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.
Begin with about 2 1/2 pounds very ripe plum tomatoes.
Cut an X into the stem end of each tomato and then drop into a pot of boiling water for about 2 to 3 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.
Use 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.
Prepare 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.
When ready, the sauce should still be vibrant red in color, but thickened with no excess liquid.
The completed sauce used to dress whole grain spaghetti.
Deborah Mele 2013
How To Make Garden Fresh Tomato Sauce Step by Step
Learn how to make a delicious pasta sauce using fresh garden tomatoes.
- 4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 3/4 Cup Finely Chopped Sweet Onion
- 2 Cloves Garlic, Peeled & Finely Minced
- Prepared Plum Tomatoes Made from 2 1/2 Pounds Ripe 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 2 to 3 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.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 122Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 61mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 2gSugar: 6gProtein: 2g
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!
this is the sauce i have made for years. My family all love it. For change I sometimes use chopped pancetta with the olive oil to start it. You can add whatever you favor–a little red wine does wonders, as do mushrooms or any meats you have on hand.
How about the recipe for the delicious looking porchetta!
Dorothy, I did not make the porchetta, our friends did who have a factory with a wood burning oven.
This is why we wait so long for summer tomatoes Deborah…nothing beats a simple sauce such as this!! Deilicious!
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!
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.
Thanks Carol! Wow, 1928!
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
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)
Can’t wait to try this! Anyone have any tips on freezing or canning?
The sauce freezes just fine. Canning requires too much cooking so you lose the fresh flavor.
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?
Of course you can. It is all personal preference but most folks do not care for a lot of tomato skins in their sauce.
Wonderful sauce, sure leave them on but be sure to scoops out those seeds, then I use my hand held processore ,it does the trick, some folk say they can buy it in a can sorry you don’t know what you are missing .
I have a friend who is a vegetable fanatic and asked if she gave me Roma tomatoes would I make her sauce with zucc, summer sq, red and green peppers and shredded carrots and chopped onions and leeks….I said o k. It was my first time from fresh tomatoes. Well, they dropped of 25 POUNDS last night! OMG… sorry to say I didn’t peel but rinsed and seeded and wizzed in my processor but with still a bit of texture. Just a bit. Seperately, before tomatoes went in oven (always afraid of scorching on my electric hated range), I roasted all the other vegs and stirred in. My large turkey pan, which never holds a turkey, is full.
Fresh garlic and herbs and in the oven it went! Have a wedge of Romano waiting for later to grate and stir in. I know all the other veggie probably seem like a sacrilege but it’s our Primavera take. Thank you for your wonderful site. Have it at 325. Been in half hour. Too long? Not long enough? Appreciate any advice. Thank you!
I JUST made this and it is so easy! Not to mention delicious. I will never buy canned tomatoes ever again to start a sauce. Fresh all the way! Thanks, and Happy New Year
can you preserve this source if making in batches
Michelle, you can certainly freeze it. By canning it, the sauce will lose some of its fresh flavor.
I don’t have Romas. I have other ripe yummy tomatoes. Will this recipe work well for them?
Any ripe, tasty tomatoes will work.
will this sauce work with veal meatballs
Can’t imagine why not!
I have noticed that a lot of recipes cook for about 60-90 minutes, but yours only simmers for about 20. What would be the difference with the cooking times? Also, does the final product come out saucy or thick and chunky? My kids like more of a saucy sauce.
Steve, I wanted a fresh tomato taste so I do not cook this sauce long. If your tomatoes are ripe you do not need to cook it for hours and your sauce will taste garden fresh. Yes, the sauce is a bit chunky which is how I like it, but you can certainly create a smoother sauce by blending it with a blender if you prefer.
I love your tomato sauce recipe. Your step by step information make it easy to cook. I love to make it for my mother. She also likes tomato sauce so much.
mm my favorite sauce to go with pasta this. Great recipe. Thanks simon.
How much does this make, enough to can or freeze any??
No, it is just for one meal. You can easily double it or more if you want to freeze some.
Do I have to use plum tomatoes?
Plum tomatoes work best, although any full flavored tomato will work.
Made this today. Delicious but would like the sauce to “stick” more to the pasta. Anybody else have this? Is it suppose to be like this or maybe I didn’t simmer long enough?
Perhaps your tomatoes were a bit too watery. Next time just simmer the sauce a little longer until it thickens.
Don’t rinse your pasta under water. It prevents the sauce from sticking to the pasta.
I never do.
Wow I just found this recipe and made it for lunch. Easy to make (even for me) but tastes amazing!!! Thank you for sharing <3
wow amazing recipe, simple and tasty!
Although I’m sure many people will say this is sacrilegious, I don’t ever use oil in my food, & everything turns out great (& not oily). My sister always used bay leaf in her sauce & it was the BOMB! If I’m making about a gallon of sauce (from all of my garden fresh tomatoes), how many bay leaves should I add? I know I need to take them out after cooking is done. ~Thanks!
Mae, I am sorry, but basil is the traditional herb to use in Italian tomato sauce. I have never added bay leaves.
I planted a San Marzano tomato this year that has 25 tomatoes on that are not ripe enough yet. However I have frozen two quarts that I will try your recipe on.
This is a wonderful recipe. Thanks you.
I have been trying it with different types of tomatoes and i have found that i prefer it when i use Italian heirloom tomatoes. I have also tried adding mango to the recipe with marvelous results. One pound of mango for every 2 of tomato. Gives you a sweet dish with a taste of Asia.
Amazing thank you! 🙂
Cant wait to try this recipe, thank you!