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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.

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.

San Marzano Tomato Sauce

Only when I started using fewer and higher quality ingredients did my tomato sauce really start to come together. This recipe is simple and fresh. It’s on my regular rotation as a homemade pasta sauce.

 

I also discovered that good quality olive oil elevates your sauce to that next level as well. While it’s tempting to go for the less expensive oil, when it comes to making a tomato sauce, try to buy the best olive oil you can. See our recommendations for which oils are best in our post Cooking Oils: The Bare Essentials.

Why choose San Marzanos?

To me (and many others), San Marzanos are the best type of tomatoes to cook with because they have a sweet flavor, low acidity, firm pulp and low seed count.

San Marzanos are a type of plum tomatoes. They are longer and thinner than the common plum tomato you see sold fresh in grocery stores. The canned version can be found in most well stocked grocery stores in the canned tomato aisle.

The tomatoes cook down beautifully into a thick, rich sauce. There is no need for tomato paste to deepen the flavors.

Ways to Use San Marzano Tomato Sauce

Tailor To Your Taste

  • Add chopped fresh basil at end of cooking – or other fresh herbs like oregano. 
  • If you like your sauce spicy, add red pepper flakes.
  • 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.
  • Cook the sauce longer to make it thicker for a great pizza sauce.

Make Ahead

  • The sauce can be made ahead and kept in a sealed airtight container in the fridge for 5-6 days.
  • It can also be frozen in a freezer friendly ziploc bag for 4-6 months.

How to make San Marzano tomato sauce

chopped onions, minced garlic, 2 cans san marzano tomatoes, oil, salt pepper
Gather ingredients: cans of San Marzano whole tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper
sauteed onions in pot
Saute onion and garlic over medium heat.
squishing canned tomatoes into pot
Crush whole tomatoes into the pot. I use my hands.
tomatoes added to sauteed onions and garlic in pot
Simmer the sauce over medium-low heat for 45-60 minutes.
San Marzano Tomato Sauce
If you like blend or partially blend the San Marzano tomato sauce with an immersion blender.
ladle of San Marzano Tomato Sauce over pot
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4.76 from 29 votes

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.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: Sauces
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 6 Servings
Author: Jenna

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of San Marzano Whole Tomatoes Packed in Puree (796ml/can)
  • 4 tablespoons good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 small-Medium Cooking 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, 1/2 teaspoon or more red pepper flakes.

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 preferred, you can puree or just partly puree the sauce with an immersion blender. Serve on your favorite pasta, in a casserole, with meatballs or on pizza. 

Notes

Variations
  • Add chopped fresh basil at end of cooking.
  • If you like your sauce spicy, add red pepper flakes.
  • 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.
  • Cook the sauce longer to make it thicker for a great pizza sauce.
Make Ahead: The sauce can be made ahead and kept in am airtight container in the fridge for 5-6 days. It can also be frozen in freezer friendly ziploc bags for 4-6 months.
Nutrition values are estimates. 

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Simple San Marzano Tomato Sauce
Amount Per Serving
Calories 187 Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Fat 10g15%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 1128mg49%
Potassium 843mg24%
Carbohydrates 24g8%
Fiber 6g25%
Sugar 13g14%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 570IU11%
Vitamin C 28mg34%
Calcium 104mg10%
Iron 4mg22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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9 Comments

  1. 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!

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