Simple Tomato Sauce Recipe: Perfect for any Pasta Dish!

Dear food lovers,

I am honored to share with you an Italian recipe that has been passed down through generations in my family. My ancestors were from the southern part of Italy, where traditional tomato sauce is a staple in every kitchen. Growing up with this recipe has taught me the importance of using fresh and simple ingredients to create an authentic Italian experience in your own home.

This recipe is for my homemade tomato sauce, which is perfect for any pasta dish or as a dipping sauce for bread. The key to making a delicious homemade tomato sauce is the quality of the ingredients you use. In this recipe, I use San Marzano tomatoes, which are known for their rich flavor and low acidity. I also recommend using fresh basil leaves and extra virgin olive oil to enhance the taste of the final dish.

Not only is this recipe flavorful, but it’s also quick and easy to make with only five ingredients. Unlike store-bought marinara sauce, which can be filled with preservatives and unnecessary additives, this homemade tomato sauce is a healthier option that preserves the authenticity of southern Italian cuisine.

Whether you’re cooking for your family or friends, this recipe will transport you to the beautiful region of southern Italy from the comfort of your own kitchen. Trust me when I say that once you try it, you won’t want to go back to other tomato sauces. Get ready to impress your taste buds and make your dinner extra special!

Buon appetito!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Southern Italian Traditional Tomato Sauce
Southern Italian Traditional Tomato Sauce

Welcome! Let me tell you all about this southern-Italian traditional tomato sauce recipe that will surely make you fall in love. First things first, let’s talk about the ingredients used in making this delightful dish. We are using authentic Italian tomatoes, specifically the San Marzano variety, which are known to be the best tomatoes for sauces. We also use extra-virgin olive oil, which adds a distinct flavor to the sauce.

Now, let’s move on to why you’ll love this recipe. The sauce is bursting with flavors from the fresh herbs such as basil leaves and the perfect combination of sea salt and red pepper flakes. The addition of minced garlic and red onion makes for a rich and bold taste.

One of the best things about this sauce is how easy it is to make, with only 5 ingredients needed. It might seem simple, but trust me when I say that it packs a big punch! You can prepare it ahead of time or whip it up in a few minutes if you’re tight on time.

What’s more, this sauce is incredibly versatile – pair it with your favorite pasta dish or even use as a pizza topping! The flavor profile is so robust that it can also be paired with chicken, beef or seafood dishes.

In short, you’ll love this recipe because it is made using fresh ingredients; easy-to-follow; highly adaptable; and packs a flavorful punch. Why not give this recipe a try today and experience an authentic taste of southern Italy – your taste buds will thank you!

Ingredient List

 Savor the traditional taste of Southern Italy with this authentic tomato sauce recipe
Savor the traditional taste of Southern Italy with this authentic tomato sauce recipe

Let’s dive in and look at these key ingredients that will make this Italian tomato sauce recipe a winner. This recipe consists of only 5 ingredients, but don’t let that fool you, it packs a punch of flavor. For the best results, ensure you have fresh and top-quality ingredients on hand. Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients 1

  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil: Make sure to use a good quality extra-virgin olive oil to impart that rich and distinct taste that only high-quality olive oil can bring.

  • 1 red onion, minced: We’re using red onions for their mellow and sweet flavor as well as their bright colors.

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced: Finely mince the garlic to release its potent aroma and ensure that it disperses evenly throughout the sauce.

  • pinch of red pepper flakes: This will bring a subtle kick of heat to the recipe—be careful not to add too much, or it may overpower the other flavors.

Ingredients 2

  • 1 can (28 oz) San Marzano tomatoes: When it comes to making authentic Italian homemade tomato sauce, San Marzano tomatoes are the go-to choice for many chefs because of their natural sweetness and low acidity.

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt: Use sea salt or Kosher salt. They provide varying textures than regular table salt because they do not have anti-caking agents added to them, which is important when making sauces.

That’s all you need to create this delicious and authentic Italian tomato sauce recipe. Now let’s move onto how to make it!

The Recipe How-To

 Get ready to indulge in a bold and zesty flavor that will leave your taste buds wanting more
Get ready to indulge in a bold and zesty flavor that will leave your taste buds wanting more

Let’s dive into the cooking process, where we will turn these fresh ingredients into a delicious Southern Italian Traditional Tomato Sauce. This recipe surely has an authentic Italian touch to it!

Step 1: Preparing the Ingredients

The first step is gathering all the ingredients which are 5 ingredients only! Here they are again:
– 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 small red onion, finely chopped
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– San marzano tomato sauce(1 can)
– Pinch of red pepper flakes

Then chop the onions and mince the garlic, making sure they are evenly sized for even cooking.

Step 2: Heating the Oil

In a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, add the oil and heat until shimmering. Lower the heat to medium-low and add in the chopped onions. Stir them occasionally for around 5 minutes or until they become translucent and tender.

Step3: Adding Garlic

Now it’s time to add in the garlic cloves and cook for around 1 minute or until fragrant.

Step 4: Adding the Tomato Sauce and Red Pepper Flakes

Once garlic is cooked mix up tomato sauce and red pepper flakes in one can, then whoop them together gently after adding it to the pot. Now let it simmer on medium-low heat for around 10 minutes, occasionally stirring the mixture in between.

Step 5: Complete Cooking

Finally, once your sauce is simmered enough, take it off from heat and let it cool down for some time before serving.

Now that you have mastered this delicious tomato sauce recipe, why not try my recommendation of using it as a base for other Southern Italian dishes? You can use it with pasta dishes like spaghetti or even add some ground beef or turkey to make a great meat sauce! The possibilities are endless!


If you like more texture to your sauce, puree a few fresh tomatoes or use crushed tomatoes in place of the tomato sauce. You can increase or decrease the amount of red pepper to match your spice preference.

So, take out those ripe tomatoes and get cooking!

Substitutions and Variations

 Perfectly cooked and simmered with love, this sauce is a staple in Italian kitchens
Perfectly cooked and simmered with love, this sauce is a staple in Italian kitchens


When it comes to making this Southern Italian traditional tomato sauce recipe, there are a few substitutions and variations you can make to customize it to your liking.

Tomatoes: While San Marzano tomatoes are the best Italian variety for making authentic Italian tomato sauce, if they’re not available, you can use Roma tomatoes as a substitute. Fresh tomatoes can also be used, but they will need to be blanched and peeled before using in the recipe.

Red pepper flakes: If you don’t like spicy food, omit the red pepper flakes or reduce the amount used. Alternatively, you can add black pepper or cayenne pepper instead.

Basil leaves: Fresh basil leaves add a robust flavor to this sauce, but if you don’t have any on hand, you can use dried basil instead. Just be sure to use less dried basil than required for fresh basil.

Onion: Red onion is recommended for this recipe as it adds a sweet and mild flavor. However, you can also use white onion or shallots as a substitute if that’s what you have in your pantry.

Olive oil: The best Italian tomato sauce is made with high-quality extra-virgin olive oil. If this kind of oil is not available where you are, then a good-quality virgin olive oil will do.

Ground beef: You can add browned ground beef or sausage to the sauce to make it more filling and flavorful. This turns the tomato sauce into meat sauce often paired with spaghetti.

These substitutions and variations allow you to put your spin on the traditional southern Italian tomato sauce recipe while maintaining its authenticity. Be creative and enjoy experimenting with different flavors!

Serving and Pairing

 Melt-in-your-mouth tomatoes slowly cooked to perfection, you won't be able to resist the aroma
Melt-in-your-mouth tomatoes slowly cooked to perfection, you won’t be able to resist the aroma

As a chef specializing in southern-style Italian cuisine, one of my favorite parts of creating traditional tomato sauce is the art of pairing it perfectly with a main dish. My family recipe, passed down through generations in Southern Italy, is quite versatile and can be paired with a wide variety of dishes. Here are some of my recommended serving and pairing suggestions:

First and foremost, there is nothing quite like serving this Italian tomato sauce over a plate of freshly made spaghetti. The simple combination of al dente pasta and rich, flavorful sauce is a classic for a reason – it’s absolutely delicious! For an elevated take on the spaghetti and tomato sauce pairing, consider adding sautéed vegetables, grilled chicken or shrimp, or ground beef.

For those seeking something lighter or lower in carbs, try serving this sauce over roasted vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, or portobello mushrooms. It also pairs well with grilled or baked fish like salmon or sea bass.

In addition to pairing it with mains, this traditional tomato sauce can also be used as a dipping sauce for garlic bread or as a base for pizza. Just add your favorite toppings like mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves for an easy homemade pizza pie!

When it comes to wine pairing with this dish, I usually recommend going for a robust red wine like Chianti or Barolo. These wines complement the acidity and richness of the tomato sauce without overpowering its flavor.

However you choose to serve it, one thing is certain – this authentic Italian tomato sauce will elevate any dish to new heights!

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 Whip up a batch of this delicious tomato sauce and enjoy the taste of Italy at home
Whip up a batch of this delicious tomato sauce and enjoy the taste of Italy at home

Once you’ve prepared this authentic Italian tomato sauce recipe, you may find yourself with leftovers or wanting to make it ahead of time. Luckily, this sauce is perfect for making ahead and storing.

To make ahead, simply prepare the entire recipe as instructed and allow it to cool completely. Once cooled, you can store the sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

When reheating the sauce, be sure to do it slowly over low heat. You don’t want to burn the sauce or overcook it. The best way to reheat this sauce is on the stovetop in a heavy-bottomed pot or pan. Remember to stir occasionally and add water as needed if the sauce seems too thick.

If you’re storing in the freezer, remember to thaw your sauce completely before reheating. You can do this by transferring your airtight container of sauce from the freezer to the refrigerator overnight. Alternatively, you can thaw it more quickly by placing it in a bowl of warm water (not hot) or by defrosting it in the microwave on low power.

Pro tip: If you have leftover tomato sauce but don’t want to use it right away, pour it into an ice cube tray or other small containers and freeze. This way you’ll have portioned bits of sauce ready whenever you need them – perfect for weeknight dinners when quick pasta dishes like spaghetti are your go-to meal!

Tips for Perfect Results

 The secret to this recipe is using ripe tomatoes and a blend of flavorful herbs and spices
The secret to this recipe is using ripe tomatoes and a blend of flavorful herbs and spices

As a seasoned chef, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to perfect the southern-style Italian tomato sauce recipe. With the following tips, you can enhance the flavors of your dish and make a restaurant-quality sauce at home.

1. Use good quality ingredients

Always use high-quality ingredients for the best-tasting results. Opt for San Marzano tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil for an authentic Italian tomato sauce. It is no secret that great ingredients yield a great outcome in any recipe.

2. Slow cooking is key

The success of every great marina sauce bastes on its slow-simmering essence. Allow it to cook slowly over low heat to bring out all the flavors and get the right consistency.

3. Add garlic

For a flavorful punch, add minced garlic after sautéing your onions. Adding it too early can burn it leading to bitterness.

4. Don’t skip the basil leaves

Basil leaves give your sauce that unmistakable southern Italian flavor. Once you’ve prepared your sauce, garnish with fresh basil leaves to add even more depth of flavor into the dish

5. Balance with sweetness

Add sugar to balance the acidity of tomatoes, this will help bring out the true flavors of this authentic sauce

6. Finish with pepper flakes

For an extra burst of spicy flavor, finish up your recipe by sprinkling some red pepper flakes over your dish before serving.

Follow these tips every time, and your guests will marvel at how delightful your spaghetti with southern-style Italian tomato sauce taste!


Now that we’ve covered the ingredients, steps, and tips for making the perfect traditional tomato sauce recipe, let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions that may arise as you prepare this southern Italian staple. Below are some answers to common queries to help ensure your sauce turns out perfectly every time.

What is Southern Italian sauce?

If you are looking for a hearty and savory spaghetti sauce, the Southern-style version might just be your new favorite. This particular sauce features a generous amount of ground beef, onions, and bell peppers, all blended together to create a well-balanced taste. Additionally, a touch of sweetness has been added to the mix to complement the richness of the tomato flavor.

What is the most popular tomato sauce in Italy?

An Italian kitchen is never complete without a basic tomato sauce. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a variety of pasta shapes and a handful of fresh basil leaves can make the dish even more delightful.

What is the difference between Italian tomato sauce and marinara sauce?

The ingredients of marinara and tomato sauce overlap, yet the texture and taste vary significantly. Marinara supplies a thinner, tomato-based flavor profile. Tomato sauce, also known as “Sunday gravy” among Italians, offers a richer, creamier texture with a thickness similar to gravy.

Do Italians put garlic in tomato sauce?

When it comes to crafting a delectable Italian tomato sauce, a crucial ingredient that simply cannot be overlooked is the humble garlic clove. Its flavorful essence adds just the right amount of zing to any dish. Once minced, I recommend sautéing it in some olive oil for a brief period to showcase its natural sweetness. The aroma that wafts from the pan will undoubtedly leave your taste buds watering in anticipation.

What are the two types of Italian tomato sauces?

When it comes to Italian sauces, the marinara differs from the pomodoro sauce in its cooking process and additional ingredients. While the pomodoro is kept simple with a basic recipe, the marinara is simmered for a longer time and flavored with oregano, anchovies, and capers. It’s worth noting that in the United States, the marinara and pomodoro are used interchangeably, but in Italy, each region has its unique version of the marinara.

Why do Italians put carrots in their tomato sauce?

By introducing carrots to the sauce, a desirable level of sweetness is achieved without having to add sugar.

Bottom Line


In conclusion, this southern Italian traditional tomato sauce recipe is the perfect addition to any Italian food lover’s collection. This recipe uses authentic ingredients such as San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh basil leaves to create a rich and delicious sauce that will elevate any dish.

Not only is this recipe quick and easy to make with only five ingredients, but it also offers a range of substitutions and variations for those who want to add their own unique touch. Plus, it can be made ahead of time and stored for later use.

So why settle for store-bought marinara sauce when you can make your own authentic Italian tomato sauce at home? With this recipe, you’ll be able to impress your friends and family with your culinary skills and taste buds.

I urge you to give this recipe a try and experience the flavors of southern Italy in your own kitchen. Your taste buds will thank you!

Southern Italian Traditional Tomato Sauce

Southern Italian Traditional Tomato Sauce Recipe

This is one of the most representative recipes from the Southern Italian cuisine of Puglia. All our cuisine is very simple but delicious because based on very fresh and seasonal ingredients that we produce locally. For this recipe, we use only these ingredients: fresh and ripe tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, basil leaves and onion. Nothing else! To make a good tomato sauce the quality of the tomatoes you use is very important as well as the extra virgin olive oil you add on top at the end. Contrary to what people normally think, Italian cuisine does not use as much garlic as other cuisines (i.e. Spanish). Therefore to make the tomato sauce in Puglia we tend to prefer onion to garlic. Also, in Puglia we don’t cover the taste of the main ingredients we are using: if we make a tomato sauce we want to taste the tomatoes and not the onion. Therefore we don’t use too much onion. As for the extra virgin olive oil, we prefer to add it at the end when the tomato sauce is ready and not in advance. This is because once cooked, the extra virgin olive oil loses all the health properties and flavors. Whereas if you add it raw it still has all its flavors. To remove the acidity our grandmother always told us to cook the tomato sauce at least for two hours. If you don’t have that much time, you can use a sliced carrot that helps removing the acidity, instead of using sugar.
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Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Course Sauce
Cuisine Italian
Calories 59.2 kcal


  • 4 lbs ripe tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 basil leaves
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes


  • Cut the tomatoes in chunks. Soften the onion with a few drops of extra virgin olive oil. Cook the tomatoes for about two hours. Blend them with a food processor that seprates the skin from the juice. Cook the sauce again at very low flame so that the sauce reduces more. Add basil, sea salt, red pepper and extra virgin olive oil.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 190gCalories: 59.2kcalCarbohydrates: 9.7gProtein: 2.1gFat: 2.2gSaturated Fat: 0.3gSodium: 302.3mgFiber: 2.9gSugar: 6.3g
Keyword < 4 Hours, Easy, European, Sauces, Summer, Vegetable, Weeknight
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