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.
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 86 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


  • 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)


  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


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


  • Avatar for Judy Arnold Judy Arnold says:

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

  • Avatar for Sean Sean says:

    5 stars
    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 Valerie Valerie says:

      5 stars
      FFS who cares? It’s a recipe, make it or not.

    • Avatar for Dori Dori says:

      5 stars
      So good! I cooked this tonight. My favorite spaghetti tomato sauce now. The family wanted seconds 👍. I put cooked meatballs in the sauce at the end. I don’t want to use store tomato jars anymore. San Marzano canned tomatoes are the best! I took your suggestion and added the Parm rind, it really helped give it that extra delicious flavor. Yumm!!

    • So so happy to hear it! Thanks for sharing, Dori! 🙂

  • 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 Margaret Margaret says:

    Can I substitute strained tomatoes for can tomatoes.

    • Avatar for Bethany Kramer Bethany Kramer says:

      I recommend using the juices because that helps with the base of the sauce.

  • Avatar for Betty Betty says:

    5 stars
    This recipe was the best sauce we ever made

  • Avatar for HF HF says:

    5 stars
    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 Sarah Sarah says:

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

  • 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 Sherri Sherri says:

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

  • 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 Moira Moira says:

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

  • 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 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 Olga Olga says:

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

    • Avatar for Catherine Mallot Catherine Mallot says:

      Do you have a meatball recipe and when do I add it to the sauce can’t wait to make ur sauce . Thank you!

  • Avatar for Shannon Shannon says:

    5 stars
    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 Tracy Agnew Tracy Agnew says:

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

  • Avatar for Jaq Jaq says:

    5 stars
    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 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 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 Sherri Sherri says:

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

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