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I married into an Italian family, and as such, several things are a given:
- Family gatherings will be loud
- There will always be a faint aroma of basil and garlic in the house
- Learning to make a delicious and authentic homemade pasta sauce is high on the to-do list for a new wife
Why Homemade Pasta Sauce?
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.
I’m sharing my variations of both today:
How to Make Pasta Sauce from Fresh or Canned Tomatoes
If you are working from fresh tomatoes, use the first recipe. If you are using canned tomatoes, use the second.
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 variations 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 also removes the need for a sweetener to cut down the acidity.
Homemade Pasta Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes
Homemade Pasta Sauce Recipe
- 5 lbs fresh tomatoes (peeled and seeded, see notes)
- 3 medium onions (diced)
- 8 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 carrot (divided)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ⅓ cup fresh basil (finely chopped)
- 1 sprig fresh thyme (or ½ tsp dried thyme)
- 1 sprig fresh oregano
- 2 bay leaf
- 2 springs fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dried parsley)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 TBSP honey (optional)
- Peel and seed the tomatoes and set aside.
- Chop the onion, mince the garlic, and grate half of the carrot.
- Pour the olive oil into a large stockpot over medium heat.
- When hot, add the diced onions to the olive oil and saute for 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and grated carrot and saute for 2-3 minutes longer or until onions are translucent and tender.
- Add the tomatoes, chopped basil leaves, oregano, thyme bay leaves, parsley, and sea salt.
- Simmer on low heat for 2-3 hours or until cooked down and starting to darken.
- Add carrot piece for the last 30 minutes to absorb acidity.
- Remove sprigs of herbs, bay leaves, and piece of carrot.
- Optional: Use an immersion blender to puree sauce until smooth (for a thicker sauce, skip this step).
- Use fresh or store in the refrigerator up to 1 week, or can it according to your canner's instructions for tomato products.
10-Minute Pasta Sauce from Canned Tomatoes
If a two-hour simmer time isn’t your thing, this 10-minute recipe tastes almost as good and cooks in much less time. This is my go-to on a busy night when I have 20 minutes to turn a pound of ground beef into dinner. We serve with zucchini or other vegetable noodles for a great flavor.
Pasta Sauce Ingredients:
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 8 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 (28-ounce) cans or jars of whole, crushed or stewed tomatoes (or 4 15-ounce cans)
- 1 (6-ounce) can or jar of tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves (or 1/4 cup fresh, finely chopped)
- 2 bay leaves (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
Pasta Sauce Instructions:
- Heat the olive oil in a medium size pot over medium heat. Add onions and saute until soft, about 5 minutes
- Add garlic and saute another minute.
- Then, add tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, basil, bay leaves, thyme and salt/pepper.
- Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer.
- Simmer for 10-15 minutes to let flavors meld. (Can simmer longer if desired for a thicker sauce with a deeper flavor).
- Serve over pasta of choice.
- Optional: for a thinner sauce that works better for pizza, chicken parmesan, etc, use an immersion blender to blend until smooth.
How to Use Homemade Pasta Sauce
You probably already have a recipe in mind since you’re reading this post, but this is endlessly versatile and great in many recipes. The fresh tomato recipe variation is great for tomato season, and I often can any extras to use in the winter.
I use this sauce in:
- Homemade meat sauce by adding 1-2 pounds of browned ground beef and serving over zucchini or shirataki noodles
- Zucchini Lasagna
- Chicken Cacciatore (in place of the tomato sauce/paste/spices)
- Chicken Parmesan
How to Can Your Own Pasta Sauce
You can easily make a large batch of either of these sauces and can it for future use. I often do this when we have an abundance of tomatoes from the garden. There is really no reason to can the recipe made from canned tomatoes, since it is so quick to whip up and there is no need for the extra step.
Canning Instructions for Homemade Tomato Sauce
I follow these instructions for canning my homemade tomato sauce. There is some debate if it is ok to water bath can tomato products or not. The general consensus seems to be that tomatoes are iffy for water bath canning because the pH is not quite acidic enough. One solution is to add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice per quart for canning or check the pH to make sure it is 4.4 or below.
Personally, I prefer to just pressure can according to my pressure canner instructions as the pressure is enough to kill any botulism spores and is considered safe for tomatoes.
How to Freeze Homemade Tomato Sauce
If canning isn’t your thing, you can also freeze this homemade sauce. I like to freeze in quart size glass mason jars (here’s how) or metal containers, to avoid plastic. You can also freeze this sauce in any container once it has cooled.
Discussion (251 Comments)
Does it need to simmer uncovered?
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!
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.
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
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.
Going to try this for tonight! Im also going to add some cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Yum Yum. Thank you!!
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!
Katie - Wellness Mama
Hmmmm… did it darken? You can probably add more water…
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?
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.
If your pasta sauce is watery, leave the lid off and boil at med-low until it reduces to your desired consistency.
I didn’t add the honey, the carrot was enough. I deglazed my onions with wine and cook my meatballs in the sauce, the balls stay together better and the flavour can’t be beat. Yum! Thanks for the recipe.
I am curious how many quarts this makes for canning too! Freezer is full from the rest of the harvest but this sounds fantastic!
When to add the honey?
Ok, this sounds like just what i have been looking for. I can lots. How many quarts does this make?
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..
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.
Due to acid reflux issues, I’ve made it w orange low acid tomatoes and it was amazing! There isn’t any difference. It is simmering as I type and I am so excited for the finished result to pour over baked turkey meatballs! I used one shallot and a few cloves of garlic as they aren’t great for heartburn sufferers. Make sure you make the full amount bc cutting it in 1/2 won’t have enough tomatoes to make a sauce. You can just freeze it anyway. I always make double! Delicious, my fave and the best! Thank you!
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.
How much balsamic?
You might want to Try, Einkorn Pasta. It comes from Italy, 1000’s of years old & is making a come back. Its the Real Pasta, and No Gmo. My large market carries it, but I’m sure that Whole foods does also.
Low in Gluten , does Not spike blood sugar..and its Very Healthy.
I have nothing to do with Einkorn, just love this. I do not have a blood sugar problem, but I sometimes have a guest that does. (Brother in-law etc)
They love this pasta, and love that there blood sugar does not spike up after eating Einkorn pasta.
Tropical Traditions carries it as well 🙂 https://wellnessmama.com/go/tropical-traditions/