How to Make a Perfect Tomato Sauce: a Revisited Recipe

A person pouring sauce into a glass bowl.

Can you make an authentic Italian tomato sauce? Of course, you can, so let me tell you all the secrets now.

When you say salsa al pomodoro or tomato sauce, you refer to a wide range of different preparations here in Italy. Basically, a sauce is made of coarsely chopped tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. Adding sautéed garlic and onions usually makes it more flavorful. 

A man slicing an onion on a cutting board.

In Italy, we make this sauce during the summer when tomatoes are ripe; therefore, you are the luckiest if you can grow your own tomatoes. I use those of my grandparents because they look after their tomato plants as if they were precious jewels. 

Is tomato sauce the same as tomato soup or pappa al pomodoro?

Not at all. Even though they are similar in that they both have tomatoes, they are totally different. One of the most common toppings for pasta, tomato sauce is made of tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, onion and garlic, basil, salt, and a touch of sugar to balance out the sourness of the tomatoes. Tomato soup, pappa al pomodoro, is a typical dish from Tuscany; it consists of the same ingredients, but stale bread and a little broth are added to make it a soup. It’s a really delicious rural dish.     

Tomato sauce being poured into a pot.

What is tomato sauce made of?

Only four good quality ingredients go into tomato sauce: ripe tomatoes, yellow onions, and a little garlic (in order to reduce the acidity of the onion and the final sauce), fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and salt. You may add a little sugar if the tomatoes are too sour.

It’s all about the tomatoes

You have already experienced this, haven’t you? When you eat out, a tomato sauce never tastes the same, and it is always different from yours. I do not mean it is better or worse; it is simply different. Since the ingredients are the same, what does this mean? 

The type and quality of the tomatoes and the cooking process are responsible for the final results. Everyone has their own secrets and way of preparing their own one, so you may encounter over 1000 types of tomato sauces and 1000 different tastes. The ingredients and the herbs play an important role in the final results, but the order in which they are added and how they are cooked may affect the final product. 

Keep reading because there is a secret in my recipe!

Sliced tomatoes on a cutting board with a knife.

What are the best herbs to use?

The most common recipes add only basil, while others also add parsley. Onions and garlic provide a stronger flavor. Shallots may also be used (instead of onions). 

Can you add milk?

No recipes add milk. This may make the sauce creamier, but this is not part of the Italian tradition. If you like a smoother sauce, you could add a few spoonfuls of ricotta cheese, but this is both an exception and is unusual.  

A red sauce being poured into a bowl.

What can you use it for?

According to the following methods, prepare plenty of tomato sauce in advance; heat it in a pan, drain the al dente pasta, and toss well. Garnish it with some basil leaves. Tomato sauce is well paired with long or short, dry or fresh pasta. 

How to Make a Perfect Tomato Sauce: a Revisited Recipe

This is not the classic recipe of tomato sauce, but Alexander, my food-critic partner, loves to do it this way at home. You get a good sauce and silky consistency. The original recipe is by a great starred chef, but don’t worry because it is straightforward and a guaranteed success.
To make this sauce, three types of tomato are required: 2 in the can and one fresh. Let’s do it together! Ready?
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword pomodoro, sauce, tomatoes sauce
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
15 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes


  • 15 oz of very ripe plum tomatoes, such as Roma (In Italy, you use San Marzano) (400g)
  • 15 oz of canned cherry tomatoes  (400g)
  • 15 oz of canned peeled tomatoes 
  • 4-5 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic unpeeled
  • A small yellow onion
  • A little sugar (1/4 teaspoon about)
  • Salt to taste
  • Basil leaves or fresh or dry herbs to taste


  • Prepare the onion and chop it coarsely;
  • Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat for a couple of minutes, add the onion and the unpeeled garlic;
  • Sauté them gently and when the onion is a little golden, remove the garlic and add the canned tomatoes;
  • In the meantime, wash the fresh tomatoes and dice them without removing the skins. Add them to the saucepan and mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon;
  • Add a little salt and the sugar;
  • Cover the pan partially with the lid. Check the flame: make sure it’s low enough because it’s essential not to burn the sauce as it would leave an unpleasant bitter aftertaste.
  • When the sauce looks homogeneous and the tomatoes are completely softened, turn off the heat and mix the ingredients using an immersion blender.
  • Then, use a fine mesh strainer and filter the sauce in order to separate skins, seeds, and tomato scraps;
  • Put the sauce back on the stove and continue to let it thicken without the lid over a low heat;
  • Taste the sauce and add salt if necessary;
  • If you want to make la pasta al pomodoro, boil the water, add a handful of salt and the pasta, and cook it following the package instructions;
  • When the pasta is cooked, drain and add it to the nonstick skillet where you have just prepared the sauce. Toss well and serve it hot;
  • Add some chopped basil or oregano, pepper, and red pepper flakes;
  • Top the pasta with sauce and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese;
  • This three-tomato sauce is smooth and silky (without any lumps). It’s perfect for "embracing" the pasta and making it unforgettable.
  • And the remaining sauce? Let it cool completely, divide it into single portions, and put it in the freezer. It will be perfect for other occasions, just let it melt in a skillet while the pasta cooks; you will always have a delicious sauce for a quick lunch and as a basis for other tasty recipes.

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