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How to Make Homemade Tomato Sauce

Let's get saucy

Tomato sauce you make from scratch is homey and delicious — and so surprisingly easy! There are three basic styles of tomato sauces:

1. Long simmering tomato-based pasta sauces achieve a rich, complex flavor.
2. Barely cooked tomato sauces have a lighter flavor more recognizable of fresh tomatoes, but a little bit of cooking softens the tomatoes and brings out their sweetness.
3. Uncooked sauces are bright and refreshing, and are best made with thoroughly ripe summer tomatoes.

Spaghetti Sauce II

Spaghetti Sauce II | Photo by Dianne

1. Long-Simmered Tomato Sauce

Here's how to make long-simmered tomato sauce — the classic spaghetti sauce that's delicious any time of year. As it simmers and the liquid slowly cooks off, the sauce thickens and the flavors build and meld together. Any other vegetables you add to the sauce will become richer and sweeter the longer they cook.

During the summer, turn a bumper crop of ripe tomatoes into a long-simmered tomato sauce. And when fresh tomatoes are out of season, it's perfectly fine to use canned tomatoes.

Cooking time can range from two hours to all day, depending on how thick and caramelized you like your sauce. If it begins to get too dry, add a little wine, water, tomato juice, or broth.

Make a big batch, eat some for dinner, and pour the rest into freezer-safe containers for the coming months. Then, simply thaw as needed; you can add any fresh herbs, spices, veggies, or meats desired. See how to turn Sunday tomato sauce into a week's worth of dinners.

VIDEO: How to Make Tomato Sauce

See how Chef John makes his basic go-to tomato sauce. This is his all-purpose pasta sauce: the base for meat sauces and lasagnas — and whenever the calls for tomato sauce, this is the one! Chef John's first tip: the sauce can only be as good as the tomatoes you're using.

 

2. Short and Sweet Tomato Sauce

Barely-cooked tomato sauce is best when tomatoes are at their ripest. Briefly cooking the sauce helps retain the tomatoes' fresh, tart-sweet taste, but also heats them long enough to add depth of flavor. Caramelize some onions, sauté garlic, and simmer herbs long enough to infuse the sauce with their flavors.

Tomato Pepper Sauce

Tomato Pepper Sauce | Photo by LilSnoo

3. Raw and Refreshing Tomato Sauces

To make raw tomato sauce, use fresh tomatoes at their peak of ripeness, when they are sweet and juicy and bursting with flavor. The process is easy:

Peeling is optional, but seed your tomatoes and chop them. Alternately, cut the tomatoes into quarters, seed them, and then grate them with a cheese grater for a smoother, juicier sauce.

Fresh raw tomato sauce only needs to be seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs (basil or parsley are best), and some salt and pepper. If you like, toss in some toasted pine nuts for texture and richness.

Raw sauce can be eaten right away — tossed with pasta, spooned over grilled meats and vegetables, mounded on lightly toasted or grilled bread, spread on pizza crust, or whatever else sounds good to you. And if you've got a little time, let your raw sauce sit for a few hours to give the flavors a chance to blend and deepen.

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Explore our collection of tomato sauce recipes.
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