Today is our third Back to Basics tutorial and it is truly a game changer for your fav comfort foods. This homemade tomato sauce was inspired by one of my most popular recipes: my summery tomato basil soup.
This sauce is full of flavor thanks to fresh tomatoes & herbs and comes together in just about an hour. In this step-by-step tutorial for making basic pasta sauce, I’ve included options for adding a rich creaminess, a kick of heat, meat and more. It’s so versatile that you’ll want to skip the canned stuff for good!
If you haven’t had a big old pasta dinner in a while, here is your sign. Family dinner made extra delicious!
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The difference between marinara sauce & tomato sauce
- Marinara sauce actually originated as a tomato-based sauce used for seafood. It’s typically made with plum tomatoes or canned ones like San Marzano tomatoes, plus garlic, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes. It’s thinner and lighter in flavor than tomato sauce, and is often used on pastas and pizzas.
- Traditional tomato sauce is thicker and richer and is typically made with meat like salt pork or bacon, veggies like onion and carrot, fresh tomatoes, some type of stock, and even some flour and butter to thicken it up.
What makes this homemade tomato sauce truly AMAZING
The AK homemade tomato sauce is closer to a thick marinara sauce with some special ingredients, techniques and optional add-ins that make it truly incredible. It’s has a natural sweetness from ripe fresh tomatoes and caramelized onions instead of using any additional sugar. Trust me, you’re going to LOVE this one.
Everything you’ll need to make the best homemade pasta sauce
In this pasta sauce recipe, we’re using fresh tomatoes instead of canned, which gives the sauce a wonderful, rich flavor. Here’s everything you’ll need to make it:
- Tomatoes: I like to use roma or plum tomatoes because they have the best flavor when roasted. Even better if they’re fresh from your garden.
- Garlic: oh yeah, we’re adding 8 cloves of wonderful garlic to this sauce recipe. And they’ll get roasted to sweet perfection.
- Olive oil: you’ll need some olive oil to roast the tomatoes and garlic, and also to caramelize the onions.
- Onions: speaking of onions, YES we’re caramelizing these babies to give a natural, delicious sweetness to the pasta sauce. WORTH IT.
- Herbs & spices: you’ll also need some fresh basil, dried oregano and plenty of salt and pepper. Feel free to add a few shakes of red pepper flakes, too, if you like a little spice.
Simple add-ins for rich tomato sauce flavor
Looking to make an even richer tomato sauce? Here are some great add-ins:
- Coconut milk: feel free to add regular or light coconut milk to give the sauce a creamy texture while still keeping it plant-based and vegan.
- Regular milk or cream: adding some whole dairy milk or heavy cream will also make it super creamy. You won’t need much, a 1/4-1/2 cup or so should do the trick.
- Cheese: stir in salty parmesan cheese for a bolder flavor. HELL YES.
- Butter: add a delicious richness with 1-2 tablespoons of butter. Salted butter is my fav.
How to make the best homemade tomato sauce
Learn exactly how to make this easy tomato sauce in a few simple steps!
Step 1: roast your tomatoes & garlic with olive oil, salt & pepper for about 40-45 minutes.
Step 2: caramelize your onions with some more olive oil, stirring occasionally. Check them every 5-10 minutes until they turn nice and golden. This should take about 20 minutes, which can be done while your tomatoes are roasting.
Step 4: blend or process the sauce until it’s the consistency you like. Blend it completely for a smooth tomato pasta sauce, or leave it chunkier. We like ours on the chunkier side.
Don’t have a blender or food processor? No problem! Simply add the ingredients to a large pot and use an immersion blender.
Step 5: transfer the sauce to a large pot, turn it on medium low heat and stir in the dried oregano, salt and pepper to taste. This is where you can add in any milk or cheese.
Step 6: serve with your favorite noodles, top with cheese and fresh basil and enjoy! Our noodles of choice are spaghetti, rigatoni and penne. Or feel free to use it in a lasagna or chicken parmesan recipe.
Can I add meat to this tomato sauce?
Sure! If you want a more bolognese-style tomato sauce, feel free to cook ground beef or even ground turkey in the pot before adding in the blended tomato mixture. This will give the pasta sauce a super savory flavor and boost of protein.
How to store homemade tomato sauce
- In the refrigerator: store any leftover tomato sauce in a jar or airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. Reheat it back on the stovetop or in the microwave.
- In the freezer: add the leftover sauce to a freezer-friendly, airtight container and place it in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, let the sauce thaw in the fridge before heating it through on the stovetop or in the microwave.
More of our fav ways to use this pasta sauce
- Add it to our Juicy Turkey Meatballs with Burrata
- Enjoy the perfect Zucchini Lasagna or add it to our most popular Turkey Lasagna
- Looking for something unique? Try our White Bean, Spinach & Turkey Stuffed Bell Peppers!
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I hope you loved this simple tutorial for making homemade tomato sauce! If you try it, be sure to leave a comment and a rating so I know how you liked it. Enjoy, xo!
Our Favorite Homemade Tomato Sauce (using fresh tomatoes!)
The best homemade tomato sauce using fresh tomatoes, delicious caramelized onions and plenty of garlic. This basic pasta sauce recipe is easy to make and perfect for customizing to make it super creamy and even a little cheesy. You'll never go back to canned tomato sauce again!
- 3 pounds roma or plum tomatoes, cut in half
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Freshly ground salt and pepper
- For the caramelized onions:
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
- ½ cup packed basil leaves
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- Freshly ground salt and pepper, to taste
- Optional add ins:
- Light/regular coconut milk for a creamy vegan sauce
- Whole dairy milk/heavy cream for a creamy texture
- Parmesan cheese
- A tablespoon or two of butter, for richer flavor
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place halved tomatoes and garlic cloves on the baking sheet and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Generously season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes.
While the tomatoes are roasting, you can make the caramelized onions: Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to a large pot and place over medium heat. Add the onion slices and stir to coat the onions with olive oil. Cook, stirring occasionally. Check onions every 5-10 minutes until they have completely caramelized and turned golden in color. This usually takes 20 minutes.
Once tomatoes and garlic are done roasting, allow them to cool for 10 minutes, then add them to a food processor with caramelized onions and basil or high powered blender and process for a chunkier sauce or blend completely for a smooth tomato pasta sauce. Alternatively you can add the tomatoes to the large pot and use an immersion blender. It's really just about what you have available to you!
After blending, transfer back to the pot, turn to medium low heat and add in oregano and salt and pepper to taste. From there you can add in any additional add-ons you want (as listed in the ingredients). Serve with your favorite pasta! Serves 4.
To store: store any leftover tomato sauce in a jar or airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. Reheat it back on the stovetop or in the microwave.
To freeze: add the leftover sauce to a freezer-friendly, airtight container and place it in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, let the sauce thaw in the fridge before heating it through on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Recipe by: Monique Volz // Ambitious Kitchen | Photography by Eat Love Eats