San Marzano Tomato Sauce {Family Recipe}

A famous family recipe – San Marzano Tomato Sauce. Savory, Italian flavors, simmered for several hours developing a rich and hearty tomato sauce. Easily the best tomato sauce I’ve ever had! 

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 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 thick, developed in flavor, and is the perfect sauce to top your favorite pasta with or layer in a lasagna. 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.

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a pot of san marzano tomato sauce with fresh herbs

If you try this recipe or any other recipe, I would love to hear how you enjoyed it! Review and comment below and let me know your thoughts. Also share your pictures on instagram #asimplepalate - I love seeing your recipe creations! You can also follow me on PINTEREST, INSTAGRAM, and FACEBOOK.

a pot of san marzano tomato sauce with fresh herbs

San Marzano Tomato Sauce

5 from 13 votes
Servings 8 servings
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
4 hrs
Total Time
4 hrs 5 mins

A famous family recipe - savory Italian flavors, vibrant herbs, simmered for several hours to develop the perfect hearty tomato sauce. Easily the best tomato sauce I've ever had!

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

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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52 Comments

  • 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 🙂

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