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This classic fragrant & flavourful Italian tomato sauce is the base for many Italian recipes.
This delicious tomato sauce (Sugo al Pomodoro), is perfect for many Italian dishes such as pasta, pizza, Melanzane Parmigiana, and many more.
The combination of tomato with garlic and basil is such a classic one in Italian cuisine.
Why it works
Although this recipe uses only 6 ingredients, and takes just half an hour, the sauce has a wonderful depth of flavour, and tastes like it has been simmering on the stove for hours.
It is garlicky and slightly sweet, with a delicious richness and a fresh flavour of basil.
Fresh or tinned 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.
Pro tips for best results
- Add the garlic to the cold olive oil before heating so as the garlic gradually warms, it releases flavour and does not burn.
- 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 after turning off the heat, so that their delicate flavour is not lost during cooking.
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.
Adjust the cooking time for a thinner or thicker sauce, according to the dish you are preparing (e.g. for pasta or Melanzane Parmigiana).
Make ahead and freeze
This 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!
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Italian Tomato Sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tins tomatoes plum or chopped tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3 basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon tomato purée
- salt and pepper, to taste
- In 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.
- Add 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.
- Stir in the tomato purée, and season with salt and pepper.
- Cook for further 5 minutes, then turn off the heat.
- Tear the basil leaves into quarters and stir into the sauce.
- Allow the sauce to rest for a couple of minutes to allow the basil oils to release into the sauce.
- *Add the garlic to the cold olive oil before heating so as the garlic gradually warms, it releases flavour and does not burn.
- 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.
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