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?

About Jennifer Avventura

Canadian Freelance writer living in Sardinia, Italy. A serial expat who has lived in Australia, England and Cayman Islands. She eats Nutella with a spoon and hides under the bed during lightning storms. When she's not out running 6k you will find her sitting at the computer - writing her novel and searching for worldwide waitress work.
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59 Responses to How to Make Tomato Sauce Like an Italian

  1. Sipping Sardinia says:

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

  2. The Hook says:

    You can write about any subject, can’t you, Jennifer? Very cool!

  3. 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

  4. Sarena says:

    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 😉

  5. Gian Banchero says:

    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!

  6. Debra Kolkka says:

    The sauce looks great, I’ll give it a try soon.

  7. It looks fantastic, and worth the effort…

  8. Jan Romes says:

    Mmmm…. my mouth is watering!! Thanks so much for sharing the recipe. I’ve added it to my favorites! Ciao!

  9. thirdeyemom says:

    I love to cook too but have such time limits. I would love to try making this in the summer when our huge MN tomatoes come out!

  10. cheffiechar says:

    fresh tomato sauce puts a smile on my face

  11. Woman says:

    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!

  12. antoguida says:

    Nice recipe for ‘pummarola’ 🙂
    mine is quite the same, but I don’t use wine nor Sambuca.
    At the end, I put the sauce into a chopping mill like this: (I don’t know the right translation..).


    • Great, thanks for the tip. Does that make the sauce thicker?

      • antoguida says:

        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 🙂

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  14. 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.

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  16. joseph Murru says:

    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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  18. Rosemarie says:

    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,

  19. This looks delicious Jennifer! I will definitely try this out! 😀

  20. 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

  21. A secret to a happy taste buds. Delicious!

    • Jennifer Avventura says:

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

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  23. rutheh says:

    I have never added carrots or celery but your ingredients all look so enticing and I know the result is wonderful. Mmmmmm.

  24. Charlie says:

    Have just made this sauce after dismissing all the celebrity chef’s versions, it’s amazing!

  25. aj vosse says:

    Now that I’ve re-read your recipe I think I have just the right idea to use the sauce on!!

    Marinated lamb rib… here we come!! Thanks! 😉

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  29. Woow nize’s very easy.Thanks jennifer. :-*

  30. Thank you for the recipe – something I have been looking for for some time. So you don’t have to peel the tomatoes and remove the seeds?

  31. Renee says:

    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.

  32. John G Oleon says:

    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.

Your comments are greatly appreciated, thank you.

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