Homemade Pasta Sauce

Italian Pasta Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes recipe Homemade Pasta Sauce

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 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:

4.9 from 8 reviews
Homemade Tomato Sauce
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Authentic tomato marinara sauce from fresh tomatoes, basil and garlic.
Author:
Recipe type: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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?

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

  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.

  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? :)

  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..

  9. Schelli Nimz 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!

  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.

      Ciao

  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

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

    Thanks!

  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?
    Thanks!

    • 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. SkippyMom 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?

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