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Simple San Marzano Tomato Sauce

Italian cooking is all about good quality, fresh ingredients. Choosing San Marzano tomatoes will bring your tomato sauce to a whole new level.

This san Marzano sauce recipe is simple and fresh. Just 4 simple ingredients plus salt and pepper.

ladel full of san marzano tomato sauce over a pot

When I first moved in with my Italian husband (boyfriend at the time), I knew that I had big shoes to fill when it came to cooking. For years I attempted to make a good fresh tomato sauce from scratch that would rival what he was use to.

Only when I started using fewer and higher quality ingredients did my tomato sauce really start to come together. This one is on my regular rotation as a homemade pasta sauce. I can make it with my eyes closed now 🙂

How to make a basic tomato sauce

chopped onions sauteing in pot
Sauté onion and garlic over medium heat.
hands squeezing canned tomatoes into pot
Crush whole tomatoes into the pot. I use my hands.
ladle of san marzano tomato sauce over pot
Cook the sauce over medium-low heat at a low simmer for 45-60 minutes.
ladle scooping san marzano tomato sauce from pot

Tailor To Your Taste

Here are a few variations to try for your Italian tomato sauce.

  • Flavor
    • Add chopped fresh basil leaves at end of cooking – or other fresh herbs like oregano. 
    • Add a parmesan rind while the sauce cooks for rich flavor.
    • If you like your sauce spicy, add some red pepper flakes.
    • Add a splash of red wine
  • Extras
    • Drizzle some good quality extra virgin olive oil after cooking or when serving.
    • Add cooked meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  • Texture
    • Cook the sauce longer to make it thicker for a great pizza sauce.
    • Purée half or all of the sauce. Or leave it chunky.

Shortcut

  • Buy chopped frozen onions or chop fresh onions in the food processor.
  • I’ve also cooked the marinara tomato sauce for less time (like 30-40 minutes) and it’s still great.

Make Ahead

  • The sauce can be made ahead,  and kept in a sealed airtight container in the fridge for 5-6 days.
  • After cooling to room temperature, it can also be frozen in a freezer-friendly ziplock bag for 4-6 months.

FAQ

How can I tell my San Marzano tomatoes are authentic?

Look for the label DOP-certified on the can. This label ensures the tomatoes are authentic from Italy. It means protected designation of origin or POD in North America and DOP – Denominazione d’Origine Protetta – in Italy. The tomatoes are more expensive but worth it.

Are canned tomatoes healthy?

Yes. Canned tomatoes are low in calories and packed with vitamin C, fiber and antioxidant lycopene which helps lower the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and macular degeneration. Registered dietician Toby Amidor says both canned and fresh produce are equally nutritious.

Are canned tomatoes better than fresh tomatoes?

According to Bon Appetit, canned tomatoes are better than fresh tomatoes 99% of the time when cooking with tomatoes. Looks for cans that just say tomatoes and salt. Period.

Is San Marzano sauce gluten free?

Yes, it is gluten free and dairy free.

Ways to use San Marzano tomato sauce

San marzano sauce is incredibly versatile. Use it on pizzas, pasta, subs, chicken parmesan, with meatballs, etc. Here are a few of our recipes that use tomato sauce.  

What to make with San Marzano tomatoes

We have several other recipes that use a can of san Marzano tomatoes.

Salt is king when it comes to flavor enhancers. Check out our article on what experts say about the best salt for cooking (and what you should know).

If you like this recipe, please leave a 5 star rating 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟in the recipe card below. And if you REALLY like it, consider a review in the comments. Thanks!

ladel full of san marzano tomato sauce over a pot
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Simple San Marzano Tomato Sauce

Choosing San Marzano tomatoes will bring your tomato sauce to a whole new level. This delicious san Marzano sauce recipe is simple and fresh. Just 4 simple ingredients plus salt and pepper.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: Sauces
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 6 Servings
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of San Marzano whole tomatoes packed in puree (796ml/can)
  • 4 tablespoons good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 small-medium onions, diced (I use a food processor to dice them)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

optional seasoning

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or oregano, 1/2 teaspoon or more red pepper flakes, splash of red wine.

Instructions

  • SAUTE ONIONS AND GARLIC: Heat oil in a medium-large pot on medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the minced garlic, cooking it for another minute. I like my sauce to be garlicky so I use 8 cloves, but if you are looking for a more subtle flavor, use 6.
  • ADD TOMATOES: (Prepare to have messy hands!) Take out tomatoes one or two at a time and squish them in your hands over the pot to break them apart. I usually take off the top part where the stem was attached and throw it out. Add  the puree from the cans and the salt and pepper. Stir. 
  • SIMMER: Bring tomato sauce to a boil and then lower it to a medium-low heat to simmer for 45-60 minutes depending how thick you like your sauce and how watery your tomatoes are. Stir occasionally.
  • FINISH SAUCE: Once the sauce has thickened (It shouldn't be a paste, but should not be watery either), remove it from heat. Taste and adjust seasoning , adding fresh basil and/or red pepper flakes if you like. If you find the sauce a bit too acidy for your taste, add a pinch of sugar. If preferred, you can puree or just partly puree the sauce with an immersion blender. Serve over your favorite pasta, in a casserole, with meatballs or on pizza. 

Notes

Variations
Flavor
    • Add chopped fresh basil leaves at end of cooking – or other fresh herbs like oregano. 
    • Add a parmesan rind while the sauce cooks for rich flavor.
    • If you like your sauce spicy, add some red pepper flakes.
    • Add a splash of red wine
  • Extras
    • Drizzle some good quality extra virgin olive oil after cooking or when serving.
    • Add cooked meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  • Texture
    • Cook the sauce longer to make it thicker for a great pizza sauce.
    • Purée half or all of the sauce. Or leave it chunky.
Make Ahead: The sauce can be made ahead and kept in an airtight container in the fridge for 5-6 days. It can also be frozen in freezer friendly ziploc bags or a sealed container for 4-6 months.
Nutrition values are estimates. 

Nutrition

Calories: 187kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1128mg | Potassium: 843mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 570IU | Vitamin C: 28mg | Calcium: 104mg | Iron: 4mg
Tried this recipe?We’d love you to rate it above under ‘rate this recipe’ or in the comment section below. Thanks!

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16 Comments

  1. When I make sauce from whole canned tomatoes i put them a few at a time in my kitchen prep and puree. I like my spaghetti sauce smooth. I do crush by hand for other recipes.

    1. That works too. I usually partially blend the sauce after cooking with an immersion blender. Do whatever works best for you.

  2. I added a tablespoon of sugar to reduce the acidity. Absolutely delicious. Going to use it when I make my sausage, onions and peppers tomorrow.

    1. Oooh, what a great idea Phil. I’ve been meaning to do a sausage and peppers recipe forever. Thanks for the nudge. And thanks for leaving a comment.

    2. 5 stars
      If you use San Marzano you shouldn’t have any acidity.Usually when cheaper crushed tomatoes like Tutturoso are used,then you have the acidity issue.San Marzano are sweet out of the can

  3. 5 stars
    Just made a bucket of this with fresh san marzanos (a little more work) but makes a great base tomato sauce. I used an immersion blender to make is a little more smooth. Will freeze a bunch.

    1. Glad you liked it Kathy. You’ll have happy to have that bucket of fresh tomato sauce over the months ahead I’m sure. So many ways to use it.

      1. Hi Gin, I just made a sauce with fresh San Marzano tomatoes (any plum tomatoes would work too). Boil a pot of water, add the tomatoes for 60-90 seconds until the skins start to split. Drain and run the tomatoes under cold water so they are easy to handle. The skins will slip off for the most part. Use a sharp small knife for stubborn spots. If the tomatoes have a lot of seeds (which they may not), give them a squeeze over the sink. Heat a large pot with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add a few teaspoons of chopped garlic for 30 seconds, then squish each tomato as you add them to the pot to break them up (I use my hands). Cook on medium for 30-45 minutes or until your desired thickness, stirring occasionally, adding salt and pepper to taste. If you like your sauce smooth, use an immersion blender as Kathy did. Hope that helps!