Homemade Pasta Sauce

Italian Pasta Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes recipe

I married into an Italian family, and as such, several things are a given:

  1. Family gatherings will be loud
  2. There will always be a faint aroma of basil and garlic in the house
  3. Learning to make a good tomato pasta sauce is high on the to-do list for a new wife

When I married into the family, I became privy to Nonna’s (my husband’s grandmother) pasta sauce recipe that uses pre-canned tomato sauce and diced tomatoes (that she probably canned herself). One year I attempted to mimic the recipe using fresh tomatoes since we had an abundance from our garden and came up with my own pasta sauce recipe.

While “Nonna’s Recipe” is still the gold standard of pasta sauce in our family, I’m not sure I’m allowed to share the secret recipe so I’m sharing my very similar recipe from fresh tomatoes instead. I know that I can share one part of her secret, which is to throw a piece of a carrot into the sauce while it is cooking to absorb the acidity of the tomatoes and create a sweeter sauce.

This recipe is great for tomato season, and I often can any extras to use in the winter. I use this sauce in:

4.5 from 23 reviews
Homemade Tomato Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Authentic tomato marinara sauce from fresh tomatoes, basil and garlic.
Recipe type: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
  • 5 pounds of fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded (to peel, cut a small "x" on the top and drop in to boiling water for 10 seconds and drop in to an ice bath. Skin will easily peel off)
  • ¼ cup olive oil (or tallow)
  • 3 medium onions, diced
  • 8 cloves of fresh garlic (or more to taste), finely minced
  • ⅓ cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme leaves (or ½ tsp dried)
  • 1 sprig of fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
  • 2 bay leaves (remove when done)
  • 2 sprigs of parsley (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 carrot (1/2 should be grated and added to sauce, the other half should be added at the end of cooking and then removed)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  1. Pour the olive oil into a large stockpot over medium heat.
  2. Add diced onions, garlic and grated carrots.
  3. Saute for 6-8 minutes or until onions are translucent and tender.
  4. Add tomatoes, chopped basil leaves, oregano, thyme bay leaves, parsley and sea salt.
  5. Simmer on low heat for 2-3 hours or until cooked down and starting to darken.
  6. Add carrot piece for the last 30 minutes to absorb acidity.
  7. Remove sprigs of herbs and piece of carrot.
  8. Optional: Use an immersion blender to puree sauce until smooth (for a thicker sauce, skip this step.
  9. Use fresh or store in the fridge up to 1 week, or can it according to your canner's instructions for tomato products.

Do you make your own pasta sauce or use the store-bought canned variety?

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Reader Comments

  1. Virginia Melo Sousa says

    Nice recipe! I’m Italian, but I’m not very good at cooking, but I knew the carrot “trick”. I’m also Portuguese, so I enjoy preparing sopas a lot.

    • Patricia Lizarraga says

      I made this recipe, minus onions, & basil. After i boiled the tomatoes i put them in the blender. Let it simmer put the carrot & honey in. I made it with penne pasta added italian seasoning and olive oil and chicken breast. And married everything together. It was delish. My family loved it. Thank you for a great recipe. I would never have to buy store bought pasta sauce

      • Keith says

        The onions give the sauce a more authentic taste and no it does not make your breath smell like people in California think. Basil is a toss up. If you can grow authentic italian garlic use it. The Asian garlic oxidizes quickly, tastes terrible is garbage and was not hybridized for cooking. Mainly for pickling.

        • Lynn says

          So where do you obtain “authentic Italian garlic” or the plants to grow your own. I never knew that Asian garlic was Not good, oxidizes quickly and should be used/grown for pickling.

          Thanks for this info.


  2. Jona says

    Would this recipe freeze well? I’d like to make a big batch but I’m not quite adept at canning yet :)

  3. kristin farnsworth says

    Thanks for the recipe!! I have been working on a good pasta sauce for a while now. Each time it seems I throw something different in and haven’t found the “right” mix yet. Can’t wait to try this. I have 15 tomato plants in my backyard and hope to be doing a lot of canning this summer!

      • Laura says

        Yes you can definitely can this past sauce, or any other for that matter,
        in a hot water bath…needs boils for 35 minutes…but you can find out other specifics by just googling canning pasta sauce :)

        • Becky says

          DO NOT WATER BATH TOMATO RECIPES!!!! Because of the acid in the tomatoes they have to canned with a pressure cooker or canner.

          • Sharon Feinstein says

            It’s because of the acid in the sauce that you can Water Bath Can the sauce. It is appropriate to add some lemon juice to the sauce for added acidity and boil for a full 40 minutes with at least 2 inches of water covering the jars. I have been doing this my whole life and learned it from my mother who grew up farming and preserving food for the winter.

            Very nice sauce! I added wine and my family loved it.

          • Jasmine says

            Somebody better tell the Italians that they can’t water bath their tomatoes as they have been doing for a very long time…

          • lisa says

            i have a ball canning book and it says you can water bath tomatoe recipes so i’m not sure where your getting your information from.

      • Erika says

        I would not can this recipe. Even plain canned tomatoes need added acid to can them. This recipe has way to many low acid ingredients to can without extra added acid. For guidance on canning – check this out.

  4. Leah says

    My grandmother was straight off the boat, but her tomato sauce was surprisingly bland for my taste. She used a ton of garlic, basil, salt & pepper and not a whole lot else.
    We really like to add a bit of rosemary, some red pepper flakes and a splash of red wine to our sauce to up the flavor (in addition to most of the ingredients you mention). I’d never heard of the carrot trick, but I don’t really like my sauce sweet.

  5. Jessica Harris says

    If I plan to blend it at the end, is it OK to include whole tomatoes…skins, seeds and all? :)

    • Christina says

      You can blend the wbole thing, seeds, peels and all (which is what I do because I have very little time for preparing healthy home made dishes), but keep in mind it will make your sauce considerably thinner. My first batch was delicious, but was closer in texture to salsa than sauce. Whisking a few tsp of corn starch (or more depending on the size of your batch) into some cold sauce will combat this nicely. And be sure to blend well so as not to end up with large pieces of skin.

  6. Barb says

    Thanks Katie for posting your homemade tomato sauce recipe. I can’t wait to try it and use it in all my recipes calling for tomato/pasta sauce. No more store bought pasta sauce for me!! Thanks again!!!

  7. Ellen McCarthy says

    I used yellow, roma and house tomatoes that were given to me (just a tad over 10 lbs and so I doubled the recipe. I had all of the herbs in my garden. I used lemon thyme and it worked out just great. Since I had more yellow then reds the sauce is more orange, but its still awesome. I actually grated the two carrots and pureed them at the end.. You had honey on the list, but didn’t say when to add it. So, I added it after I put all of the other ingredients in. I was also given these really tiny green peppers and I tossed them in when I did the onions. I used vidalia onions which are my favorite. I also freeze my homemade sauces. There is a special way you have to can pasta sauce. It lasts in the freezer for about 6 months.

    Here’s a couple pics — The beginning of the sauce and what it looked like when it was done. I cooked it for just over 3 hrs because of the amt of tomatoes I had.

    • Tara says

      Hi Ellen,
      Would you be kind enough to share the special way to can and then freeze the sauce? I really want to do this with the batch I made. It was fantastic! I also used vidalias.

      • Ellen McCarthy says

        Hi Tara,

        I just made 7 more quarts (4 cups = 32 oz or 1 quart). I used 50 lbs of tomatoes and I did the recipe using 25 lbs each. After the sauce had cooled down I measured 4 cups of sauce in a plastic freezer container. I kept doing this until I filled 9 quarts of sauce (the 2nd box of 25 lbs I only got 8 quarts of sauce out of that batch. I used my hand blender to get the sauce all blended before putting them in the storage containers. Besides the ingredients above I did add some dry Italian seasoning to make up for not having enough basil for the recipe. I also use a small amt of rosemary and I used lemon thyme. I kept tasting it during the cooking process till I got the “wow” taste factor.

        By using the hand blender it does thin down the sauce (marinara is usually thiner). After I got the sauces in the containers (you need containers that will give you at least a 1/2 in clearance from the top — overfilling will cause it to expand during the freezing process. I just took out a container today and it was rather thin. So, I took a small can of tomato paste and added it to the sauce plus added some more seasonings from the garden. Then I let it simmer for an hour … It’s a huge success with my family — I noticed that mine came out looking orange (I think it was the carrots), but it doesn’t take away the flavor of the sauce.

      • Ellen McCarthy says

        Hi Tara,

        I just made 17 more quarts (4 cups = 32 oz or 1 quart). I used 50 lbs of tomatoes and I did the recipe using 25 lbs each. After the sauce had cooled down I measured 4 cups of sauce in a plastic freezer container. I kept doing this until I filled 9 quarts of sauce (the 2nd box of 25 lbs I only got 8 quarts of sauce out of that batch. I used my hand blender to get the sauce all blended before putting them in the storage containers. Besides the ingredients above I did add some dry Italian seasoning to make up for not having enough basil for the recipe. I also use a small amt of rosemary and I used lemon thyme. I kept tasting it during the cooking process till I got the “wow” taste factor.

        By using the hand blender it does thin down the sauce (marinara is usually thiner). After I got the sauces in the containers (you need containers that will give you at least a 1/2 in clearance from the top — overfilling will cause it to expand during the freezing process. I just took out a container today and it was rather thin. So, I took a small can of tomato paste and added it to the sauce plus added some more seasonings from the garden. Then I let it simmer for an hour … It’s a huge success with my family — I noticed that mine came out looking orange (I think it was the carrots), but it doesn’t take away the flavor of the sauce.

      • Mackenzie says

        To do water-bath canning of tomato sauce, you need to get the pH too low for botulism to grow. That’s below 4.5 (so aim for 4.4 or lower). Use pH test strips to check the acidity, and if the pH is too high, add citric acid (sold with the canning supplies at your local hardware store). A lot of people assume tomatoes are acidic enough that you don’t have to worry about it, but it varies heavily between different varieties of tomato and probably also growing conditions. Beyond that, leave the usual 1/2″ of headspace and process as usual (the Ball Blue Book says 35 minutes for pint jars and 40 minutes for quarts).

  8. Ellen McCarthy says

    Most tomato sauces like this require sugar to help w/ the acidity of the tomatoes. Well, adding the carrots is the sweetener which makes this recipe diabetic friendly. Usually the stuff you buy in the store spikes my sugar levels. The honey is done in small amounts.. When I ate my dinner (I also use whole grain pasta) my levels didn’t spike. So, this is a keeper for me… Plus the grandkids get some veggies to when they eat..

    • Deborah says

      You can always use orange tomatoes, like I grew this year. They have extremely low acidity, so no need for sugar, and a much greater amount of digestible lycopene than the red. Yes, the sauce would be orange – I haven’t actually tried making sauce with them yet, but plan to.

      I still prefer red tomatoes because I like the acidity.

    • D.K.Schmidt says

      I use a bit of balsamic vinegar. It cuts the acidity in taste yet adds a sweetness that doesn’t come from sugar or other sweetener.

  9. Schelli says

    I am curious how many quarts this makes for canning too! Freezer is full from the rest of the harvest but this sounds fantastic!

  10. Jessica says

    This was my first time making homemade tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes, so I followed your recipe to a T,(although I halved the recipe) and after 1 hour and a half of simmering, I noticed that it became more of a paste than a sauce!!! My husband tells me it’s because I covered the pot, and should have left it uncovered, but I feel it’s something else! Please help!!! I don’t want to give up!

    • Oyin E. says

      The complete opposite happened to me. This is the second time I used fresh tomatoes for pasta sauce. Although this was my most successful attempt (from this recipe), it as unfortunately still too watery for perfection (approx 20%). I had to drain the sauce a bit in a colander in the end to reveal the semi-homogeneous tomato sauce (almost salsa like). I would love if my tomato sauce concoction was almost “puree like” because it’d be easy to remedy. How can I get this sauce to be thicker?? I forgot to put the grated carrots until the end- was this the cause of the watery excess?

      • Chris says

        I found that using an immersible blender helps make sauce a smooth texture. I waited until the sauce cooled off a bit and then blended it right in the pot.

  11. Sean says

    I attempted making this but it was nowhere near as red as the picture above. Good flavor, clean eating taste…but rather pink and watery vs red and thick? Any ideas? First timer here

    • JOSEPH says

      how long did you boil the sauce for? I just made this recipe like 20 min ago and I boiled it for 1 hr and it ended up being deep red that was rich and thick :)

      YOU GOT TO GET YOUR HANDS ON A metal mesh splatter screen, this is you to boil the sauce without a lid. NO lid means water vapor can leave, so the only thing your left with is a rich non-watered-down-sauce.


  12. Kerry Sweetman says

    Thanks for the recipe, I made a big batch yesterday after scoring a box of tomatoes from the farmers market. I made a pasta for dinner tonight and it is amazing, I’m going to make another batch and store it in jars, no more store bought pasta sauce for me.

  13. JOSEPH says

    I JUST MADE THIS FOR ALL MY FRIENDS AND THEY LOVED IT! I didnt use tomatoes or boil for 2 hours (boiled for 1 hr cause I got to hungry :), i would have loved to use fresh tomatoes prepared like you mentioned but I am in medical school and didnt have the time. I used 2 jars of sauce: Ragu (usually gross on its on)and some other brand)… Even though i used those cheap sauces, i followed the recipe and the trick with the Carretand honey works!! I WILL BE FOLLOWING YOUR RECIPE FOR NOW ON! THANKS!

  14. Kathy says

    I was given a crate of tomatoes so decided to try your pasta sauce! I have it all done and it smells great, but the color is more like a dark carrot soup. I’m sure it will still taste great – just have to get past the color. :) Probably silly, but did I do something wrong?

    My daughter just tasted it…”Very Good!”

  15. Tracy Young says

    Thanks for this recipe. I was wondering how long this sauce would last if put in to jars as I have a glut of tomatoes at the end of the season and I’d like to make quite a few jars to last through the winter?

    • says

      It might… Always follow canning instructions for your canning system… Different systems have different recommendations on how to preserve certain foods, and varying lengths of time they will stay preserved. You could also freeze the sauce.

  16. Jessica says

    I was wondering if I divided the recipe in half, if it would all still work properly, or would it mess up the recipe?


  17. Gail Pedersen says

    I made this sauce today and it was marvelous! The only extra Ingredient I added was 1/2 cup of Burgundy red wine. Thank you so much for the recipe!

  18. Sarah says

    How much sauce does this recipe make? I’m trying to estimate how many tomatoes to buy so I can make a year’s supply. Thanks!

      • Susan Phillips says

        What does “uncovered” “with a somewhat open lid” mean? My sauce is simmering now and smells delicious. I anticipate a wonderful dish. I am wondering how many home cooks could do the prep on this recipe in 10 minutes?! It took me that long to do the tomatoes!

  19. Paul Konecny says

    Amazing… I too didn’t know when to add the honey so I added with tomatoes. Turned out wonderfully. Will definitely make this again. Thank you!!

  20. Kara says

    Is this sauce more of a sweet sauce?…. I usually like the acidy salty taste… I just wasn’t sure with the honey and carrots if it would be too sweet?… Or should I just cut those measuremens in half?… Or if I leave out all together will it ruin the recipe?

    • says

      I don’t think it is too sweet, but everyone’s taste is a little different. The safest thing might be to try a small batch as-is, and then adjust as you think will be best, if necessary.

  21. Jennifer says

    This is fabulous. I had garden fresh tomatoes and needed a sauce that specifically asked for fresh toms, not canned. I am not the best scratch cook, but this made the family very happy! They might let me cook again!

  22. Skippy says

    I used your recipe as a “jumping off” point because it looked so good, but with the exception of the tomatoes, [4 cloves instead of 8 ]garlic, [1 large instead of 3 medium]onion and bay leaf I ended up doing things very different.

    We happen to have incredibly sweet tomatoes and we don’t like sweet sauce, so no carrot, no honey – I remember my Mom always putting carrots and sugar in our sauce growing up. And it was good, but now I like it less sweet.

    I used dried Italian herbs because that is what I had on hand. I let mine simmer for over 4 hours and added 1 small amount of tomato paste after hour 3. To stretch the sauce to two quarts I also added 2 cups of plain tomato sauce at that time.

    I did simmer it with the lid on. Stirring occasionally. It cooked down beautifully and although I didn’t need to [and it would have left the sauce ever so slightly chunky] I used my immersion blender to smooth it out.

    I didn’t peel or seed my tomatoes either.

    The reason I wanted to leave a comment is you recipe is spot on, and I am sure if I had followed all your steps it would’ve come out just fine. The other commentators seem to think so too – so bravo to you! I didn’t rate because I didn’t make your sauce, but did want to say thanks for sharing what I am sure is a great final product.

    PS I made lasagna roll ups with the sauce and tomorrow night we will have stuffed peppers, so thanks again for the inspiration.

  23. Donna Stevens says

    Don’t really like sweet sauce, can I omit the carrotand honey, or use just one? Can you use dried herbe enstead of fresh? Have lots of tomatoes, but not fresh herbs. Would love to try recipe and be able to can it right after cooking, how would I go about doing that?

  24. Mom1999 says

    This was awesome! I left out carrots and used dried spices (all that I had on hand). Cooked with lid half on for 2.5 hours. It wasn’t too acidic either. My tomatoes were very ripe. Thank you for sharing!

  25. Adele Griffin says

    I made this recipe last week and I can say it is keeper. Husband gives it a big thumbs up. I am sensitive to onion and garlic so I added a very small amount of powdered in place of the fresh and did not have any issues, also added a pinch of red pepper flakes for seasoning. Got more tomatoes coming on the vines and plan to make a batch and freeze it. Sure glad I found this recipe. Thank you!

  26. Bobby T says

    I made this sauce tonight while it did taste good, it came out more orange than red. Why would that happen? Is it because I used fresh tomatoes?

      • Brad Elsinger says

        This recipe is delicious!!! The aromas in the house and the taste were simply wonderful. I used red Roma (plum) tomatoes and the color turned orange as well, but still, it is (was) delicious. There was enough for 8 servings. I will be serving this again. Question: Could the color change to orange due to using a blender instead of an immersion blender to puree sauce? If so, an immersion blender is on my shopping list.

  27. Chalsae Darr says

    Hi, I was wondering what type of tomatoes would be best for this sauce? I’ve made this sauce a couple times and it always turns out orange for me. I would love to make a deeply red rich sauce like pictured. :)

  28. Lauren says

    This pasta sauce was incredible! I have made a few other sauce recipes so far, and this one is by far the best. The carrot worked perfect to counter the acidity, and the seasonings were just right. Thank you for giving me an authentic italian pasta sauce to add to my recipe book! I am just about to make my second batch of sauce today with my abundance of roma tomatoes. The only thing I did different was to add a little heavy whipping cream at the end, because I like my sauce to be a little creamier and more orange in color. Thank you so much!

  29. Lisa T says

    Maybe consider adding the direction on the honey in the original recipe at the beginning, I had to do a bit of searching to find out when to add. Mine is simmering right now.

  30. Amy says

    Made this recipe tonight for my family..absolutely wonderful!! Followed the recipe exactly except I doubled the garlic :) I emulsified after cooking down to hide the onions from my son..everyone loved it..and the recipe made enough for 2 dinners!!

  31. Brad says

    Honey Wellness Mama, I need to know when to add the honey. I also noticed the prep time is 10 minutes. What is the trick to preparing 16 tomatoes by boiling, peeling, cooling, and removing the seeds? Is that realistic enough time?

  32. Crickie says

    OK, I come from an Italian household. This tomato “sauce” was terrible. Not even remotely authentic. Don’t waste your time.

  33. Christine McGovern says

    The only ingredient I have for this recipe so far are the tomatoes. Living on Long Island, my hubby and I took a ride out to the northern fork where farmland and farm stands are abundant. So I went a little crazy with the tomatoes, which are mouthwatering! I don’t want them to go bad, so I decided to stew them and make sauce. Please, can I stew them for 2-3 hours and then FREEZE the sauce until I get the other ingredients?
    Thank you Thank you Thank you!

  34. Chris says

    Yes, you can prepare the tomatoes and freeze them. When you defrost them for use you can then at the spices. You’ll want to simmer the sauce for about an hour when preparing with the spices.

  35. Nadyha says

    I’m excited to try this recipe!
    Do I simmer uncovered for the whole 2-3 hours? And when adding fresh basil and bay leaves, should they be added the last 45 minutes or the beginning with all other dry ingredients?

    Thank you for sharing your recipe with us :)

  36. Kazie says

    Fantastic recipe.. my whole house smells amazing right now….and tastes fantastic.. I had to omit the bay leaf because i dident have any on hand but it is still great.. A keeper for sure :D

  37. Kristin says

    I still have this on the stove – however, prep time 10 minutes??? I was in the kitchen for 3 hours – peeling and seeding tomatoes, dicing onions, peeling and mincing garlic, etc. What am I missing??

    Also, honey is listen in the ingredients, but I dont see where/ when to add it?

  38. Sue Gosser says

    Fabulous, I can’t wait to try your other recipes ! I did use an immersion blender at the end to blend everything nicely.

  39. Anu says

    Mucho thanks for the recipe! I’m already half way there…simmering the tomatoes et al. When do you add the honey…? I should’ve asked this before I started preparing isn’t it:-)

  40. CLAIRE says


  41. Debbie says

    I spent several hours making this sauce today and I was so excited to try it. I agree with a few other reviews…it was not good at all and a waste of time. Thanks for sharing your recipe though. others seem to like it so that’s good. It’s just not for us for sure.

  42. Grayham says

    Tomatoes were cheap at the store so I can bought a few kilos. Got excited in finding your recipe and it did not disappoint.
    I followed it to a ‘tee’ and ended up with a delightfully tasty deep orange tomato sauce that superbly enhanced our pasta supper.
    Thank you – I think the negative chefs should re-assess their culinary skills.
    Now to try some of your other recipes…….
    Best regards.

  43. Alyssa Leys says

    I tried making this last night and my pasta sauce was relatively thick even after I used my immersion blender, that I can live with, but my pasta sauce was brown instead of a redish color, straight up brown… can you maybe help me out as to what might have happened?

  44. Juli F. says

    You say the color change depends on the tomato. What kind of tomato did you use?
    I got my sauce to look like the picture, but, it’s orange. It doesn’t look visually appetizing. And we eat with our eyes.

  45. Mark Sundman says

    I have bee researching pasta sauce recipes for the last two days and I must say this one sounds interesting. I will not rate this yet as I have not tried it but rest assured I will return once I do. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t simmering uncovered help with thickening of the sauce? I noticed several comments said it was a bit thin. I’m a thick chunky sauce loving kinda feller and will be testing this sauce VERY soon. I’m interested in the honey just to see what it adds to the flavor. My aunt made some AWESOME sauce I remember as I was growing up (she was always cooking something tomato based), she always had some kind of Italian sausage cooking right along with her sauces. I do wonder what the difference in the herb thyme and lemon thyme is? Should one be used above the other? Ms Katie thank you for sharing this, I’m always interested in new recipes, I belong to several recipe sharing pages on facebook always learning new tastes and flavors is an exciting hobby!!! Blessings =o)

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