I find the taste of homemade tomato sauce to be way better than any kind of jarred sauce. And it costs much less. The active preparation time is as long as it takes to open a can and chop some garlic. It does also require about half an hour of minimally attended cooking to stir the sauce and prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. You may not have that time on the night you’re making dinner. Luckily, this sauce can be made 5 days ahead of time and can also be frozen. The recipe can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled… Just make sure to increase your pot size.
This is my go-to sugar free tomato sauce for pizza, stuffed zucchini and pretty much everything that calls for tomato sauce. It sounds kind of boring, I know – canned tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic. But the sauce is way better than the straightforward ingredients make it sound. Once you’ve made it a couple of times I think you’ll find it very simple and well worth it.
In my opinion, Muir Glen brand are the tastiest and sweetest tomatoes. They’re sold at health food stores, Whole Foods, and maybe even your local grocery store. Muir Glen also uses BPA free lining in their cans now. If they’re not available, no worries. I’ve used other types of canned tomatoes and it still tastes delicious.
One person’s feedback on this sauce was that it took way longer than 30 minutes to reduce. I strongly suspect that was either because the pot diameter was too small or the heat was too low. A wide pot and a lively simmer will ensure that the liquid in the sauce evaporates quickly.
An important note about what pan to use. Tomatoes are acidic and will react with aluminum and copper. So it’s important to use a non-reactive pan when making tomato sauce. Use a stainless steel pan. I’m referring to the exterior material only. Many stainless steel pans have copper or aluminum cores, and that’s fine. Same goes for the spoon you use to stir the sauce. No aluminum. Wood is great and feels good to hold, so I prefer that.
Time Saving Tip: When chopping tomatoes I stick a hand directly into the can, smush the tomatoes one at a time, and pour directly into the pot. There is no cutting board to wash and no tomato juice to wipe up that has leaked off the cutting board onto the counter.
- 1 28 oz. can peeled whole tomatoes (Italian or regular), roughly chopped with juice reserved, or crushed by hand as described in the instructions. My favorite are the Muir Glen brand.
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fairly fine
- 1 teaspoon salt
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- Optional Additions:
- 1 1/2 - 2 cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and roughly chopped or
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano, basil, or rosemary
- 1 onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced into half-rounds
- Tomato sauce reduces more quickly in a wide pot. Choose a non-reactive pot (not aluminum or copper) with a diameter of at least 8 inches. If I'm doubling the recipe I use a pot that's 11 inches wide x 3 inches deep (the pot in the photo).
- Open can of tomatoes and roughly chop tomatoes, reserving juice; or keep tomatoes in can and crush by hand as described further down.
- If adding onions, put oil and onions in pot and cook on medium heat until onions have softened, about 5-7 minutes. If not, then proceed with just oil and garlic as described below.
- Put oil and garlic in pot, turn heat to medium, and cook garlic, stirring, until it just starts to color slightly, about 30 seconds. It's important not to allow garlic to darken or burn. If that happens, you need to start over because the sauce will not taste good. Remove pan from heat.
- Add chopped tomatoes and juice or crush tomatoes by hand as follows: Pour some of the juice from the can into the pot to slow down the cooking of the garlic. Crush the tomatoes by putting your hand into the can while you hold the can over the pot. Crush each tomato into smallish pieces and slide from can to pot. Continue until all tomatoes and juice have been added to pot. Add salt and pepper. If adding herbs, do so now. Stir to combine with a wooden spoon.
- Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook at a lively simmer, stirring from time to time, until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes. To prevent sauce from sticking to bottom of pot, stir more often as sauce thickens.