San Marzano Tomato Sauce {Family Recipe}

A famous family recipe – San Marzano Tomato Sauce also known as “Italian gravy”. This luscious red sauce is simmered for several hours to develop the most rich and hearty taste. Fresh herbs, authentic Italian flavors, and the most inviting aroma. Easily the best tomato sauce I’ve ever had!

From my family to yours. 

a pot of san marzano tomato sauce with fresh herbs

This San Marzano Tomato Sauce is quite special. It was the very first recipe my mom ever taught me how to make and was the very beginning of my love for food. For years this sauce has brought my loud, bold, and very loving family together and has been a part of many memorable family dinners.

This sauce is luscious, rich, developed in flavor, and is the perfect sauce to compliment your favorite Italian dishes. Although tomato sauce is quite simple, using quality ingredients matters, and letting your sauce sit low and slow for hours will give you the most thick and savory sauce you’ve ever had.

First steps for making this sauce – put some Frank Sinatra on, grab a glass of vino, and enjoy the cozy aroma of simmering garlic & tomatoes and the authentic flavors of this incredible Italian tomato sauce. From my family to yours..

Why are San Marzano tomatoes the best?

San Marzano tomatoes are not just a staple in my family’s famous recipe, but are considered to be the best tomatoes in the world to use in sauces. These tomatoes are set apart from others because of their rich flavor and low acidity. They are also known to have a thicker consistency compared to other canned plum tomatoes.

How to Make San Marzano Tomato Sauce

step 1 saute garlic step 2 add tomatoes and cook step 3 add herbs at the end

  1.  Saute garlic in olive oil: Saute your minced garlic for 30 to 60 seconds on medium heat – constantly stirring. Using tons of garlic in this recipe will give your tomato sauce the foundation of it’s flavor.
  2. Add Tomatoes – cook low and slow: The key to a good tomato sauce is cooking it for up to 4-6 hours. This allows the sauce to thicken, flavors to richen and develop, and acidity to balance.
  3. Add herbs at very end: Cooking herbs in the sauce for hours can actually result in bitter flavor. For a fresh, vibrant herb flavor add at the very end when sauce is finished for best results.

Special Tips for Making San Marzano Tomato Sauce

step 1 get san marzano tomatoes step 2 sun-dried tomato paste

  1. Use San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes: to make a perfect tomato sauce you need San Marzanos. These tomatoes give your sauce a thicker consistency, and are sweeter, richer, and less acidic in flavor.
  2. Use Amore Sun-Dried Tomato Paste: Rather than using normal tomato paste, my family loves to use this sun-dried tomato paste for it’s thickening factor and extra added depth of flavor.
  3. Add a Parmesan cheese rind to your sauce while it simmers. This will instantly add flavor. The rind won’t melt (though it will get soft); it will just sit in your sauce or soup and infuse it with extra umami and savor.

What to Serve with San Marzano Tomato Sauce:

  • Any type of pasta – spaghetti, rigatoni, orecchiette, or penne.
  • Stuffed shells, eggplant parmesan, or lasagna.
  • Zucchini pasta or spaghetti squash.
  • I also use this recipe in some of my favorite recipes – Authentic Italian Chicken Parmigiana and Italian Sausage Lasagna.

I hope you love this San Marzano Tomato Sauce – it is dear to my heart and to this day haven’t tasted an Italian tomato sauce like it.

Italian Recipes to Make with This Sauce

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a pot of san marzano tomato sauce with fresh herbs

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a pot of san marzano tomato sauce with fresh herbs

San Marzano Tomato Sauce

5 from 22 votes
Servings 8 servings
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
4 hrs
Total Time
4 hrs 5 mins

A famous family recipe - San Marzano Tomato Sauce. A luscious red sauce simmered for several hours to develop the most rich and hearty tomato sauce. Fresh herbs, authentic Italian flavors, and the most inviting aroma. Easily the best tomato sauce I've ever had! From my family to yours. 

Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: homemade tomato sauce, italian sauce, marinara sauce, san marzano tomato sauce
Calories: 63 kcal

Ingredients

  • 8 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 28oz cans San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp amore sun-dried tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp (each) salt & black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp fresh basil (for dried basil - 1 Tbsp)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh oregano (for dried oregano - 2 tsp)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme (for dried thyme - 1 tsp)

Instructions

  1. In a large pot on medium heat saute garlic in olive oil for 30-60 seconds - constantly stir. Garlic can burn very easily in this process. 

  2. Add San Marzano tomatoes to garlic. Add tomato paste, salt & pepper. Mix, and cover on low heat for 4-6 hours. Stir occasionally to avoid burning.

    The whole tomatoes will break down as they cook and result in a thicker, chunkier sauce. If you prefer a smooth sauce you can use a hand-puree tool or transfer to a high-powdered blender.

  3. When sauce is finished mix in fresh herbs. Serve with your favorite pasta, lasagna, or chicken parmesan. 

Recipe Notes

Use San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes: to make a perfect tomato sauce you need San Marzanos. These tomatoes give your sauce a thicker consistency, and are sweeter, richer, and less acidic in flavor.

Use Amore Sun-Dried Tomato Paste: Rather than using normal tomato paste, my family loves to use this sun-dried tomato paste for it's thickening factor and extra added depth of flavor.

Add a Parmesan rind to your sauce while it simmers. This will instantly add flavor. The rind won't melt (though it will get soft); it will just sit in your sauce or soup and infuse it with extra umami and savor. 

Fresh Herbs vs Dried Herb Measurements: Because dried herbs are generally more potent and concentrated than fresh herbs, you'll need less -- typically three times the amount of fresh herbs as dry. For example, since this recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of dried Oregano, you'd need 2 Tablespoons of fresh oregano (since 3 teaspoons equal 1 tablespoon).

Nutrition Facts
San Marzano Tomato Sauce
Amount Per Serving
Calories 63 Calories from Fat 32
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3.6g 6%
Cholesterol 0.6mg 0%
Sodium 164.7mg 7%
Total Carbohydrates 7.7g 3%
Sugars 2.8g
Protein 1.7g 3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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About The Author

Bethany Kramer is a home cook, recipe developer, and dog mom. She found a deep love for food and nutrition after learning to cook from her mom at eight years old. Since then she’s been developing and sharing recipes from her own kitchen that are bold in flavor and nourishing to the body!
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102 Comments

  • Avatar for Tracy Tracy says:


    I cannot wait to try this!

  • Avatar for Sandy Sandy says:


    This was absolutely delicious!! Served with pasta. Will make again for sure!

  • Avatar for Lisa Lisa says:


    This is such a gorgeous sauce! Definitely pinning and will try.

  • Avatar for JoeAnn JoeAnn says:


    I love San Marzano tomatoes and this recipe is perfect for them….an awesome, robust flavor is revealed via longer cooking time. Thanks for sharing recipe!

  • Avatar for DeniseWilliams DeniseWilliams says:

    Recipe says 5 cans San Marzanos. Does this mean five 28 oz cans?

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      Yes! Sorry I didn’t add that detail. 28 oz cans! You can also do just 3 cans if you want to do a smaller batch. 🙂 hope you enjoy it!

  • Avatar for Rose Rose says:

    I enjoyed reading your recipe. Would to learn more. My question is I don’t feel 2 tablespoon s of olive oil is enough for all those tomatoes is enough. Help me to understand I’m always willing to mzke a better saue.

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      Hi Rose,
      the 2 tbsp of olive oil is just to saute the garlic. So you don’t need a ton of olive oil for that 🙂

  • Avatar for Linda Linda says:


    This sauce looks amazing. Will have to try.

  • Avatar for Laura Knapp Laura Knapp says:

    I made your family’s sauce and it was wonderful! Everyone loved it. We used it on homemade pizzas, tortellini, Italian sausage. I’m going to make another batch and jar them. I’m even thinking what a nice Xmas present it would make with some spaghetti and a bottle of wine. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      So glad to hear, Laura! Means so much to her you all enjoyed it. 🙂 And you’re right – It’s a great recipe to jar and give as a gift!!

  • Avatar for Cathy Bridges Cathy Bridges says:

    Could you use a slow cooker instead of stovetop?

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      Hi Cathy, I’ve never used a slow cooker for this recipe. But I don’t see why it couldn’t work. You would need to saute the garlic then add that to the slow cooker, but I believe you could use it in a slow cooker. Let me know if you try it!

  • Avatar for Gabby Gabby says:


    Delicious!! Cooked for 4 hours and the flavor was amazing!

  • Avatar for Alison Alison says:

    Would love to make this recipe but would like to use the San marzanos from my garden. Is there a recipe for this using fresh tomatoes? Or do I just peel and cook down and then use this recipe?

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      I haven’t used fresh tomatoes. But I’d recommend cooking them with maybe 1-2 additional tbsp of tomato paste to really help them thicken. Make sure to let it cook for the 3-5 hours. Let me know if that works!

  • Avatar for Barbara Maher Barbara Maher says:


    love this sauce – 🙂

  • Avatar for Bryan Bryan says:

    If I wanted to transfer to a blender to make a thinner sauce, do I transfer it before it starts cooking or after while the garlic is mixed in.

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      So you aren’t dealing with blending hot tomato sauce, it would be better to blend the tomatoes before you cook them in the pot. So after you saute your garlic you can add the blended tomatoes!

  • Avatar for Matthew Matthew says:


    Delicious! I made this for my grandma’s birthday and she loved it. San marzano are known for not causing heart burn as well. Do you think this would be a good base for Bolognese?

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      Thanks Matthew! So glad you liked it. 🙂 I didn’t know that about San Marzano’s so that’s great! And absolutely! I’ve used it many times for a Bolognese.

  • Avatar for Chris Chris says:

    Hi,
    If I use dried thyme and oregano about how many teaspoons should I put?

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      Hi Chris, For fresh herbs I measure in tablespoons rather than tsp. So for dried herbs – 1 tsp of thyme, 2 tsp of oregano. Thanks for asking!

  • Avatar for Kalley Kalley says:


    I made a batch this past weekend and used some tonight for spaghetti. I added in ground beef and mushrooms. It was wonderful!!! My family loved it, there was barely any left in the bottom of the pot. I’m also hoping that it doesn’t give my husband heartburn. So far, so good! He hasn’t complained yet, in fact he went back for seconds, which he normally doesn’t do with red sauces. Thanks so much for a great recipe!

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      Yay! Thank you, Kalley! So happy to hear this. The great thing about San Marzano’s is they’re lower in acidity so that should help people who struggle with heartburn. 🙂

    • Avatar for Ian Ian says:

      Hi how long could I keep the sauce in an air tight jar for in the fridge?

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      4-5 days for fridge or you can freeze. 🙂

    • Avatar for Cheryl Cheryl says:

      Hi
      I’m in the process of making your sauce but in your blog you talk about using the rind but you don’t show it in the video and it’s not on your ingredient list, do you use it in your sauce or are you saying a nice little twist is to add the rind and cook it with your sauce?

    • Hi Cheryl! So the cheese rind is something I suggest as optional – just because I know not at lot of people may have parmesan cheese rinds lying around. 🙂 It’s an excellent way to elevate your sauce – but isn’t necessary!

  • Avatar for Julia Julia says:

    I’m interested to try this! How much does this recipe make?

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      It’s about 12-14 cups of sauce. This is a big batch (5 cans) if I want to do a small batch I do 3 cans of tomatoes.

  • Avatar for Lisa Lisa says:

    I’m excited to try this sauce based on all the comments below. If I don’t want chunks of tomatoes in my sauce can I use crushed tomatoes instead? Or should I just mash the whole tomatoes?

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      I would recommend using the san marzano’s and then pureeing with a hand blender or just transferring the sauce to a blender. 🙂 I’ve had this sauce using crushed tomatoes and it just isn’t the same.

  • Avatar for Michelle Michelle says:

    Thanks for the recipe, can’t wait to try this! Just a quick question, if I use dried herbs should I add them earlier on in the recipe or would they still go in at the end?

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      Dried or fresh, I always add at the end to avoid a bitterness that sometimes happens when herbs are cooked the whole time. 🙂 Hope you enjoy it!

  • Avatar for Frank Sanelli Frank Sanelli says:

    its true i made the sauce with san marzano tomaoes and found it to be the most tamatoe sauce ever its worth the little extra cost

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      I agree! You can see and taste the difference when you don’t use San Marzano’s. Other brands are less expensive than Cento too. 🙂

  • Avatar for Sherri Sherri says:


    Made this in crockpot and is amazing!!! Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe!!!

  • Avatar for Steve Steve says:

    I am hosting a party for 26 people, the recipe serves 8. Please advise.

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      Hi Steve, It depends on portion sizes – my recipe says it serves 8 but they are big portions each so it could squeeze to 10. I would say at least 12 28oz cans of tomatoes for 26 people. Double the amount of garlic, tomato paste, and the herbs. I also like to mention that you do not HAVE to use Cento brand – there are other brands of canned San Marzano tomatoes that are more affordable, especially when making a bigger serving. Hope this helps!!

  • Avatar for terri terri says:

    I’m planning to can this recipe, so should I leave out the herbs at the end until I open the jar to use?

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      Nope, just add them when the sauce is finished cooking. Storing the sauce with the herbs is completely fine 🙂

  • Avatar for Jaq Jaq says:


    Found the recipe last week and finally taking the time to make it. The sauce is simmering now; two hours remaining. However,, it looks sooooo good that we’ve sampled it already!

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      I’m so happy to hear! There is nothing better than this sauce simmering and developing that rich flavor. Enjoy!!

  • Avatar for Tracy Agnew Tracy Agnew says:

    This is almost identical to the one I make! There truly is nothing quite like it.

  • Avatar for Shannon Shannon says:


    If I want to add ground beef, should I add it in right away?

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      I would cook the sauce, then brown the beef in a separate pan and let cook with the sauce for the last 30 minutes.

  • Avatar for Olga Olga says:


    Bethany, it’s really awesome! This will quickly become a favorite in our house!

  • Avatar for Mehrin Mehrin says:

    I want to make this sauce, if I make it with 2 or 3 cans do I just half rest of the ingredients? Thank you in advance!

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      You can keep the amount of olive oil and tomato paste. But garlic and herbs could be split in half 🙂

  • Avatar for Brett Brett says:

    Can’t wait to try. What about onions?? They seem to be in all other good sauce recipes?

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      It’s definitely common to add onions and you certainly can add them, but my family has never used them in sauce. 🙂

  • Avatar for Moira Moira says:

    Sounds delicious. Where can I find a more sun-dried tomato paste?

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      It should be available at your local grocery store! If not, regular tomato paste works just fine.

  • Avatar for Michael Michael says:

    Hey, the sauce looks amazing, I just need some clarity, The measurements that you write down look different from the amount shown in the video above. i.e, in the video it shows 2 cans of tomatoes and it looks like a lot more than 2 tbls of paste, but it does look like 8 garlic cloves were included. I’m just a tad confused here. please help me understand. 🙂 much respect. -A fellow food lover

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      A very valid question! To clarify, I had to make a smaller batch for the video so I didnt use the full 5 cans (I used 3 but didn’t show it full in the video) – the video is to just show how to make it. Adjust measurements as needed 🙂 Sorry for the confusion!

  • Avatar for Sherri Sherri says:


    Made this wonderful sauce!!! Best ever will make again! Thank you for sharing

  • Avatar for Stephanie Stephanie says:

    This sounds delicious! Do you think this recipe could be made using a slow cooker on low heat for 4-6 hours?

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      Absolutely! I’ve had some other readers use a slow cooker to make this recipe as well. 🙂

  • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

    Sorry to hear that! My family loves lots of herbs. Of course adjust ingredients to your liking.

  • Avatar for Sarah Sarah says:

    Was wondering if you drain the cans of tomatoes, or add the juice as well….

  • Avatar for HF HF says:


    I am very much looking forward to making this recipe. I love san marzano tomatoes! Do you think the flavor is better with fresh herbs or dried? Can you even tell a difference? If I’m planning to freeze the majority, do you think it’s better to do dried herbs instead of fresh? Thank you!

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      You can go either direction! Nothing really beats fresh herb flavor – but it’s completely up to you. I’ve used dried when I don’t have fresh herbs and it still tastes amazing 🙂

  • Avatar for Betty Betty says:


    This recipe was the best sauce we ever made

  • Avatar for Margaret Margaret says:

    Can I substitute strained tomatoes for can tomatoes.

  • Avatar for Mickey Mickey says:

    Bethany, I couldn’t find the sun-dried tomato paste. I bought sun-dried tomatoes. Can I chop these up really fine and add to regular tomato paste, just to add the sun-dried flavor? Or would you just use regular tomato pastes?

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      Hi Mickey! I’ve never used whole sun-dried tomatoes in this recipe but you definitely could try! I would use regular tomato paste in replacement of the sun-dried tomato paste 🙂 Hope that helps!

  • Avatar for Sean Sean says:


    Just a quick question. San Marzano DOT approved tomatoes from Italy aren’t allowed to be peeled. So the ones that are are not authentic to Italy. Usually American or South America. I wasn’t sure if that mattered and if your family recipe was Italian or just American Italian. I just see the presence on San Marzan and only use them when they are basically just possibly higher end plum tomatoes for the US. DOT approved by the Italian government are specific to one area, highly scrutinized before they are even allowed to be canned. Sorry, not tying to sound strange, I’m just wondering if not authentic San peeled tomatoes are Better than DOT approved authentic San tomatoes with skin?

  • Avatar for Judy Arnold Judy Arnold says:

    I have fresh San Marzano tomatoes. Recipe for fresh San Marzano tomatoes.

  • Avatar for Amanda Amanda says:


    I have searched and searched for a unique recipe to set my sauce out from the Italian family I married into and this is definitely it! Sun dried tomatoes and Parm rind are genius!

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      You made my day! I’m so very happy that you found this recipe. It’s close to my heart. Always brings me joy hearing people love it! <3

  • Avatar for Eric Eric says:


    I made this today. Simmered for 6 hours. Truly delicious. Thank you. I added more basil than you suggested but, hey, why not? It’s basil. The parmesan rind just melted into the sauce.

  • Avatar for Susan Susan says:

    Do you put in the dried herbs last like the fresh ones?

  • Avatar for Brittany Brittany says:


    I’m going to attempt this sauce tonight ! Any tips on storing ? Thanks!

  • Avatar for Jeremy Talusig Jeremy Talusig says:

    if we wanted a smoother sauce, would it be okay to grind the tomatoes before we cook and simmer them? doing it at the end when it’s hot creates a vacuum in my blender making it super difficult to remove the cap from the blender.

  • Avatar for Karen Karen says:

    Have you ever done this with fresh tomatoes instead of canned? I am growing San Marzano tomatoes, but I know fresh & canned are two different things.

  • Avatar for Terry Terry says:

    Can this sauce be frozen? Thanks.

  • Avatar for Amanda Amanda says:


    Best sauce recipe I’ve tried so far! So much flavor. I had never made sauce with whole tomatoes before (always used diced), but, these cook time on this recipe really allows them to cook down which is key. I added a splash of red wine and it was amazing 🥰

  • Avatar for Janice Janice says:


    This sauce is so delicious! It’s my new go-to! I make a big batch and freeze it in containers. My husband even said this was the best sauce he’s ever had.
    Thanks so much for sharing this recipe!

  • Avatar for Lauren Lauren says:

    I plan on making this tomorrow. When do you put the rind in? Is it best to put in when it begins to simmer? Thanks!

  • Avatar for Jennifer Jennifer says:

    Would you cook Meatballs and Sausage right in the sauce?