Tomato Sauce

Here is a flexible step-by-step recipe for tomato sauce. Keep in mind one pound of whole tomatoes will make a cup of tomato sauce, 1¾ to 2 pounds of tomatoes will make two cups of plain or herbed tomato sauce—add vegetables and you’ll have a cup or so more. Two cups of plain or herbed tomato sauce is enough for ½ pound of spaghetti.



  1. Halve and core the tomatoes (core meaning to remove as many seeds as possible; do this with a scoop or spoon or hold half a tomato in your hand and squeeze out the seeds). Reserve the juice.
  2. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil; blanch the tomatoes in the boiling water for 15 to 30 seconds or longer (until their skins are loose) then plunge them into cold water to stop the cooking. Drain the saucepan; the tomatoes will easily peel by hand.
  3. When the tomatoes are out of season use frozen tomatoes from the last harvest or use canned tomatoes (one 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes makes 2 cups of sauce).
  4. Dice the tomato pulp into ½-inch dice.
  5. Blend the tomatoes with their juice in a food processor or with an immersion blender. (If you are not adding herbs or vegetables and want a smooth sauce, pass the mix through a food mill at this time and then move on to cooking the sauce.)
  6. Peel the garlic cloves, mash them, and mince.
  7. Put a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and when hot pour in ¼-cup extra-virgin olive oil. If using onions, sauté the onions for about 5 minutes until soft then add the garlic until it too is soft and fragrant, a few minutes more.
  8. Adding herbs, vegetables, and wine (options):Dried herb option: Add dried herbs (if you are making herbed sauce using dried herbs; wait until the last few minutes of cooking if you are using fresh herbs) and black pepper. Reduce the heat and cook another minute or two.Vegetable option: If you are adding fresh-picked vegetables to the sauce, dice or cut the vegetables to fork-size chunks and add them to the cooking garlic and onion, add additional olive oil if needed; sauté the vegetables until they are just tender, about 5 minutes. Good choices are eggplant, bell peppers, green beans, crookneck squash, and zucchini. As well, dried mushrooms make a flavorful and chewy addition to tomato sauce.Wine for flavoring option: Add wine or lemon juice now if using and let it cook down or reduce some before going to the next step.
  9. Add the tomatoes with their juice if the juice hasn’t been added already. Check the seasoning, and salt (a pinch) to taste. Use a dash or two of vinegar to bring up the flavors if you like. To thicken the sauce, let the liquid cook down. To thin the sauce, add water or perhaps more wine.
  10. Cook on medium-high heat until tomatoes give off their liquid and start to bubble. Reduce heat to medium-low or low, so sauce gently simmers. Cook uncovered and undisturbed until oil separates from sauce and most of liquid has evaporated about 15 to 30 minutes.
  11. If you are adding fresh chopped herbs—parsley, marjoram, oregano, or cut-thin strips of basil leaves; add them not sooner than 10 minutes before you are finished cooking.
  12. After the sauce has simmered for about 20 to 30 minutes, check and adjust the seasoning before serving.
  13. You can garnish tomato sauce with Parmesan of other freshly grated cheese.


If you are not using the tomato sauce the same day, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before tossing with pasta. Serve tomato sauce with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and toss with hot pasta.

Courses Sauce

Recipe by Harvest to Table at