a difference. Some people add the laurel leaf to the sauce as well ๐Ÿ™‚
    This was fun!
    Elizabeth

  • Sometimes simpler is better! This sounds delish and pretty darn close to the recipe we make at home too- and now…I’m hungry! haha
    Thanks for sharing!
    Xo,D

  • This recipe is super timely! I had to give up on my organic sauce in a jar because it was too garlicy (a FODMAP food) and gives me gas/bloating. I’ve been looking for a great recipe to modify! I would use green onion in here and skip the garlic, but add red peppers for flavor to make it FODMAP freindly! Going to try this weekend =P

    Jill
    Latest Post: Nature’s Corset – Sculpt Your Waist with 4 Effective Oblique Moves

  • Adding a small amount of sugar helps cut the acidity and bring out flavor. Also rosemary, oregano, parsley, and bay leaf add to flavor.

  • If you want a thicker sauce, just add tomato paste and/or sauce depending on starting point and desired consistency, and/or drain some of the liquid from the canned tomatoes. Long simmering overcooks vegetables.

  • Sounds like a great recipe and similar to the one I use! Though I’ve never used that variety of tomatoes before and usually add a pinch of sugar to cut through the acidity of the tomato and balance the flavour. One thing I sometimes will do to appease my carnivore of a boyfriend is to add chopped up bacon along with the onion and garlic and a pinch of chilli flakes. Not very high brow cooking but it is delish!

  • This look delicious. I always make my own sauces, mainly as it end up cheaper and healthier. I’m definitely going to give this a go. I’m hoping I can get those tomatoes here in the UK as they sound really good!

  • I love to make my own sauce because the store bought brands seem to put way too much sugar in theirs. I have never put carrots in before I will try this next time.

    I use the same can of tomatoes that you used and wouldn’t try too many other brands because it’s hard to find good canned tomatoes. Thanks for sharing.

  • My husband and I only buy Bertolli’s tomato and basil jarred sauce. It is very flavorful, tangy and chunky. It tastes homemade, unlike any other sauce we’ve tried. Plus it comes in a large jar, so we always have enough for two meals. We love the stuff!๐Ÿ…

  • Oooooo….. Love this! We have Spaghetti Night every Friday night and our ‘sauce situation’ is dire. I’m giving this one a try Friday night! xo hil

    PS I ALWAYS – literally, always – sneak in a shredded zucchini into pasta dishes. The low water content keeps the texture intact, and you just got your green veggies! Done!

  • If you ever get bored with this one, though it looks delicious, try Marcella Hanzens! It’s sort of legendary and only has three ingredients: whole canned tomatoes, half an onion, and butter.

  • San Marzano tomatoes are imported directly from Italy. They are a very specific heirloom of plum tomato and are very highly regarded in the food industry. They are sweeter, less acidic and have a superior taste over regular canned tomatoes and fresh tomatoes. Also, fresh tomatoes in the U.S. are not in season in the winter and therefore any “fresh” tomatoes in the store have zero flavor. Hope that helps…..I’m a third generation Sicilian and we’ve always been very serious about our sauce ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Hey! Awesome post! We love making our own sauce. We always add in a bunch of spinach before blending. Gives a nice dark color and a punch of nutrition without being at all obvious! Also… red wine!! Makes a nice sauce that’s pleasantly heavy on the palate! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I soooo much love with red sauce!!! I really want to try it!!!

    PS. … and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE the new look of ABM. Actually it makes want to come over again and again just to have a look at the colours and the design!!! thumbs up!!!

  • Hello!
    Since tasting this at a delicious tapas restaurant in my town, we always add some orange zest and a squeeze of fresh orange juice to our tomato sauce. Sounds bizarre, but tastes awesome! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Shredding the carrot is such a good tip! I have been spending a lot of time cutting it into VERY fine cubes, now I’m going to try shredding instead.

  • Italian girl here! Additional tip: When you drain the pasta, add it to the pot with the sauce (that’s why you need a big pot even for sauce for 2 people) and let it simmer for a couple of minutes. We say “saltare la pasta”, make pasta “jump” in the sauce, in order to coat it with the sauce. The flavour is sooo much better than when you add it on top as shown in the photo above!
    Try it!!!

  • wow ๐Ÿ™‚ this sounds so delicious…and I am hungry already
    now I canยดt wait to have something delicious as this sauce ๐Ÿ™‚
    wanna try I as soon as possibel ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Okay, I’m convicted. I know I should do this. Rachel Ray always talks about making your own sauce. I’m going to put these tomatoes on my list and just do it!

  • Oh, you are right, I live in Canary Islands (Spain) and is never too cold so we have good tomatoes all year. I forgot is not the same everywhere (typical egocentrism hehe) I take back what I said. Grazie ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Take the stems off, then drop your tomatoes into boiling water for a minute, more or less. Take them off and put them in a bowl of cold water (the colder, the better, so if you have ice…) for another minute. You’ll be able to peel them just using your fingers!
    In Italy we kind of always have fresh tomatoes so that’s what we mostly use for our sauces… but canned tomatoes do work aswell.

  • I’m nuts for tomato sauce! I need to test this recipe out, I would just let it simmer longer so it thickens even more. But hey, I don’t blame you, it’s way too delicious to simply be staring at it simmering while it you’re holding yourself back…

    Rita
    heyrita.co.uk

  • The caramelized onions are an amazing addition to a sauce! My mother has been doing that for years, but she will let them caramelize on a low heat for 30+ minutes and it brings out such a nice, sweet flavour. It’s amazing and makes the biggest difference! We also love adding beans to our sauce because it adds fiber and a few other nutrients in there ๐Ÿ™‚

    Monica – Mocha and Moccasins

  • Thanks for this wonderful recipe. I do have my go-to tomato sauce, but I will def. be trying this one soon and who knows, maybe it will replace my old go-to!

    Rae | love from berlin

  • Is your husband your best (and worst) critic too? ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m glad to hear of a particularly good tasting can of tomatoes. The tomatoes around here, even when in season, are pitiful and flavorless. However, we did have a cherry tomato plant that produced so many tomatoes they were coming out of our ears.

    Eventually I couldn’t pick them any longer because I was in my third trimester and I could no longer climb over the pool pump and up on the retaining wall to go harvest them. (I did try though haha)
    I’m sure that plant will come back (and with a vengeance), at which time I’ll have to make some of this homemade sauce. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I always do this. So much better! Do you put chunky sauce in a blender or just leave it chunky? I also like to add cream to mine to make a pink sauce.

  • The recipe looks great! I would like to know the brand of your cast iron dutch oven and any reviews would be good too.

    Thanks,

  • The recipe looks great! I would like to know the brand of your cast iron dutch oven and any reviews would be good too.

  • I saw an episode of Giada where she made a super easy tomato sauce using San Marzano tomatoes. Ever since then I stopped using jar sauce or canned tomato sauce and go for a can of these. Best thing ever and super easy!

  • I just made this to go with some gnocchi and it is so so delicious!! Thank you for posting this wonderful recipe!

  • My mother taught me this great trick – after you make the sauce, and it’s almost done, add sugar. It helps cut down on the acid.

  • I do not cook and I made this yesterday! SOOO easy and good! I’m sharing the recipe and linking back on my blog as a healthful sauce to add to chicken and veggies for those watching their macros. Thanks! doodleturtles.blogspot.com

  • This looks great!
    What would be the best way to go about freezing it? Would it be like boiling jars when you make jam, and then sticking the jar in the freezer?

  • Hi Leigh Ann,
    I leave it chunky but it’s a personal preference. Try mixing the sauce with some fresh ricotta cheese. The flavour is milder and more delicate, a hit with the kids.