This classic fragrant & flavourful Italian tomato sauce is the base for many Italian recipes.
The combination of tomato with garlic and basil is a classic one in Italian cuisine.
This tomato sauce can be preserved for prolonged storage while keeping the same delicious flavour, check out our tips on canning sauces.
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What you’ll love about it
We think this sauce is great and one you’ll want to make on repeat because:
- it uses only 6 ingredients
- takes just half an hour but it tastes like it has been simmering on the stove for hours.
- has a wonderful depth of flavour
- It is garlicky and slightly sweet, with a delicious richness and a fresh flavour of basil.
- This recipe is for a basic Italian tomato sauce which is can be added to many dishes.
Fresh or canned tomatoes
Good Italian food is all about great quality ingredients, however away from the Mediterranean, it is often difficult to find delicious, tasty fresh tomatoes.
Thankfully good quality tinned tomatoes are easily available, and make an excellent sauce in a fraction of the time.
Avoid using brands which are too acidic or taste sour.
Look for San Marzano or Roma tomatoes, which are varieties of plum tomato. The brands Mutti and Cirio tinned tomatoes have a wonderful sweetness and delicious flavor.
How to make it
- Heat the oil with the garlic on a medium heat, till the garlic softens and releases its aroma.
- Add the tomatoes, then break them up either with a potato masher, a wooden spoon or blend for a smoother sauce.
- Bring the tomatoes to a boil before reducing the heat all the way down to a gentle simmer for 20 minutes. As the sauce reduces, the flavours become more concentrated.
- Stir in the tomato purée, salt and pepper.
- Cook for a further 5 minutes before turning off the heat.
- Tear the basil leaves and mix into the sauce, allowing the oils to release their flavour.
- To prevent the garlic from burning, add it to the olive oil then turn the heat on low, so the oil and garlic slowly heat up releasing flavour.
- Tomato paste adds a rich tomato flavour, as though the sauce had been gently simmering for hours.
- For a smoother sauce, use a hand blender.
- Tear the basil leaves rather than chopping them, to avoid bruising and losing the oil/flavour.
- Add the basil 5 minutes before turning off the heat.
Adjust the cooking time for the consistency you require according to the dish you are preparing.
Reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes for a thinner sauce or increase it by 5 minutes for an even thicker sauce.
If you use good quality canned tomatoes and cook the sauce for a minimum of 15 minutes, you will not need to add sugar.
It is also pretty versatile so you could add these extra ingredients according to your taste.
- spicy – half a teaspoon chilli flakes for a slight kick.
- tangy – chopped capers and/or olives.
- vegetables – roasted or sautéd.
- meats – small slices of roasted or grilled meats.
- seafood – cook seafood in the sauce.
- ragu – browned ground meat.
Make ahead and freeze
The recipe is quick and easy, but you could also make a larger quantity to freeze in mason jars, zip lock bags or ice trays (small portions are great for making pizza).
It’s amazing how many dishes this sauce can be used for!
Cool to room temperature and store in a sealed container and keep in the fridge for up to three days, or freeze for up to a month.
For smaller quantities, freeze in an ice cube tray then store in freeze bags in a single layer.
Check out more Dips & Sauces.
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Italian Tomato Sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 800 grams tinned tomatoes 28 ounces, plum or chopped tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3 basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon oregano dried
- 1 tablespoon tomato purée
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 cloves garlicIn a medium saucepan, heat the oil with the garlic* on medium heat, till the garlic softens and releases its aroma – do not let the garlic brown.
- 800 grams tinned tomatoesAdd the tomatoes and break them up using the back of a wooden spoon or potato masher. For a smoother sauce, use a blender.
- Cook uncovered, bringing to a boil, then turn down the heat to low. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
- 1 tablespoon tomato purée, salt and pepper, to tasteStir in the tomato purée, and season with salt and pepper.
- 3 basil leaves, 1 tablespoon oreganoAdd oregano then tear basil leaves into quarters and stir into the sauce.
- Cook for further 5 minutes, then turn off the heat.
Cooking tips*To prevent the garlic from burning, add it to the olive oil then turn the heat on low, so the oil and garlic slowly heat up releasing flavour. Use a potato masher for a thicker sauce or a blender for a smoother consistency. Cooking the sauce uncovered – turn the heat down as it simmers, so the sauce does not splash outside of the pan. Adjust cooking times for a thinner or thicker sauce, depending on the dish.
Make ahead and storingCool to room temperature and store in a sealed container and keep in the fridge for up to three days, or freeze for up to a month. For smaller quantities, freeze in an ice cube tray then store in freeze bags in a single layer.
The ingredients here on EOTF are set out in grams & milliliters and in US cups & spoons.