San Marzano Tomato Sauce {Family Recipe}

My family’s beloved San Marzano Tomato Sauce. This luscious red sauce is simmered for several hours to develop the richest taste. It’s filled with 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 Italian gravy recipe is quite special because it was the very first recipe my mom ever taught me how to make. It 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.

When you make this homemade pasta sauce you will find the results are 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 cook low and slow for hours will give you the most beautifully rich and savory sauce you’ve ever had.

The first steps for making this sauce… put on some Frank Sinatra, grab a glass of vino, and enjoy the sweet aroma of simmering tomatoes & garlic. ‘Cause, that’s amore!

Ingredients Needed

You’ll need just a handful of pantry items and fresh herbs to make this recipe happen. Here’s the full list: canned San Marzano plum tomatoes, garlic cloves, quality tomato paste, olive oil, salt & black pepper, and fresh herbs – basil, oregano, and thyme if desired.

ingredients for tomato sauce arranged on gray background.

Why are San Marzano tomatoes the best?

San Marzano tomatoes first originated in Naples, Italy. They are not just a staple in my family’s recipes, 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, sweet flavor and lower acidity. They are also known to have a thicker consistency compared to other canned plum tomatoes.

Take an extra step and use DOP-certified tomatoes – usually visible on the front or the back of the can. This is a protective seal that guarantees authenticity.

How to Make San Marzano Tomato Sauce

  •  Saute garlic in olive oil: Saute minced garlic for 30 to 60 seconds on low – medium heat – constantly stirring. Using lots of garlic in this recipe will give your tomato sauce the foundation of its flavor.
  • Add Tomatoes, paste, and salt & pepper – 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.
  • Stir in fresh herbs at the very end: Cooking herbs in the sauce for hours can actually result in a bitter flavor. For a fresh, vibrant herb flavor add them at the very end when the sauce is finished for best results.

Tips for Success

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

  • Use San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes: to make a perfect tomato sauce you need San Marzano. 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 as a thickener, my family loves to use this sun-dried tomato paste for a richer taste.
  • Add a Parmesan cheese rind: When you purchase a block of parmesan cheese – save/freeze your cheese rind for recipes like this! It’s a unique ingredient that instantly adds 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. Add the rind during the simmering time of the sauce, then use a utensil to carefully remove it before serving.
  • Lots of garlic for lots of flavor: I encourage you, as a born and raised garlic-lover, to not shy away from the number of garlic cloves listed. So much flavor in red sauces comes from the aromatics (garlic, onions, etc.). We use lots of garlic in this sauce to create a complex flavor! It will not taste “garlic-y” at all – but wonderfully balanced and rich.
Tip
A black and silver hand-immersion blender.

Our favorite hand-held blender

Make Your Sauce Smooth in Seconds

I love a sauce with texture – but if you prefer a smooth sauce consistency we love using this hand-held immersion blender to make this happen in seconds! It's much safer than transferring hot sauce to a blender and is the easiest tool to use. The blender is one of my moms favorite kitchen tools! It's great for creaming sauces, soups, and hot drinks.

wooden spoon stirring tomato sauce with chopped fresh herbs on top.

Simple Steps To Avoid an Acidic Sauce

Use quality tomatoes: as stated above, this is the first step to ensure your sauce is less acidic. Use quality San Marzano Italian tomatoes (which are naturally less acidic) for your sauce to be rich and sweet in flavor!

Add a carrot to simmer in the sauce: this is something my mother always did and is very traditional in Italian sauces. The sweetness of the carrot releases its flavor and naturally absorbs any acidic flavors from the tomatoes. How to: remove the stem, peel the carrot skin off, and place the whole carrot into the sauce to simmer. Remove carrot once the sauce is finished.

Use stainless steel: whenever making tomato sauce, it’s important to choose the right pot. My top recommendations for sauce are stainless steel. Any other pot like non-stick or cast iron can cause the acid in the tomatoes to mix with the metal and results in an unpleasant metallic taste.

Tips for Storing Leftovers & Freezing

Store & keep fresh: Let sauce cool to room temperature then store in an airtight container or glass jars. Chill in the refrigerator for up to 5-7 days.

How to freeze: First, let the sauce cool to room temperature – then store in an airtight container or freezer-friendly ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Our Favorite Ways to Serve it Up:

I hope you love this homemade tomato sauce just as much as we do! It’s a staple for complimenting my favorite Italian recipes – especially around the holidays.

Serve with your favorite crusty french bread for perfection!

If you’re looking for a red sauce made with fresh tomatoes – you’ll love our Fresh Tomato Sauce recipe!

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

4.99 from 76 votes

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. 

Servings 10 servings
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 4 hrs
Total Time: 4 hrs 5 mins

Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Tags: homemade tomato sauce, italian sauce, marinara sauce, san marzano tomato sauce
Freezer Friendly: Yes
Calories: 63 kcal
Author: Bethany Kramer

Ingredients

  • 8 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4-5 28oz cans San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes (with juices)
  • 2-3 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)

Instructions

  1. Cook garlic: In a large pot on LOW-MEDIUM heat sauté garlic in olive oil for 30-60 seconds. Stir constantly to keep garlic from burning.

  2. Add tomatoes and simmer: pour canned tomatoes with juices in with the garlic. Add tomato paste, salt, and black pepper. Mix ingredients together, partially cover with lid – but not completely, and simmer on LOW heat for 4+ hours. Stir every so often to avoid burning. Note: if using a parmesan rind, add it in this step and let it simmer with sauce until finished. Remove and discard rind when ready to serve.

  3. For smooth sauce: when sauce is finished cooking, use a hand immersion-blender to puree. Note: If you prefer a chunkier/thicker sauce (like I do), you can skip this step as the San Marzanos naturally break down while cooking.

  4. Add herbs: when sauce is finished, mix in chopped fresh herbs. Season with additional salt & black pepper if needed and serve!

Recipe Video

Notes

Add a Parmesan rind: When you purchase a block of parmesan cheese – save/freeze your cheese rind for recipes like this! It’s a unique ingredient that instantly adds 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. Add the parmesan rind with tomatoes and let simmer with sauce – remove rind with tongs before serving. 

Storing & Freezing Instructions

Store & keep fresh: Let sauce cool to room temperature then store in an airtight container or glass jars. Chill in refrigerator for up to 5-7 days. 

How to freeze: First, let the sauce cool to room temperature – then store in an airtight container or ziplock freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 to 4 months

Nutrition Facts
San Marzano Tomato Sauce
Amount Per Serving (0 g)
Calories 63 Calories from Fat 32
% Daily Value*
Fat 3.6g6%
Saturated Fat 0g0%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0.6mg0%
Sodium 164.7mg7%
Potassium 0mg0%
Carbohydrates 7.7g3%
Fiber 0g0%
Sugar 2.8g3%
Protein 1.7g3%
Vitamin A 0IU0%
Vitamin C 0mg0%
Calcium 0mg0%
Iron 0mg0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Bethany Kramer

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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Recipe Rating




299 Comments

  • 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 Nancy Cavarretta Nancy Cavarretta says:

      So easy and so delicious! I will never by pre-made sauce again!

  • 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 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 Julia Julia says:

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

  • Avatar for Kalley Kalley says:

    5 stars
    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 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!

    • Im not really sure what a cheese rind is? Can u pour some parmesan cheese from a can in or where do u find the rind?

    • Sorry for the confusion Sandy. The cheese rind comes with a block of parmesan cheese, it is usually the end peace that wraps around the cheese when aging. You can freeze it and save it for soups and sauces like this one 🙂

  • Avatar for Matthew Matthew says:

    5 stars
    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 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 Barbara Maher Barbara Maher says:

    5 stars
    love this sauce – 🙂

  • 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 Alecia Alecia says:

      5 stars
      I made this recipe with fresh San Marzanos from my garden and it turned out terrific! Didn’t add the additional tomato paste and it was spectacular. Love this recipe!

    • so happy to hear it worked with fresh San Marzanos. Glad you loved the sauce as well 🙂

    • Avatar for Sunny Sunny says:

      Alison, did you ever make this recipe using your San Marzano tomatoes from your garden? Im looking to do the same, but I’m interested in finding out how you did this.

    • Avatar for Gretchen Jonker Gretchen Jonker says:

      Hi Alison, San Marzano tomatoes are only special when they grow in the San Marzano Valley in Italy. The unique flavour is a result of the volcanic ash, climate, and salty air. You may have purchased the variety of tomato seeds, but what you produce in your garden will be ordinary roma variety tomatoes. You really do need to purchase these. You may also be interested in knowing that San Marzano tomatoes are the most counterfeited food in the world. This means that you can only trust specific brands. In America I would recommend that you purchase these from Eatly (NYC, Chicago, etc) as they certainly will be selling the real thing.

    • Avatar for Dan Dan says:

      5 stars
      Hello again Bethany-I felt the need to add a Blog-Blog about all the Confusion there seems to be regarding “San Marzano Tomatoes”.
      “San Marzano” is just a Name for this wonderful Plant, and its Fruit…but really means little unless they carry those 3 Letters…D.O.P. on the Label. Gretchen Jonker is 100% correct, all the elements of this perfect storm must be present. I’ve been frustrated for years trying to find the sweet nectar of true Italian Marinara. The DOP Board also Certifies Parmesan Cheeses, Balsamic Vinegars, Olive Oils, etc…and it basically guarantees that what they say on the Label IS THE TRUTH…pretty rare these days! You think we could get them in Washington?…Nahhhh, not a chance!

  • Avatar for Gabby Gabby says:

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

  • 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 Louise Levy Louise Levy says:

      5 stars
      I am cooking your recipe now. I intend on adding ground beef to it.
      I did add a few hot pepper flakes and I grated a bit of fresh nutmeg.
      Thank you for sharing.

    • Hope you enjoyed it!

  • 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 Linda Linda says:

    5 stars
    This sauce looks amazing. Will have to try.

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      Let me know how you like it, Linda!

    • Avatar for Kathleen M Kathleen M says:

      My question is about the Sans Marzano’s tomatoes. Is there a certain brand can name that the tomatoes come in? Like Centos? I’m gearing up for a small dinner party. Making sauce for spaghetti and I do t want to hear from my husband, “not like moms sauce” he hates runny sauce.

  • 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 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 Rosa V Rosa V says:

      5 stars
      great recipe…couldn’t find sun dried paste. so added sun dried to paste. Gravy came out great….made lasagna with sauce got several compliments. sauce tasted even better the next day

    • So glad it worked out for you! And I couldn’t agree more – it really is even better the next day.

  • Avatar for JoeAnn JoeAnn says:

    5 stars
    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 Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      Thanks so much! That longer cooking time is key for sure ? glad you enjoyed it.

  • Avatar for Lisa Lisa says:

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

    • Avatar for Jon Lepel Jon Lepel says:

      So I’m a sauce neophyte. I filed the directions but it came out a little watery. What would you do to thicken it up? More tomato paste?

    • Hi jon! Simmering always naturally thickens the sauce. But if for some reason it doesn’t thicken, add more tomato pasta as needed. Hope this helps!

  • Avatar for Sandy Sandy says:

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

  • Avatar for Tracy Tracy says:

    5 stars
    I cannot wait to try this!

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