Simple Tomato Sauce | Sugo di Pomodoro Semplice

Simple Tomato Sauce Recipe

When plum tomatoes are no longer available at the farmers’ market, I turn to this simple tomato sauce recipe (sugo di pomodoro semplice). Using superior-quality canned tomatoes and good olive oil makes all the difference. I use diced imported Italian tomatoes packed in their natural juices, which yield a fresher-tasting sauce than one made from tomatoes in heavy puree, which gives the sauce the flavor of tomato paste.–Domenica Marchetti

LC Summer in a Can Note

We trust Domenica on the canned tomato situation, so pay attention to what she has to say above. While we’re on the topic of canned tomatoes, care to share your take on the hoopla over San Marzano tomatoes? Personally, we’d buy them just for the lovely cans they come in…

Smooth Tomato Sauce Variation: For some recipes, such as Giant Ravioli. I like to use a smooth, rather than chunky, sauce. The sauce performs as a cloak, without any textural distraction. The flavor, too, is different. When the tomatoes are pureed, the sauce is a bit mellower. To make smooth tomato sauce, pass the tomatoes through a food mill fitted with the disk with the smallest holes before you add them to the pan, then proceed as directed. [Editor’s Note: Those lacking a food mill may be interested to learn we had luck purĂ©eing the tomatoes in a food processor.]

Simple Tomato Sauce Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 10 M
  • 45 M
  • Makes about 1 pound


  • 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Two 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, undrained
  • Kosher or fine sea salt
  • 5 large basil leaves, shredded or torn


  • 1. To make the simple tomato sauce, warm the garlic and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Using a wooden spoon, press down on the garlic to release its flavor. Tilt the pan to swirl the garlic in the oil, infusing it with flavor. Cook just until the garlic begins to sizzle and release its fragrance but before it starts to brown, about 2 minutes.
  • 2. Carefully pour the tomatoes into the pan (being careful to step back, as the oil will spatter) and stir to coat with the oil. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer.
  • 3. When the juices begin to bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring from time to time, until the sauce has thickened and the oil has separated from the tomatoes, 30 to 35 minutes.
  • 4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the basil. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, if you like. (The sauce, sans basil, may be stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.)
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