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 70 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
Calories 63 Calories from Fat 32
% Daily Value*
Fat 3.6g6%
Cholesterol 0.6mg0%
Sodium 164.7mg7%
Carbohydrates 7.7g3%
Sugar 2.8g3%
Protein 1.7g3%
* 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




269 Comments

  • Avatar for Anna M Linder Anna M Linder says:

    5 stars
    It’s perfect. Plus, I use it as my base for beef and /or sausage meat sauce and it works amazing!

  • Avatar for Austin Z Austin Z says:

    This sauce turned out amazing, I end up making 12 cans of tomatoes at a time and my kids and close family love this, ive used it with chicken parm, Italian sausage and meatballs, lasagna. It usually only lasts a week in my house and I have people wanting me to make it and jar it for them.

  • Avatar for Vicky Vicky says:

    5 stars
    I just found your website and it looks awesome! Your sauce looks close to the one I have made for the last 50 years! (Irish girl who married into an Italian family! )So I’m going to try yours next. However when I tried to use the Cento san Marzano plum tomatoes I find the seeds don’t cook down?! So when I’m eating I have these little seeds that are present. I even tried an immersion blender and they’re indestructible! So I usually use the cento Italian style plum tomatoes. Do you have that problem with your recipe and maybe I’m not cooking the sauce long enough? Thank you.

    • Avatar for Bethany Bethany says:

      Hi Vicky! I’m actually part Irish as well 🙂 love to hear it. As far as the cento tomatoes, I’ve not come across the same problem with the seeds. But you can certainly switch the brand for another DOP-certified tomato!

  • Avatar for Yvonne Yvonne says:

    5 stars
    Absolutely stunning so easy to make lovely made with with pasta garlic mushrooms and garlic and rosemary bread and a bottle of rioja

  • Avatar for Lisa Lisa says:

    I am going to make this recipe 2 days before serving my party. How long should I re-heat the sauce and should I put the herbs in then, after the sauce simmers when I make it a couple of days prior, or both? And I assume re-heating in same stainless steel pot? Thanks!

    • Avatar for Bethany Bethany says:

      Hi Lisa! You can make the sauce as is, then serve it. No need to add the herbs later! And yes. I would reheat in stainless steel 🙂

  • Avatar for Patti Patti says:

    5 stars
    Simply the best sauce/gravy I have tasted. I’m sharing with friends. Made a big pot over the weekend. Thank you so much.

  • Avatar for Matthew Foster Matthew Foster says:

    What if I wanted to add wine to the recipe? Would I need to make any adjustments?

    • Avatar for Bethany Bethany says:

      You might just need it to simmer a bit longer so it’s not too liquidy. Other than that it should work fine with this recipe without any adjustments! Just keep an eye on the consistency. If needed, more tomato paste can help thicken quickly.

  • Avatar for Heidi Heidi says:

    5 stars
    This Tomato Sauce is absolutely delicious! Thanks so much for sharing your family recipe.

  • Avatar for Jennifer Jennifer says:

    I am making this today. If I’m adding peeled tomatoes with basil. Do I still add the badil in the end? Or add less than the recipe calls for?

  • Avatar for Susan Susan says:

    Not sure if you will see this reply on an old post, but if I wanted to use fresh San Marzanos from my garden, how many pounds would I need to use?

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