The Humble Tomato Sauce

Is it gravy? Is it sauce? Depends on whom you ask and what region of Italy they are from. What you call it is not nearly as important as learning to make this easy and super versatile dish. Generally, if I add meat of any sort, I tend to call it gravy, if it’s simple, I call it sauce. This is the base for hundreds, perhaps thousands of Italian recipes. It’s really a foundation recipe that anyone who masters it, and it’s incredibly easy to master, will be using for their lifetime. 


​Ask any Italian and they will have their own version of this, which will vary slightly, or a lot from someone else’s version. The ingredients listed below are really all you need. Some cooks add tomato paste or juice to it, I really find it unnecessary as they not add much in additional flavor. Not to mention that they are just added ingredients that you have to worry about having in the pantry before preparing it. I also don’t add oregano; I find it far too strong for this humble sauce.  Depending on whom you ask, the cooking time will vary greatly. I’m really not sure why anyone would cook this for longer than 20 minutes. The longer you cook it, the thicker it will become, go long enough and you’ll end up with tomato paste or tomato reduction, not what I’m looking for to dress my pasta or mop up my crusty Italian bread with!

Great over just a simple dish of spaghetti, or any pasta shape, or adding it to meatballs, lasagne, braciola, soups, stews, pasta fagiola, and so much more, this sauce should be in everyone’s repertoire, as it will allow you to prepare endless other dishes and family meals. This also  makes a GREAT sauce for pizza!

3 Tablespoons olive oil
½  small onion, diced, if it’s about the size of a golf ball, use the entire thing
2 Tablespoon chopped parsley
2 Tablespoons chopped basil
Salt to taste – about 1 teaspoon

2-3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 28 Oz can of crushed peeled tomatoes (I use Pastene, no salt added Kitchen Ready ground peeled tomatoes, I’ve tried them all and this is by far my favorite one.)
1 ¼ cup of water

In a medium saucepan, take the first five ingredients and bring them to a simmer over medium heat, mixing them around with a wooden spoon so they don’t burn. Once the onion has taken some color, about 1-2 minutes, add the garlic. You don’t want to add this before as it might burn.  Let these simmer for another 30 seconds or so. Add the can of tomatoes. This will splatter about a bit as it hits the hot oil. Add the water. Usually, I just add about 1 ¼ cup of water to my tomato can, swirl that a bit to get every last bit of tomato and add that to the sauce. Reduce the heat to low, cover with lid and let that simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and use to dress your pasta or to complete any other dish you had in mind. Refrigerate leftovers up to 4 days. This actually freezes really well. Freeze any unused portion (or make one pot on purpose to just freeze) in a glass bowl with a lid and defrost overnight in the fridge.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Untitled design - 2022-08-25T140732.094

What to Pack for Italy

Cosa Mettere in Valigia per l'Italia

Everyone is always asking me what they should pack for Italy,
so I’ve created a quick reference guide that you can use for your next trip.

Hint: You don’t need nearly as much as you think you do!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Scroll to Top