How to Make Tomato Sauce Like an Italian

Five years ago, I thought tomato sauce came from a can, jar or my Mothers kitchen. Today, that is a different story, for I have mastered the fine art of Italian tomato sauce. With all good Italian things, one requires patience and persistence.

If this is your first time making tomato sauce, I wish you luck and I hope my step-by-step photo guide helps.

I love Italian cooking and eating. I am a Canadian, who learned the fine art of Italian tomato sauce by trial and error, and a lot of questions. And this is what I came up with, I hope you enjoy.

How to Make Tomato Sauce Like an Italian

1. Collect Raw Ingredients: Tomatoes, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, canned tomatoes and tomato paste. I was shocked to learn that some Sardinian’s add carrot and celery to the tomato sauce and since, so have I. It adds a little extra thickness and flavour to the sauce. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

2. Clean, Wash, Chop: Pretty self-explanatory. On a side note: I never measure my goods. I’ve never been good with numbers and I prefer to throw whatever I have into the mix, the rest can go in the fridge or freezer for another day.

3. Heat Oil: in a medium saucepan heat olive oil, add one small piece of onion to test oil temperature. When onion starts to bubble add remaining garlic and onions. Stir. Cook onion and garlic mixture until onions become slightly transparent.

4. Add Carrots & Celery: stir mixture together. When carrots have softened in colour add a splash of white wine, or red, or even Sambuca … all depends on what you have ready. Allow alcohol to evaporate; stir.

5. Add Freshly Cut Tomatoes: allow tomatoes to reduce; stir.

6. Add Canned Tomatoes: this point is optional. If you have an abundance of freshly grown tomatoes use those instead. Stir and stir some more.

7. Add Tomato Paste: stir until tomato paste if fully absorbed into mixture.

8. Fresh Herbs: Basil, oregano and parsley. Throw them into the mix and stir.

9. Simmer: simmer your sauce for 2-3 hours (this will depend on your time limit) continually stirring. The longer you simmer the better the sauce. A good Sardinian friend once told me that tomato sauce is cooked when the colour turns slightly orange. It’s a great piece of advice and one I’ve faithfully followed, the results are out of this world.

10. Serve and Enjoy: The possibilities are endless with homemade tomato sauce. Have fun.

My simmered sauce is slightly orange, approaching the two-hour mark. I’ve written this post and edited the photos, while I patiently wait for red to turn orange.

Buon appetito from my kitchen to yours!

* I am not Italian, nor do I play one in real life or on the internet. I just happened to marry one.

How do you make your homemade tomato sauce?

78 thoughts on “How to Make Tomato Sauce Like an Italian

  1. Ok so I made this sauce on Friday and on Sunday was asked to repeat it as it was gone. Great recipe! I added parmesan cheese at the very end to give it a creamy texture. Added ref pepper flakes to give it some kick. Love the lack of measuring this is how I normally cook. Thanks again!

  2. I’ll be trying this out today since I fancied a change up in my sauce.
    One observation tho. I was taught by my mother in the kitchen many, many, many years ago, and it’s been re-enforced by chefs, not to fry garlic for too long as it will turn bitter. It gets quick fried, about a minute or so, to release the oil and flavor, and then added to the other ingredients, usually wet. It’s just something I’ve always followed – especially after accidentally frying it for too long when I was distracted and my white wine sauce had a very bitter edge to it.

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  4. I just loved reading this along with the comments. My mother (Welsh) always made us and my father (Italian) sauce starting with battuto. It makes for such a depth of flavor that can’t be topped by anything short of it. I’m following your blog because I just really enjoyed some of your other posts, as well. Buon appetito e grazie!

    • In my country a Masterchef judge did a segment on Battuto. He had lived and cooked in Italy extensively (Ray McVinnie) We of the pale skinned variety long for authenticity, but if Battuto isn’t authentic I’m a heretic. Fantastico.

  5. Well, you are expert enough to know that what you have described is the basis of Bolognese ragù. In fact, just add the minced meat (with the knife, at home, never with the meat grinder) of beef and a little sausage during the browning of the onion and the game is done. Same time of cooking, same procedure. Season the maccarones de busa, a sprinkling of pecorino cheese and …. slurp! But the most important thing is the freshness of the raw materials. Ciao

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  7. Reblogged this on®   and commented:
    YummO!  😉 ➺ 💓🍴♨
    This recipe is so close to how I made mine this last time and so well done; I figured this was a good opportunity to use that “REBLOG” button  😆
    *although I didn’t use celery
    I’ll add some of my pics but check out her post; she’s got nice photos, well written recipe & more ↔ 🍅 🍳 💞

  8. I am a New Zealander of Scots/Irish descent. Adding carrot to my tomato sauce was a game changer, so I sold my soul to the devil and added a little grated kumara (sweet potato) also. I can hear the screaming from here, but it’s ‘fusion’ and we love it.

  9. I am sorry but I don’t agree. i come very a very Italian part of the bronx and my wife is from Brooklyn, celery and carrots are not to be used to tomato sauce . You make it with fresh great tomatoes like Pastene , garlic , inion for sweetness and after basil and oregano. That is all you need.

    • No need to apologize. There are many, many different ways to make tomato sauce. Here in Sardinia, no garlic is added however they do add carrots, as do most Italians that live on the mainland. Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy the sauce.

    • If you knew anything about ITALY not New York Americanized Italians you would know that sauce in Italy is regional meaning that the ingredients differ based on what part of Italy you are in so……

  10. Just discovered your post. Looking forward to reading more about Sardinian life and recipes of the country. Must try your beautiful tomato sauce recipe over my favorite pasta. Looks wonderful.

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting. What is your favourite pasta? I love the fresh homemade pasta from my husband’s sister. Let me know how your tomato sauce turns!

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    • Thank you! This is my most searched for post. People around the world want to know why their tomato sauce turns orange!

  15. Pinned your tips to my Pinterest pasta board! It always amazes me how the most delicious Italian recipes are so much simpler than one would think, given the full flavors that follow. ~ Kat

  16. Your sauce sounds similar to mine with the exception of the celery and oregano, I do add chopped salt pork in with my onions and garlic, letting it brown slowly the flavor it adds to the sauce is amazing! I am going to try yours as well! Sounds like a very good sauce! Have a great day!

    The Sard/American,

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  18. Love your mouth watering posts Jenny…..well done and thanks for using local produced EV oil canned tomatoes …your next post will have to be how to prepare and cook your own tagliatelle

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  20. The Italian family I lived with as a student (oh,soooo many years ago)used to simmer whole tomatoes in a huge pot then strain them through a “passare” (if I remember correctly)and bottle the sauce in small glass jars. Each sauce would have its own flavor–of basil, or carrots, etc. This was the northern Italian method, I think.

    • I’ve never tried this method, someone else commented about doing it like this … I just might have to give it a shot! Thanks for popping in and commenting, much appreciated!

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      • not thicker, but the ‘passaverdure’ (chopping mill) eliminates the remaining big pieces of vegetables, mixing the flavours. You can go on cooking the sauce so it will become thicker (eliminating water) as you like 🙂

  22. And yes. I have copied this and sent this to hoards of Chinese people (sorry!!! WordPress is blocked and I cannot just send the link!!!) because they seem to think that we don’t cook.

    Well… it’s a step by step instruction on how to make a sauce!!!!

    Thanks!!!! Or as we say here… xie xie!

  23. Jennifer; Please don’t say that you aren’t Italian, the Italians are not a race but a culture, basically in Italy one only has to LOVE the country and its people and show your appreciation of the land which Italians will pick up on and bingo you instantly become (are baptized) a dyed-in-the-wool Italian! The only thing that will alienate someone is if their personality is that of pasta fredda, cold pasta, you sound very much like pasta calda!

  24. Yummy! The big one I’ve learned after 7 years in Italy is that finely chopped garlic is a big fat no-no. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had my wrist slapped by a black-clad nonna for that particular sin. Whole teeth of garlic left to colour then soften in the oil and removed before the sauce is served is apparently the way to do it. Unless I’m by myself and can revert to my Delia Smith circa 1997 ways in which case, I stick a couple of garlic cloves in the garlic press and go. Garlic presses are a great “novelty” gift here by the way… I’ve never once met a Sard who isn’t amazed when I whip mine out so I’ve taken to giving them as comedy presents to friends 😉

  25. Carrots and Celery are essential to this type of sauce. The depth, umami, and hints of sweet and savory all come from these elements of soffrito 🙂 I love this post and want your sauce right now

  26. It looks so appetizing that it makes me hungry 😉 Time for a lunch. Great post and I will definitely try your recipe soon!

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