Basic Tomato Sauce

September 15, 2012 4 Comments

Basic Tomato Sauce

A Simple Tomato Sauce Recipe

One of the most important items I have on hand at all times is my Basic Tomato Sauce. Sometimes called Salsa Di Pomodoro but more often called “Italian Gravy” by my Italian friends, this sauce is the start of many great recipes.

Once a month, usually on a Sunday, I prepare a huge batch of this sauce for freezing and use it throughout the month in a variety of pasta dishes, pizza, chicken Parmesan, or whatever recipe calls for tomato sauce.

I turn on the TV for some sporting event, don my apron, and get to work with the assistance of my wife. Now you can make this sauce by yourself, but it’s much easier and a lot more fun when you cook with someone else especially when you can get them to peel the garlic and de-seed the tomatoes.

The beauty of this basic sauce is the number of quick and easy pasta sauces you can make from it. By adding sauteed mushrooms, sausage, chopped beef, or vegetables to name a few, you can create a plethora of tasty meals.

For a basic sauce, you can’t imagine the number of recipes out there to make this staple. For example, some cooks only used fresh tomatoes while others think canned are best. Some only add basil, others use battuto (diced carrots, onions, and celery).

Some add sugar, some don’t. Some add garlic and onions, others use one or the other, others don’t use either.

When making a basic tomato sauce, try this tip I was given by chef Ricco Deluca. Save the rinds from used Parmesan cheese, add them to the sauce while cooking and remove when done.

My Basic Tomato Sauce

I like to make a big batch and freeze it, so I use large #10 cans of tomatoes that I purchase from Costco. The hardest part of this recipe is de-seeding the tomatoes.

The seeds are removed because they make the sauce bitter. It’s a pain in the neck, but a must if you want to enhance the flavor of the sauce. I start out by pulsing the tomatoes in my food processor. You don’t want to puree the tomatoes, just break them up some.

I then push the pulp through a strainer saving the pulp and juice and throwing out the seeds and tomato membrane. You can also use a food mill to remove the seeds.

I don’t add a lot of other ingredients except for garlic and chicken stock. Although most recipes I’ve seen don’t add chicken stock, I like it because it adds flavor and volume to the sauce.

Remember, this is a base sauce and you will add other ingredients as recipes call for them. I also add a little sugar to sweeten the sauce, but you can also sauté some carrots and add them for the same effect.

Also, this recipe calls for a Sachet. This is a piece of cheese cloth filled with herbs and spices, tied into a bundle with a piece of kitchen string and added to the cooking sauce to add flavor.

I prefer to use fresh herbs, but that is not always possible, so my Sachet for this recipe includes dried herbs. It is removed when the sauce is finished.


Basic Tomato Sauce

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 2-3 hours

Basic Tomato Sauce



2 bay leaves

8 black peppercorns

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried thyme


1 1/2 bulbs (not cloves) garlic, peeled and chopped

3 tablespoons of oils

2 - #10 cans of tomatoes (102 oz. each) including juice

5 cups of chicken stock

3 tablespoons of sugar

How To Prepare At Home

1. Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pot and sauté the garlic. Be careful not to burn the garlic, it will ruin the sauce.

2. Drain the tomatoes reserving the juice. While the garlic is cooking, start the de-seeding process and add to the pot when the garlic is golden. Keep de-seeding the tomatoes and adding the pulp to the pot.

3. Add the reserved tomato juice, Sachet, chicken stock, and sugar.

4. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the sauce is reduced by half. This will take anywhere from 2-3 hours stirring every once and awhile.

5. When the sauce is finished, remove the Sachet.

This may seem like a lot of work because it is, but I know you will be pleased with the outcome. The problem is you won’t be able to eat canned tomato sauce again. Not the worst that could happen! Enjoy. RG



Last modified on Tue 22 December 2015 3:01 pm

Comments (4)

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  1. SK says:

    Hi, I am a vegetarian.What can I add instead of chicken stock to add flavor to my sauce.Also would the recipe be different for fresh tomatoes instead of canned ones? Thanks.

    • Sk, I might try some vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock. If the fresh tomatoes are ripe like they are here in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in August, the sauce will be even better. But if you can’t find exceptional tomatoes, stick with canned.

  2. Ray says:

    Strongly suggest de-seeding the tomatoes BEFORE you begin cooking the garlic. It takes about 2 minutes on a low flame to get garlic golden and who knows how long it will take to get all the seeds out of the tomatoes. Un-can the tomatoes into a large bowl. Pull them out one by one onto a plate and open each tomato and pull the seeds out, leaving the seeds and whatever juice on the plate. Put the de-seeded tomato flesh in a second bowl. Strain the seedy juice into the second bowl containing the de-seeded tomatoes. Repeat until all tomatoes are out of the can, de-seeded and in the second bowl, adding the strained juice to the second bowl. Discard seeds. Start sauteing the garlic and once it is light golden – first sign of color – add the de-seeded tomatoes and juice to the garlic, stir, and away you go! The rest is as simple as falling off a log and landing in Rome.

  3. Brian says:

    Have you ever just cooked down a couple 28oz cans of San Marzano Tomatoes for 3 hours? That is the whole recipe. Maybe add some garlic if you want. Tastes much better than all these complicated recipes. The San Marzano tomatoes basically dissolve into a thick sauce with occasional stirring.

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