Italian Tomato Sauce Recipe: Homemade & Authentic

Italian Tomato Sauce Recipe Homemade & Authentic

Italians get VERY defensive of their homemade tomato sauce.

I’ll be the first to admit it.

I would go to BAT defending the recipe that my great grandmother brought over from Italy. It’s been passed down in my family through the generations, and has been the center of Sunday dinners throughout my entire life.

That said, I know the Italian one house down from me probably feels the same way about his family’s recipe, even if it’s made totally different from mine.

Even if you’re not Italian, it’s no secret that everyone thinks that their tomato sauce is the best.

But here’s the thing:

There’s no right or wrong way to make an Italian tomato sauce.

In fact, there are probably hundreds of old recipes that have been passed down throughout the years, each and every one being just as authentic as the other.

That’s the beauty about a land of many regions, there’s tons of different flavors and methods to try.

I personally love going to my friends’ houses and seeing the way their families make Italian tomato sauce. It gives me ideas to use in my own cooking and allows me to see many different family traditions that have survived over generations.

With that said, I still am partial to my family’s tomato sauce recipe.

This slow-cooked tomato sauce is one of the first recipes that I learned how to make, and taught me the importance of using high quality ingredients.

And today, I’m going to share it with you.

What Makes It So Special?

When my grandfather’s mother, my Nonni, arrived in America with her family when she was just a baby, her parents had to scrape together pennies to get by.

They used whatever ingredients they could get their hands on, which most of the time ended up being the humble ingredients that Italy is known for using.

Here’s a little secret: they never fail.

With tomatoes, a few simple spices, and a love for culture and cuisine, the world’s best tomato sauce was brought here to America.

To me, I love making this go-to recipe because it allows me to feel connected to my ancestors.

Anything that can survive over 100 years has to be worth something, and this recipe has never steered me wrong.

This recipe has given me quality time with my mother and grandmother, has allowed me to watch my cousins’ children learn the basics and fundamentals of cooking, and has brought my family closer together in ways that I didn’t know was possible.

Hopefully, this recipe will give some of this to you.

At the very least, it will give you a delicious meal to look forward to.

Italian Tomato Sauce Recipe-meatball feast-1

Here’s What You Need:

To make this delicious tomato sauce recipe, all you need are a few basic ingredients that you probably already have on hand, and a few simple kitchen tools.


Crushed Tomatoes: A lot of people opt for whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes when making this Italian tomato sauce recipe. Personally, I feel as though there’s no need. Crushed tomatoes will work just as well, as well as any other canned tomatoes.

If you do prefer whole tomatoes, be sure to blend them up in a food processor or with your hands beforehand.

Of course, you can also use fresh tomatoes with this homemade sauce if you’d like.

No matter what route you prefer to go, for best results, just make sure you’re using the best quality tomatoes that you can find.

Tomato Paste: This makes all the difference in this tomato sauce recipe.

Water: To think out the sauce a bit.

Garlic: You’re not going to mince this, though! All you have to do is crush the cloves beforehand and let them simmer in the sauce along with everything else.

Fresh Basil Leaves: This is totally optional, but a few leaves of fresh basil really brings out the natural flavors of this great sauce.

Seasonings: For this part, all you’re going to need is some red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper. That’s it. No oregano, Italian seasoning, or anything else. Just red pepper flakes, salt and pepper in your authentic Italian tomato sauce.

Meat: This part is totally optional, but in my opinion, fresh tomato sauce is incomplete without some delicious meat. I like using Italian sausages and homemade meatballs.


A Large Pot: You can really use whatever you’d like for this. I love using a dutch oven, but you can also use a stainless steel pot.

I would avoid using an aluminum pot, however, especially if you’re going for a better quality authentic Italian sauce. The acidity of the tomatoes will break down the aluminum over time, causing it to maybe wind up inside of your food.

Wooden Spoon: Need I say more? Using this is a rite of passage to making any Italian dish ever.

Here’s How You Make It:

In a large dutch oven or stainless steel pot, add your crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and water. Stir to combine.

Add in your salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, crushed garlic cloves, and basil.

Set your stove to low heat and cover the pot, leaving it slightly uncovered. Stir every half hour for 4-6 hours, or until your sauce has reached its desired thickness, adding some starchy pasta water at the end if necessary.

*Note: If adding meatballs and sausages, these can go right into the sauce after all of the ingredients are combined. If you want to learn more about cooking meatballs in sauce on the stove, we wrote a whole article about it!


Q: Where are the onions and the red wine?!

A: This recipe doesn’t use or need either of those. The flavor for this sauce is all within the tomatoes. Onions and wine, in my opinion, tend to steer the overall flavor of the sauce in an entirely new direction, and yield totally different results.

However, that’s not to say that many delicious tomato sauce recipes can’t have either of these. This wonderful sauce, for instance, has both.

Q: How do I know how long to let this sauce simmer for?

A: It really depends on a few factors. For starters, you want to make sure that this sauce has enough time to come together, and that will take at least four hours. I’d say that you should never leave a sauce simmering past six hours, or else it will get too thick and risk burning.

It also depends on the time your guests are coming for dinner, or the time that you plan on eating. In my opinion, this tomato sauce is best when eaten just as the burner goes off. For this, planning in advance is going to be your best bet.

This may not be the right sauce for those busy weeknights, but with the right amount of planning and a few extra hours on your hands, it can be the perfect low effort option for feeding a crowd (or a large Italian family).

Q: Can I freeze this sauce for later use?

A: You sure can! In fact, I normally freeze enough red sauce to get two Sunday dinners out of it. It doesn’t matter if you included meat, you can freeze that too! This stays good for up to six months in an airtight container in the freezer.

Q: Would this be a good pizza sauce?

A: Personally, I think that pizza sauce should have even less ingredients. Here’s a great one that we have!

The Best Kinds Of Pasta For This Traditional Italian Tomato Sauce:


It’s no secret that the best part of a Sunday Sauce is, well, pasta!

There are plenty of pasta shapes to go around, but I prefer using a few specific kinds when eating a tomato-based sauce.

These are:

  • Rigatoni
  • Penne
  • Pappardelle
  • Rotini
  • Gnocchi
  • Ravioli

lasagna 4 pack

Other Delicious Pasta Sauce Recipes

As I said before, there are plenty of delicious authentic and newer Italian inspired sauce recipes to go around.

Some have become more popular as of late, while others have been passed down through generations, just as this one has.

Here is a collection of our favorite pasta sauce recipes.

No matter which one you decide to try, all are bursting with delicious flavor.

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Italian Tomato Sauce Recipe Homemade & Authentic

Italian Tomato Sauce Recipe: Homemade & Authentic

  • Author: Gianna Ferrini
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 4-6 1x


  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 12 oz tomato paste
  • 12 oz water
  • 12 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • Basil to taste (optional)
  • Meatballs and sausages (optional)


  1. In a large dutch oven over low heat, add your crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and water. Stir to combine.
  2. Add your sausage if using it, garlic, and seasonings.
  3. Place the lid on your pot, leaving it slightly uncovered.
  4. Simmer for 4-6 hours, stirring every half hour or so.
    1. When stirring, make sure the spoon reaches the bottom of the pan.
  5. Add in meatballs after an hour and a half, browning them slightly letting them cook in the simmering sauce.
  6. Serve with some grated Romano or parmesan cheese and your favorite pasta, adding starchy pasta water to the end result if too thick.
  7. Enjoy!
  • Cook Time: 4 Hours

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