How To Make Garden Fresh Tomato Sauce Step by Step


Every year when late summer rolls around and we enter into “tomato season” I begin to crave this simple, flavorsome tomato sauce. There is no other tomato sauce so pure of flavor as one made from garden fresh ripe tomatoes that are heated just long enough to thicken into a sauce. I first enjoyed this sauce at my Mother-In-Law’s table 40 years ago, and from that first tast it has remained one of my very favorite tomato sauces. Lina would pick very ripe plum tomatoes gently warmed from the summer sun from her garden in the morning, then quickly turn the tomatoes into the purest flavored sauce ¬†possible. This quick sauce was most often used to lightly dress the delicate egg pasta that Lina made by hand, and she would serve this wonderful combination to her family as we all gathered at her table each Sunday.

This sauce is so vibrant tasting and light as it requires just a short cooking time to reduce the liquid and thicken the sauce. A little really does go a long way, so don’t be tempted into dumping spoonfuls of this sauce on your bowl of pasta but instead, lightly dress your pasta to truly enjoy the fresh, natural tomato essence. This very simple sauce uses garden fresh ripe tomatoes, not canned, so is best made only when garden fresh, locally grown tomatoes are available which is usually late summer and early fall. I am often told that some folks are a little intimidated to make a sauce from scratch using tomatoes, but as you can see by my photos, it is extremely easy and after you have made it once, you will want to make it again and again.

Like most basic Italian recipes, to create an amazing final dish you must use the freshest, top quality ingredients you can. I prefer plum tomatoes, San Marzano if possible, which are readily available here in Italy. When I am North America I choose locally grown plum tomatoes, but any “paste” tomato can be turned into great sauce. The other necessary ingredients for this sauce are fresh basil, a good quality extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and finely diced sweet onion. You may come across recipes that include celery and carrots, or even some that include a pinch of sugar, but in my opinion sugar is never needed if you choose the right variety of tomatoes, and if they are nice and ripe. Save the carrots and celery for long cooking sauces as they will only muck up the pure tomato flavor of this sauce.

You really want the tomatoes for this sauce to be as ripe as possible, so I usually place my tomatoes in a bowl and leave them in my window to fully ripen for a couple of days before I use them. I like my fresh tomato sauce a little chunky, so I cut my prepared tomatoes into strips, but feel free to pass through a food mill if you prefer a more blended sauce. I also like to cut out the little core at the stem end, and gently squeeze or scoop out most of the juice and seeds when I make my garden fresh sauce. This too is a personal preference, and if you do not mind the seeds, simply skip this step.

In my opinion, this sauce will work on just about any type of pasta, but I personally use it on egg pasta such as fettuccine or tagliatelle, or a strabded dried pasta such as spaghetti. In my photos, I used Barilla whole wheat spaghetti which is one of my favorite whole grain pastas. This brand of whole wheat pasta cooks up well, and is very similar to regular pasta once cooked. The advantage of using Barilla whole wheat pasta is that for every 100 grams, you get 12 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber! I always measure my pasta before cooking and allow 100 grams of dried pasta per person which is more than enough for a single portion. If you cook too much pasta, you may not have enough sauce to properly dress it for serving. When I serve pasta with this simple sauce, I like to garnish the pasta bowl with fresh basil leaves, lightly toasted pine nuts, and I always offer grated Pecorino Romano cheese at the table.

tomatoes Begin with about 2 1/2 pounds very ripe plum tomatoes.

tomatopasta2Cut an X into the stem end of each tomato and then drop into a pot of boiling water for about 3 to 4 minutes or until you see the skins begin to loosen. Use a slotted spoon to place the tomatoes into a colander in the sink and run cold water over them until they are cool enough to handle.

tomatopasta4Use a sharp knife to slip the skins off the tomatoes, then cut in half. Cut out the small core at the stem end, and then gently scoop the seeds out with your fingers. Cut the tomatoes into strips or a coarse dice.

tomatopasta3Prepare the onions, garlic, olive oil, salt pepper and basil. Heat the oil in a saucepan, then saute the onion until it is soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, half the basil, and season with salt and pepper and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.

tomatopasta6When ready, the sauce should still be vibrant red in color, but thickened with no excess liquid.

tompasta8The completed sauce used to dress whole grain spaghetti.


Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 2013

How To Make Garden Fresh Tomato Sauce Step by Step

Yield: Makes About 2 1/2 to 3 Cups

Prep Time: 20 mins

Cook Time: 25 mins


4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3/4 Cup Finely Chopped Sweet Onion
2 Cloves Garlic, Peeled & Finely Minced
2 1/2 Pounds Prepared Ripe Plum Tomatoes (See Notes Above & Photos)
Sea Salt & Black Pepper
1 Bunch (About 10 Leaves) Fresh Basil, Minced


Bring a pot of water to a boil.
To prepare the tomatoes, cut an X into the stem end and drop them into the boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes or until you see the skins begin to slip off.
Transfer the tomatoes to a colander in the sink and run cold water over them until they are cool enough to handle.
Use a small, sharp knife, and peel off the skins and cut in half.
Cut out the small core and then use your finger tips to scoop out most of the seeds.
Cut the tomatoes into thin strips or coarse dice.
In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until sizzling, then cook the onion, stirring often, until it is soft and translucent.
Add the garlic and cook a minute or two just until fragrant.
Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper, and half the basil, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.
Stir in the remaining basil, and use to top your favorite cooked pasta.


13 Responses to “How To Make Garden Fresh Tomato Sauce Step by Step”

  1. 1
    Phyllis @ Oracibo — September 17, 2013 @ 8:06 pm

    You’ve got my attention! Working on using up my mini San Marzano’s…think I might like to give this a try. Like the addition of the pine nuts and also the use of whole wheat pasta…looking good! All this from a pasta addict!


  2. 2
    Dorothy — September 19, 2013 @ 10:41 am

    How about the recipe for the delicious looking porchetta!


    Deborah Reply:

    Dorothy, I did not make the porchetta, our friends did who have a factory with a wood burning oven.


  3. 3
    Phyllis @ Oracibo — August 7, 2014 @ 5:24 pm

    This is why we wait so long for summer tomatoes Deborah…nothing beats a simple sauce such as this!! Deilicious!


  4. 4
    Amity L — August 24, 2014 @ 8:26 pm

    Hi! Just found this page today and made a batch of sauce from some of the Romas that finally decided to ripen! DELICIOUS! The only thing that didn’t come from the garden was the garlic (I don’t put onion in my sauce). Added some fresh oregano along with the fresh basil from my very first herb garden as well! Will bookmark and refer to it again when the remaining tomatoes come around. Thank you!


  5. 5
    carol cowee — August 28, 2014 @ 12:43 pm

    Love your site and gorgeous photos and the Deruta dishes. I have my husband’s aunt’s antique set of Deruta she bought in Italy in 1928 and I do use them.



    Deborah Reply:

    Thanks Carol! Wow, 1928!


  6. 6
    Don C — August 29, 2014 @ 10:33 am

    Easy alternative is to use a tomato grinder which produces a puree so you get a smoother sauce. Simply cuts out the boil & peel steps. Thanks for the recipe


  7. 7
    Brooke — September 9, 2014 @ 8:14 pm

    This recipe is absolute perfection- pure and simple. This is the precise reason why I garden! Thanks so much!! I’m so glad I found your website! :o )


  8. 8
    Allison — September 18, 2014 @ 9:48 am

    Can’t wait to try this! Anyone have any tips on freezing or canning?


    Deborah Reply:

    The sauce freezes just fine. Canning requires too much cooking so you lose the fresh flavor.


  9. 9
    T Tran — September 20, 2014 @ 1:57 pm

    Can I just skip the boiling and peeling steps and leave the skin in and just chop tomatoes in small chunk. Tomato skins can be consider as more fibers?


    Deborah Reply:

    Of course you can. It is all personal preference but most folks do not care for a lot of tomato skins in their sauce.


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