An easy Italian tomato sauce made from scratch with just 4 ingredients in only 10 minutes! This tomato sauce is perfect for pasta, pizza or simply for dunking some char-grilled ciabatta into. It's SO rich in flavour and couldn't be easier!
There are endless recipes for Italian tomato sauce. Some are made with fresh tomatoes and simmered for hours, some add chilli peppers to make a firey arrabbiata or pancetta for richness.
This recipe is very quick and easy, made with very few ingredients but trust me when I say it's INCREDIBLY delicious! The flavour comes from a quick simmer which caramelises the sugars in the tomatoes giving the sauce the most delicious flavour in a short amount of time.
High-quality tomatoes are a MUST for this and are the only way to achieve a delicious tasting sauce. The short cooking time also only works for a small amount of sauce (serves 4 for pasta). The more tomato you add the more cooking time they'll need.
What tomatoes to use?
I say this ALL the time but it's so true, you NEED to buy the best quality ingredients for this to work.
You can't make the best Italian tomato sauce with low-quality tomatoes. I use chopped canned tomatoes (polpa) for this quick 10-minute recipe. There are two brands of tomatoes that I use and love; Cirio and Mutti which are always canned in a thick tomato juice not water. Both are high quality and reasonably priced.
How To Make Authentic Italian Tomato Sauce - Step By Step
Saute garlic - never add garlic to an already hot pan or it'll burn almost instantly. Add the oil and chopped or crushed garlic at the same time then warm it up gently to saute for 50-60 seconds (photo 1).
Add the tomatoes - when you add the tomatoes rinse out the can with 1-2 tablespoons of water so you get as much of the tomato as possible, add salt and simmer it on medium heat for 8-10 minutes. If the tomatoes are chunky I like to crush them with a potato masher for a smoother consistency (photos 2-4).
Finishing the sauce - Once the sauce has reduced slightly add a handful of fresh basil or parsley depending on what you're serving it with. If you want to add dried oregano add that at the same time as the garlic (photo 5).
Tips for making this Italian Tomato Sauce
- If making this sauce for pasta - reserve a little pasta cooking water and add a splash of two to the sauce just before you add the pasta. This helps emulsify the sauce and adds a ton of extra flavour (photo 6).
- Check for seasoning - when you've finished cooking the sauce check for seasoning and if it needs more salt add some a little at a time. Remember you can always add salt but can't take it out.
- Add herbs and spices - Use this as a base for many tomato based sauces, you could add different herbs and spices such as fennel seeds, pepperoncino (chilli flakes), fresh chilli and rosemary.
Instead of chopped tomatoes you can use peeled plum tomatoes or passata (tomato puree) again, you must use a high quality brand such as Mutti or Cirio.
Yes, once cool you can freeze the sauce in a suitable container or freezer bag.
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Authentic Italian Tomato Sauce
- Finely chop or crush the garlic and add it to a skillet or frying pan with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Saute the garlic for 1 minute or until fragrant (don’t let it brown).
- Add the tomatoes then rinse out the can with 1-2 tablespoons of water and add that to the sauce. If your tomatoes are quite chunky or you prefer a smoother consistency you can use a potato masher to crush them at this point (optional).
- Add a pinch of salt and simmer on a medium heat for 8-10 minutes until reduced slightly. Turn off the heat and add a handful of freshly chopped basil (optional).
- If serving with pasta, use a small amount of pasta water to emulsify the sauce, add the pasta and toss until thoroughly coated (sauce makes enough for 400g or 14oz of pasta to serve 4).
- Buying tomatoes - the quality of the tomatoes is the most important part of this recipe. The two brands I trust and use often are Cirio and Mutti. I have heard good things about Cento tomatoes in the US but have never used them myself. Don't use tomatoes that are canned in water.
- Storage - The sauce can be frozen in a suitable container or freezer bag.
- I always use extra virgin olive oil in all of my recipes unless stated otherwise
- When I use canned or jarred tomatoes of any kind I always use Cirio or Mutti brands for the best results and flavour.
- All vegetables are medium sized unless stated otherwise
- All recipes are tested and developed using a fan (convection) oven
- Find out more about how nutrition is calculated.
- Check out our must have Italian Pantry Staples.
- You can also find all our Essential Kitchen Tools for Italian Cooking.