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.
This Italian tomato sauce (also known in Italian as “Pomodoro sauce”) is quite unique 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, and developed in flavor, and 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!
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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 and oregano.
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 D.O.P.-certified tomatoes – usually visible on the front or the back of the can. This is a protective seal that guarantees authenticity.
Brands we like to use that are quality, but not D.O.P.-certified: If you do not care for using a D.O.P.-certified brand of tomatoes, be sure to at least use a tomato that is a product of Italy! The brands we like are Cento and Dellalo.
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
- Use quality 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. I grew up with my mom always using Cento, but I also love using D.O.P-certified brands and preferably organic tomatoes. Be sure that whatever tomato you do use, is a product of Italy to ensure its top quality!
- Use Amore Sun-Dried Tomato Paste: Rather than using regular tomato paste as a thickener, my family loves to use this sun-dried tomato paste for a richer taste. If you do not have this available to you, no problem, swap it for regular tomato paste!
- The best herbs for tomato sauce – traditional Italian tomato sauce always calls for fresh basil or oregano – or a combination of both! Sometimes you’ll see thyme thrown into red sauces too. Using fresh herbs is key for authentic flavor. I do not recommend using dried herbs in a lot of my recipes, especially when it comes to homemade tomato sauce.
- 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.
- Achieve rich flavor by using lots of garlic! As a born and raised garlic lover, I encourage you not to 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”- but wonderfully balanced and rich.
How to Avoid an Acidic Sauce
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 the carrot once the sauce is finished.
Use a stainless steel pot: whenever making tomato sauce, it’s important to choose the right pot. My top recommendations for sauce are stainless steel. Other pots such as non-stick or cast iron can cause the acid in the tomatoes to mix with the metal and result in an unpleasant metallic taste.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I add meatballs to cook with the sauce? Of course! We love cooking our Italian meatballs with this sauce. If the meatballs are about 2 inches in size, after being browned in a pan or baked, you can add them to the sauce to cook for the last 60-30 minutes. If they’re much bigger, you can let them simmer for 2 hours in the sauce. Stir the sauce gently to prevent breaking the meatballs, and make sure you are using a large enough pot!
Can this sauce be made with fresh tomatoes? Yes! We love to make tomato sauce with fresh garden tomatoes. Use our fresh tomato sauce recipe for this process! This recipe will actually take less time to make, but the flavor is equally as delicious.
Can I make this in a slow cooker? Of course! I recommend first sauteing the garlic in a pan. Then add the garlic to a slow cooker with the rest of the sauce ingredients, and set it on LOW for 5 hours. Stir a few times throughout the cooking process. Add the herbs at the end.
Why does this recipe call for no onions? This was the way my mom taught me how to make tomato sauce, just with garlic as the aromatic. A lot of traditional tomato sauce recipes only call for garlic, so it’s not that uncommon to see onions not included. But we have tried it with onion and it’s delicious too! If you would like to add onion, dice it small and saute the onion (before the garlic) for about 3 minutes. Then add the garlic!
Do I need to chop the tomatoes before adding them to the sauce? Only if you want the sauce to be very smooth, with no texture/chunks of tomatoes. San Marzano tomatoes are so tender that they will naturally break down as they cook, especially in this recipe since it calls for a longer simmering time. So no, they do not need to be chopped before cooking!
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
The best way to serve this tomato sauce is with your favorite Italian dishes! Some of our favorites are…
Lasagna! We love layering this sauce in our vegetable lasagna, spinach lasagna roll-ups, and Italian sausage lasagna! For a healthier take on lasagna, we also love making our zucchini lasagna or eggplant lasagna too.
Pasta noodles! You can also keep it really simple, and serve this red sauce with your favorite Italian noodles such as penne, rigatoni, fusilli, spaghetti, or shells! And whatever you do serve this sauce with, don’t forget to add crusty bread on the side for dipping. 😉
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.
If you’re looking for a red sauce made with fresh tomatoes – you’ll love our Fresh Tomato Sauce recipe!
Got Pinterest? Pin this recipe to your Pinterest boards!
San Marzano Tomato Sauce
- 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 (or use regular 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)
- Cook garlic: In a large stainless steel pot on LOW-MEDIUM heat sauté garlic in olive oil for 30-60 seconds. Stir constantly to keep garlic from burning.
- 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 3+ 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.
- 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.
- Add herbs: when sauce is finished, mix in chopped fresh herbs. Season with additional salt & black pepper if needed and serve!