Simple Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce with basil leaves

Oliver Strewe / Getty Images

Prep: 1 mins
Cook: 14 mins
Total: 15 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Yield: 2 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
77 Calories
5g Fat
9g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 77
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 6%
Saturated Fat 1g 3%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 121mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 9g 3%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 9mg 47%
Calcium 18mg 1%
Iron 2mg 9%
Potassium 390mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This is a very simple sauce that can be made year-round in the time it takes for a pot of pasta to cook or whipped up quickly to use as a component in countless other recipes.

In summer, of course, you can use fresh tomatoes and a food mill (passatutto) to make your sauce, but outside of tomato season, a good passata di pomodoro (tomato puree, sometimes labeled as "strained tomatoes") is the best way to go. You can always keep a jar or two of it on hand so that you'll be able to make a quick and satisfying meal at any moment, whether it's late at night, the stores are closed, or you just don't have the time.

I like to use shallots, as one of my aunts in Italy taught me because their flavor is a bit of a mix between onion and garlic. They are not as strong and pronounced as garlic, which might be overpowering if you are using this sauce in a more delicately flavored dish like spinach and ricotta filled cannelloni, yet they are more pungent than onions alone. 

I truly believe that there's really no reason to ever use jarred pasta sauce. It usually is too salty or sweet, with extra salt or sugar. When making your own sauce is so quick and easy, it doesn't even have convenience going for it.

We recommend buying passata di pomodoro in large glass jars or bottles for several reasons. It doesn't have the metallic taste that canned sauce can sometimes have, it won't have potentially harmful BPA leached into it from the can lining—due to tomatoes' natural acidity, they leach far more BPA from a can lining than less-acidic canned foods, and you can use just as much of it as you need and keep the rest refrigerated until you need it. Some good brands that are sold this way include Mutti, Cirio, and Bionaturae—which is also organic. They're often sold in the tomato sauce section of supermarkets, and Italian import markets will almost always carry it. Italian brands will usually have no salt added—they simply contain tomatoes—so you might need to adjust your seasoning accordingly.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 small shallot, finely minced

  • 2 cups passata di pomodoro

  • Fine sea salt, to taste

  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. In a small pot, sauté 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 small shallot over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the shallot is softened and translucent (about 3 to 4 minutes). 

  2. Add the 2 cups of tomato puree and salt to taste. Cover and adjust the heat to low. Let simmer, covered, over low heat for at least 10 minutes. If you're using it in a recipe that has you busy with other preparations, you can simmer it for 20 to 30 minutes, but even the 8 or 9 minutes it takes for your pasta to cook to al dente consistency is sufficient.

  3. If you're using fresh basil, stir it in during the last 1 to 2 minutes of simmering.