Red Sauce | Sugo di Pomodoro

A child eating a bowl of cooked pasta with red sauce.

When I was a newlywed with a pregnant wife, it dawned on me what my life had been leading up to: the ability to feed my family, to turn the making of a fragrant, nourishing bowl of pasta with red sauce into an act of the most sincere love. When done right, a red sauce like this can make you feel alive.

Something as simple as a red sauce goes well with perfectly cooked dried pasta. If you stick to a sturdy, reliable imported Italian brands like De Cecco or Barilla, you’ll be in good shape.–Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar

LC What Folks Are Saying About This Recipe Note

“Simple, quick, and delicious.” “Elegant in its simplicity.” “This is not Sunday gravy but it sure as heck is good.” “I’m filing this recipe away to make again…repeatedly.” That’s what folks are saying about this red sauce recipe. [Ed. note: For those of you concerned that we’re mentioning Barilla, a brand that was taken to task in 2013 for indelicate treatment of gay couples, the company has spent the past two years making amends, and the human RightCamapign has given Barilla a 100 on Corporate Equality Index. And that’s good enough for us.]

Red Sauce | Sugo di Pomodoro

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 45 M
  • Makes enough for 1 pound of pasta
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  • One (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 red onion, cut into medium dice
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Pinch hot red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons torn basil leaves


  • 1. If you prefer a smooth red sauce, dump the tomatoes and their juices in a food processor or stick an immersion blender in the opened can and purée the tomatoes until smooth. If you prefer a red sauce with a chunky consistency, don’t do anything to the tomatoes just yet. Instead, wait and break the tomatoes up in the pan with a wooden spoon.
  • 2. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add the onion and cook until softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until you see the color start changing. If your prefer your red sauce with a little kick, add the red pepper flakes.
  • 3. Dump in the tomatoes and season with salt and black pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, until the sauce is reduced slightly. (If you did not purée the tomatoes, use a wooden spoon to break them into pieces while they cook.) Add the basil and remove the pan from the heat. You should have sufficient red sauce to toss with a pound of pasta.

Recipe Testers Reviews

I’m filing this recipe away to make again...repeatedly. I’d be selling the recipe short if I emphasized only how easy it is to make and how quickly it gets dinner on the table. This is a high-quality sauce from simple ingredients that's elegant in its simplicity. I had all the ingredients on hand except for basil, which I didn’t grow this year but was easy enough to procure. In a pinch, I’d add dried basil to the puréed tomatoes if I knew I didn’t have access to fresh leaves. Using an immersion blender to purée tomatoes for sauce at the outset was not something that had occurred to me before. It worked great. Usually when I start with whole tomatoes, I have trouble getting them broken down to my satisfaction as they cook. This way they were mostly smooth but with a few chunks—custom puréed. The recipe produced 2 3/4 cups sauce, enough for 6 servings of lightly sauced spaghetti. The first two plates of pasta were sauced well enough, but once seconds had been dished up, the leftovers packaged for the refrigerator were shortchanged sauce-wise. In the future, I think I would only make 10 or 12 ounces of pasta for the amount of sauce. It probably should be diluted with some water to sauce an entire pound of spaghetti adequately. I used the hot pepper flakes and San Marzano tomatoes.

I must say, as an Italian, that this sauce is pretty good. It's quick and easy enough for a weeknight supper. It's not the Sunday "gravy" that cooks for hours with all the meats. (Sorry, I hate to bring up the sauce or gravy thing. I'm just this Italian guy who loves food and cooking. I'm not an eloquent writer but I call something what it is.) This is not Sunday gravy, but it sure as heck is good. That being said, I made a double recipe to allow for leftovers. This is a great sauce to make for a quick pasta dinner or to use for something else like a Parmesan of eggplant or chicken. I made a batch of meatballs to add for leftovers and lunches. I placed the tomatoes in batches in the food processor and just pulsed until it was still kind of chunky, as I wanted to keep some texture. I'd suggest removing the tomatoes from the canned juices and setting aside the liquid. Then you can add the liquid as needed to get the consistency you like while you're cooking. Prepare them as you wish and add the puree as needed to get the consistency you like. I prefer San Marzano tomatoes because of the taste, and the purée they're packed in results in a less runny sauce. But any quality product will work. The nice thing about this recipe is it does not require a lot of time—from start to finish, dinner can be on the table in just a little over an hour. I've made this recipe several times now, and the last time, I quadrupled it and froze it for quick dinners. This is a versatile sauce that lends itself to many adaptations, and I highly recommend it.

This red sauce recipe is identical to a basic marinara sauce recipe that I’ve been making for years. It's simple, quick, and makes a delicious sauce that can be paired with any type of pasta. I used a red onion as specified in the recipe, but any type of onion or even a few shallots will do if that’s what you have on hand. An immersion blender works very well for puréeing the tomatoes and is a whole lot less complicated than using a food processor. Be sure to taste the sauce at the end to determine if additional seasoning is needed. You can cook your pasta during the last minutes of simmering the sauce so that they are done at more or less the same time. Cook the pasta for 1 minute less than it says in the instructions on the box so that you can add your pasta to the saucepan and cook the pasta with the sauce for a few minutes to get the perfect blending of the two. The recipe makes 4 cups sauce, enough for a pound of pasta that will nicely serve 4 or 5. Because of the sauce's simplicity, it is highly dependent on the quality of the tomatoes that are used. The best choice will always be canned San Marzano tomatoes grown in the small town called San Marzano sul Sarno near Naples, Italy. What makes these tomatoes especially flavorful is that they are grown in volcanic soil in the area below Mount Vesuvius. San Marzano tomatoes grown in this region that are in compliance with Italian law will have the "DOP" (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) emblem on the label. They are well worth the extra cost and are the only canned tomatoes I keep in my pantry. I buy them by the case via mail order from an Italian specialty shop on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.

This basic tomato sauce was very fragrant while simmering. I used my immersion blender because we like a smoother texture. I had almost 3 cups sauce that I tossed with 1 pound cooked spaghetti. It made 4 ample servings. I think this sauce could be frozen to have ready for a quick pasta dinner any night. Spicy or sweet sausage could be added to the sauce. I'll try that next time and top it with lots of Parmesan cheese!

A perfect, no​-​fus​s ​sauce for any time of year. I particularly love this recipe for summer​ when basil is growing like crazy in my garden and ​can​ shine in this simple sauce. This ​recipe​ barely takes any ​more time than opening up a jar of store-bought sauce and heating it up​, yet f​or the investment​​ of a few additional minutes​, you will be rewarded with a delicious, fresh sauce that is sure to impress. I used an immersion blender for my tomatoes before cooking. I went for slight chunks of tomato but a saucy consistency. After adding the blended tomatoes to the pot, I allowed the mixture to cook for the 30 minutes stated in the recipe; ​at this point​,​ the sauce was still slightly runny for my taste, so I removed the lid from the pot and allowed the sauce to simmer an additional 20 minutes until it​ had​ thickened a little more. The recipe made enough sauce for 1 pound pasta. It fed ​4 people with enough left ​over ​​to make a spaghetti pie recipe​ on the site.​

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