A few good ingredients are all you need for this easy homemade pasta sauce. It’s perfect for serving straight over pasta or combined with meatballs for a quick and easy dinner.
Table of contents
Why you’ll love it
The perfect sauce for spaghetti, once you taste it and realise how quick it is to make at home, you’ll never buy it in a jar again.
- Quick and easy to make
- Rich and flavourful
- Perfect for meal prepping and can be frozen too
Note, this is a simple pasta sauce recipe. Many traditional pasta sauces take a long time to cook and for good reason – time normally equals extra flavour.
This one is much quicker to make and, while not the long cooked traditional version, it really does taste amazing.
Ingredients for tomato pasta sauce
- Tomato passata / puree (1): This is a thick tomato sauce or puree.
- Tinned crushed tomatoes (2): You can also use diced or whole if you prefer. Whole tomatoes can be cut while in the tin, using a thin, sharp knife.
- Olive oil (3): Some pasta sauces use quite a lot of oil while I like to keep mine lower in fat but the important part is to use very good quality extra virgin olive oil.
- Onion & garlic (4 & 6): These add a hearty flavour to the sauce.
- Seasonings and spices (5): Salt and dried and red chilli flakes for a slight kick. You can leave the chilli out if you prefer.
- Basil (7): While not shown, fresh is definitely best. In the ingredients above I’ve shown dried basil so you know you can use either.
- Sugar (8): I love a touch of sugar in the sauce. It’s not enough to make it sweet but just balances out the flavours. If you’re using particularly sweet tinned tomatoes, you can skip it altogether.
What are the best tomatoes for pasta sauce
Check the label on the tin or bottle. You’re looking for a very limited number of ingredients – tomatoes and maybe salt. There should be no need for anything else.
It’s worthwhile doing a taste test if you really want to make the best pasta sauce too. If it doesn’t taste good right in the tin, it won’t taste good in your sauce either.
I love using Mutti passata and tomatoes and often use the Ardmona brand.
How to make pasta sauce
Start cooking your pasta right before you start making this and it should all be ready around the same time.
- Drain the tomatoes to separate the pulp and juice (photo 1).
- Cook the onion until softened, then add the tomato pulp and garlic (photo 2) then cook until that pulp is almost dry and starting to caramelise.
- Add everything else – the tomato juice, passata, spices, sugar and herbs (photos 3 & 4).
- Simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thick or until you like the consistency (photos 5 &6)..
Why separate the tomatoes and juice?
Both the pulp and juice are used in this recipe so nothing is wasted, but sauteing the pulp first allows it to caramelise slightly which intensifies its flavour. It will start to stick to the side of the pan and brown just a touch.
Then by adding the passata and juice later, you’ll deglaze the pan and bring all those caramelised bits into the sauce. Flavour city! Learnt this great little tip from Jessica Gavin.
Can I make pizza sauce from pasta sauce?
This sauce can also work as a flavourful pizza sauce. Leave out the tomato juice and the water, then reduce it until thick enough to spread over pizza. It’s amazing.
Can I freeze tomato sauce
This easy tomato pasta sauce freezes beautifully. Store it in airtight containers or ziplock bags for up to 4-6 months.
More recipes you’ll love
- Pasta napolitana
- The Best Spaghetti Bolognese
- Greek Pastitsio
- Meatball Pasta Bake
- Homemade Italian Meatballs
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Easy Homemade Pasta Sauce
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (notes 1)
- ⅓ cup chopped red onion (about ½ small onion)
- 1 clove garlic
- 400 g tinned crushed tomatoes (14oz)
- 400 ml passata (13.5 fl oz)
- ¼ cup fresh chopped basil or (2 teaspoons dried basil)
- pinch of dried chilli flakes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Place a mesh sieve over a bowl and pour in the crushed tomatoes. Set aside to drain.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, stirring regularly until softened (3-4 minutes). Don’t let them colour.
- Use a spoon to press the crushed tomatoes in the sieve to remove some more of the liquid and then tip the pulp into the pan. Reserve the liquid.
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring often for 4-5 minutes until the tomatoes start to look very thick and most of the moisture is gone.
- Add the juice from the tomatoes, the passata, basil, chilli, sugar and salt. Add ¼ cup water to the passata bottle, give it swirl and add that too. Mix well.
- Bring the sauce to a simmer, then keep on a low simmer, stirring regularly for about 10 minutes until nice and thick or to desired consistency.
- Tablespoons: I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (= 4 teaspoons worldwide).
- Freezing: This sauce freezes well for 4-6 months in an airtight container.
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