Who woulda thunk that a homemade pizza sauce could be so silken, so simple, so toss-out-every-other-jarred-sauce-or-sauce-recipe satiating? Yet everyone who tried this recipe commented on how uncommonly lovely it is, whatever the pizza creation. But don’t take our word for it. Taste for yourself.–David Leite

What are the best toppings for pizza?

Oh, the places you’ll go with this tomato pizza! Mind you, there’s rapture to be had with this plain pizza simply as-is. But there’s no need to stop there. Strew on some basil leaves. Olives. Peppers. Fresh, soft cheese. We’re going to stop there, not because we can’t think of countless more options, but because we really need to go make ourselves one of these pizzas.

A wooden spoon spreading simple pizza sauce on a round of pizza dough.

Simple Pizza Sauce

5 / 2 votes
This simple pizza sauce from scratch is astoundingly easy and inexpensive to make yet it tastes darn complex. Definitely a keeper according to everyone who’s slathered it over pizza dough and slid it in the oven.
David Leite
Servings11 (1/4 cup) servings | 2 3/4 cups
Calories59 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time3 minutes
Total Time20 minutes


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • One (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt


  • In a small skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Be careful not to let the garlic scorch or the resulting sauce will be bitter.
  • In a nonreactive bowl, stir together the garlic and its oil along with the tomatoes and their juices, the dried basil, dried oregano, dried thyme, pepper, water, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the vinegar. Taste and season with salt and additional vinegar as desired.
  • Canned tomatoes vary in salt content, so season the sauce with just a pinch of salt to start, and then gradually add more to taste. When seasoning with the red wine vinegar, add just enough to make the flavor really sparkle; the sauce shouldn’t taste tangy.
  • Use the sauce right away or cover and refrigerate it for up to 1 week.
Pizza: and Other Savory Pies

Adapted From

Pizza: And Other Savory Pies

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 59 kcalCarbohydrates: 3 gProtein: 1 gFat: 5 gSaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 4 gSodium: 132 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 2 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2008 Brigit Binns. Photo © 2008 amaviael / 123RF Stock. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

How can something so simple be so good? And how can a tomato sauce be so good when it’s not cooked at all? The answer to both of these riveting questions is “because it is.” Make this and taste it. Of course, you need to use top-quality canned crushed tomatoes. I waited to decide whether to add the water to the sauce until after I tasted it. After tasting the sauce, I didn’t add the water. I wanted the full-on tomato taste.

I could eat this sauce on its own with a spoon. Actually, I did. I made a double batch of this sauce. We used it for pizza and also to dress a batch of meatballs that I made a couple days later. This sauce is a winner.

Simple is right! This quick-and-easy pizza sauce is loaded with flavor. Between the fragrant combination of dried herbs, the tasty sauteed garlic, and the splash of red wine vinegar, this sauce is a wonderful base to whatever toppings you have in mind. And so much healthier for you than store-bought varieties that can be loaded with sugar, sodium, and preservatives.

I used it on whole wheat pizza dough with hot Italian sausage, fennel, radicchio, and fresh mozzarella cheese. I got just about 2 1/2 cups of sauce. I only used about 1/3 of the sauce for 1 pizza and I froze the rest for future pizza nights. The only thing I would suggest changing with the recipe itself is the amount of oil you add to the pan; I think only 2 to 3 tablespoons of EVOO is needed here; I noticed the full 1/4 cup of oil never really completely combined with the tomato sauce, signaling to me that maybe it was a touch too much oil in general.

I understand the authenticity of most pizza sauces (just tomatoes, no cooking, very little seasoning), but I just can’t do it. I tend to like a more robust flavored sauce and this recipe fit the bill with very little work. The olive oil doesn’t fully incorporate with the tomatoes but the flavor of steeping it with the garlic more than offsets the issue.

I did find that the addition of the water made things too thin so I would omit that next time. Also, not sure it has to do with the times but I simply could not find a 15-oz can of crushed tomatoes! Only 28-oz which I then measured out.

I put it on some pizza and it was delicious. Looking forward to using it on my regular no-fail method (naan, sauce, cheese…no judgement, please).

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Made a double batch of this last weekend (using a 28-oz-can of tomatoes) for grilled naan pizza with mozzarella pearls, and it was a knockout. Used fresh herbs, since I had them (tripling the amount, times two) plus used more basil and garlic (we are garlic- and basil-centric in this household). I froze the leftover sauce, and my daughter asked that we have it over spaghetti tonight with my meatballs (also from the freezer–convenient for a quick weeknight dinner). I will make this sauce again next weekend, to wow our friends with those naan pizzas for a delicious appetizer. What a lovely change of pace from our usual sauces. Thanks for another great recipe.

    1. Celeste, we’re more than delighted that you and your family liked the sauce. And brava to your daughter: An excellent suggestion to pour it over pasta.

  2. I’ve recently “discovered” passata. I think it makes a better pizza sauce than canned tomatoes.

  3. This makes a great pizza sauce. I did not add the water and am glad I didn’t. I think the water would make it too watery. I had enough sauce for 8 pizzas using Jim Lahey’s dough recipe x 2. The sauce kept in the fridge for over a week with no problem. I didn’t have crushed tomatoes but some whole canned tomatoes with basil which I crushed by hand. Definitely easy and worth making again. Yes, who would have thought a no cook sauce would be so good.

    1. Sagar, that’s excellent! I think canned whole tomatoes have more liquid than crushed tomatoes, which is why you thought it would be too watery. But what matters most is you liked it, and it works!