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”- but wonderfully balanced and rich.
  • The best pot to cook tomato sauce in: I only recommend using a stainless steel pot to cook tomato sauce in. It’s light, and not heavy like cast iron skillet pots. It will cook the sauce evenly and not add any acidic metal taste to the sauce. I would not recommend using a heavy cast iron pot (even if it is enameled), it radiates too much heat and can cook the sauce TOO much.
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 90 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 stainless steel 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 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.

  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 the cook and photographer behind A Simple Palate. 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




348 Comments

  • Avatar for Gabe Gabe says:

    5 stars
    I love this recipe and make it all the time. I like to dice some onion and add it before the garlic and some spinach with the tomatoes. The peeled carrot brings it to another level as well.

  • Avatar for Raina Raina says:

    5 stars
    Thank you, Bethany, for your generosity in sharing this recipe and your infinite patience in the comments 😉 My mom would start her sauce early on Sunday mornings and it would simmer all day until we ate late afternoon. That is, indeed, the greatest ‘secret’ to a decent sauce. And we were lucky to live in New York where the finest ingredients could be found. We always used whole canned tomatoes and they break down beautifully, no help needed. She used to splash some water in each can to get every drop of tomato into the pot, and then used a little more paste. We also loved when she’d add bracciole or braised pork bones. Gosh I’m salivating as I write this. I’m on hour two of smelling your recipe simmer. I’m trying it without the onions we always added to see how I like it without. I added some crushed red pepper along with black pepper and will likely add a little fresh thyme because I happen to have it. I have recently discovered thyme and tomatoes as a wonderful pairing. I also usually add a tiny bit of rosemary(crushed). This is the first time I’m waiting to add the spices at the end and I’m very interested to see how that is! Thanks again.

    • Avatar for Bethany Bethany says:

      Hi Raina! That is so lovely to hear. I love to hear when people have made their sauce a similar way! And onion is always welcome! We just never made it with onion, only lots of garlic. Would love to hear how you enjoy this sauce! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Avatar for Dave Dave says:

    5 stars
    I make almost the exact same recipe. I use an instant pot on slow cook high setting.

    I also brown sausage in a cast iron pan, set it aside. Saute a small diced onion, in the sausage grease. Add the onion to the sauce before blending. Add the sausage after blending. Add meatball (browned home made or frozen) a ew hours before serving.

    Store unused sauce in the instant pot , pot, coverwith a glass lid, or saran wrap in the refri. To reheat put the pot back in the instant pot and reheat.

    No more fuss & only one pot to clean when you run out of sauce.

  • Avatar for Peter Peter says:

    I think I’ve been looking for this recipe for years. I’ll be trying it this weekend.i will let you know how it works. Gratzie. Also, other brands of San marzano or not?

    • Avatar for Bethany Bethany says:

      Cento is great, but you can use any canned tomato that is a product of Italy or DOP certified (should say on the can). Hope you enjoy it!

  • Avatar for Kris Kris says:

    5 stars
    Came out fantastic, a worthy recipe to pass down

  • Avatar for Hope Hope says:

    I grew San Marzano tomatoes in our garden this summer. I ran them through the sauce master fresh from the garden and frozen the resulting sauce/juice. Could I use that to make this sauce. Do I simply use the same number ounces of my sauce/juice that you had of canned San Marzano?

    • Avatar for Bethany Bethany says:

      Hi Hope, yes that should work perfectly fine! I would get the measurement as close as you can to the tomato can. I’m sure it’ll taste even more delicious using fresh tomatoes!

  • Avatar for Shawnah Shawnah says:

    No onions? Why?

  • Avatar for Cindy Cindy says:

    Would you ever consider adding a couple of anchovies to the olive oil at the start of the recipe? Seems to me they’d break down in the oil and add a punch of umami to the sauce

    • Avatar for Bethany Bethany says:

      Hi Cindy, I’ve never tried it, but if you were to try it, I recommend anchovy paste – it might work better. Hope you enjoy the sauce!

  • Avatar for Brian Brian says:

    5 stars
    This is my second time making this sauce, the first was absolutely AMAZING! This time I started with onions as well as garlic, I’m adding carrots as suggested, and I added a few bay leaves just because. Thank you so much for this amazing recipe!

  • Avatar for Stephen Clapp Stephen Clapp says:

    5 stars
    Wow this sauce is terrific. Love the depth of flavor. Family loved it.

  • Avatar for John John says:

    Hi. I like to cook my meatballs in my sauce. I see that your sauce is nice and thick. Will that be a problem putting them in, or should I wait a half an hour or so?

  • Avatar for Marina Marina says:

    Is this made with (2) 28 oz. cans of ‘matoes or (4)-(5) cans? The video only showed 2 so I wanted to be sure thank you!

    • Avatar for Bethany Bethany says:

      Hi Marina, the video cut out any of the other cans, I believe I used three in the video because the pot was smaller. The recipes calls for 4-5 cans – whichever you want! It works for both. 🙂 Hope that helps!

  • Avatar for Bryce Bryce says:

    I have heard it is better to cook and reduce red sauce in the oven since the indirect heating will prevent it from burning. Thoughts? And if so, at what temperature and for how long would you recommend cooking this sauce?

  • Avatar for Brian Brian says:

    5 stars
    I’m only halfway through the minimum 4 hours on the sauce, but I gave it a quick taste anyways. I could not believe the incredible taste, even though the San Marzanos haven’t fully broken down yet. I can’t wait for dinner!

    I’ll be using this sauce for stuffed shells!

  • Avatar for Brie Brie says:

    5 stars
    This recipe is 100% authentic and reminds me of Italy. Even my Italian friends (from Italy in the last 5 years) love this recipe and they say it reminds them of home.

  • Avatar for Cyrl Cyrl says:

    Hi – You mentioned using a stainless steel pot, I have a large le creuset pot and I was wondering if that would be OK to use?

  • Avatar for Hal Brindley Hal Brindley says:

    I’ve canned a bushel or two of this sauce with fresh tomatoes and no oregano for about 20 years. When I run out of my sauce I use San Mariano’s in the recipe. It’s delicious and sweet.

  • Avatar for Mona Mona says:

    5 stars
    The Best. I do add some onion. Only because I like onion not a lot. Hands down the best. Just make sure you hit the imported San marzano perfect recipe.

  • Avatar for Jenn Jenn says:

    I’m excited to make this recipe! Do you think it would taste delicious if I make homemade meatballs to add to this sauce recipe?

  • Avatar for Deb G Deb G says:

    5 stars
    This is my new, go to sauce! I make a lot at a time (with or without meat) and freeze the extra in ziplock bags. Very handy as needed. Thank you!

  • Avatar for Stephanie Stephanie says:

    I messed up and put all herbs in the beginning. If it comes out bitter, any suggestions on how to fix 🙁

    • Avatar for Bethany Bethany says:

      Hi Stephanie, no problem! It really shouldn’t come out bitter. It’s just a precautionary step I take because sometimes it does. You’ll have to let me know how the results were! I hope you liked it. 🙂

  • Avatar for Edward Edward says:

    5 stars
    Sauce flavor was amazing! Brought out the flavor of the peppers and fennel 🙂. Thank you!!

  • Avatar for Michael Farnsworth Michael Farnsworth says:

    This sauce is great! How long would you say to water bath can this for to preserve in pantry?

    • Avatar for Michael Farnsworth Michael Farnsworth says:

      Also, is any citic acid or anything needed to water bath can, to preserve?

  • Avatar for Bonnie S. Bonnie S. says:

    QUESTION (RE: Marinara sauce): Instead of the stainless steel pot on the stove, could a slow cooker be used?

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