How to Make Tomato Sauce

In the pantheon of all-time homiest cooking smells, tomato sauce is surely right at the top, along with chocolate chip cookies, bread, toast, and popcorn. This one starts with pleasantly aromatic garlic, onion, and olive oil wafting through the kitchen. Then you add the tomato, oregano, and a bouquet of fresh basil — and the scent deepens and settles over the house, as warm and comforting as a blanket. It’s such a powerful draw to the kitchen table, it’s a wonder they don’t make marinara-infused candles.

This is a simple sauce, but it tastes just as amazing as it smells. We love how the oregano and fresh basil shine through, balancing out the tomato’s natural acidity and adding a sweet pungency to all its savory notes. There’s a wee bit of a kick from the red pepper flakes, too.

We use this sauce on all sorts of dishes. It’s wonderful on pasta and meatloaf, of course, but we’ve also been known to spoon it over steamed or roasted veggies — broccoli, spaghetti squash, and fried potatoes. It’s the sort of sauce you want to go heavy on, so there’s plenty left over on the plate. It’ll give your bread and butter purpose.

Our tip: you’d better just go ahead and make a double batch of this sauce and put the leftovers in the freezer for all the cozy suppers ahead.

Servings: 16


2 28-oz cans whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced small

6 cloves garlic, sliced

2 Tbsp dried oregano

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

2 Tbsp tomato paste

2 cups fresh basil with stems

Salt, to taste

Black pepper, to taste


  1. In a large bowl, crush the tomatoes with a potato masher or your hands. Set them aside.
  2. In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sweat them — draw the moisture out until the onions are translucent and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to brown or caramelize them.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the oregano and red pepper flakes and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the tomato paste and tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.
  6. Season the sauce with a pinch of salt and pepper and cook for another ½ hour.
  7. While the sauce simmers, bunch the basil together and tie it off with kitchen twine.
  8. With 15 minutes remaining on your timer, place the basil in the pot and allow it to steep for about 10 minutes, or until it’s beginning to brown, and then pull it from the pot.
  9. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

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