Easy San Marzano Tomato Sauce

This San Marzano tomato sauce recipe will give you a vibrant, rich, and flavorful sauce that rivals any you’ve tried at your favorite Italian restaurant. Ready in 30 minutes with six ingredients, this sauce will surely become a household favorite!

Sauce in a small dutch oven with basil on top.

San Marzano tomato sauce is an easy homemade Italian tomato sauce with a unique flavor from San Marzano tomatoes. You can prepare this vibrant sauce in under 30 minutes, resulting in a delicious homemade tomato sauce with a complex flavor. Pair it with oregano or fresh basil to elevate the flavor of ANY dish.

This versatile sauce is dairy—and gluten-free and works great with diets of all types. You can serve it with pasta, zoodles, meatballs, inside calzones, or mix in Insta Pot Shredded Italian Chicken!

Use oven-roasted spaghetti squash if you want a pasta alternative. I recommend this recipe from The Buttered Home titled How to Roast Spaghetti Squash; it is easy and flavorful! Soak this sauce with easy homemade bread or my favorite rustic Italian bread.

Why You Will Love This Recipe

  • Simple to make: You can prepare this authentic Italian pasta sauce in 30 minutes or less with just six ingredients. No special equipment or skills are required.
  • Packed with flavor: San Marzano tomatoes are known for their delicious flavor, so this sauce will impress. They are grown in the volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius in Italy, and their unique sweetness and acidity make them the perfect base for a tomato sauce.
  • Versatile: This sauce can be used on any pasta, and it’s also great for pizza, lasagna, and other Italian dishes.
Noodles topped with San Marzano sauce.

What are San Marzano tomatoes?

San Marzano tomatoes are a variety of plum tomatoes known for superior flavor and texture. They are grown in a specific region of Italy and have a DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) certification, meaning they are protected by European Union law.

San Marzano tomatoes are typically canned whole and peeled and easily available in most supermarkets. They have a thick, meaty flesh and a low seed count, making them ideal for making tomato sauce.

Ingredients

Ingredients used in making this recipe.
  • Basil: Fresh basil adds a bright, herbaceous flavor to the sauce. If you can’t find fresh basil, you can use dried basil, but be sure to sauté it in the olive oil before adding the tomatoes so that it can rehydrate and release its flavor.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO): EVOO adds a rich, nutty flavor to the sauce. It is also a healthy choice, high in monounsaturated fats. You can also use virgin olive oil, but the flavor will be slightly less intense.
  • Garlic: Garlic adds a subtle, earthy flavor to the sauce. To bring out its best flavor, sauté it in olive oil for about one minute before adding the other ingredients.
  • Red Onion: Adds a sharpness to the sauce that helps to balance the acid from the tomatoes.
  • San Marzano Whole Tomatoes: They are the star ingredient in this sauce. They are known for their low acidity and dense interior, which produces a smooth and flavorful sauce. To use them, crush them by hand or with a food processor before adding them to the sauce.
  • Tomato Paste: Tomato paste intensifies the tomato flavor and thickens the sauce. It is best to add the tomato paste after all the tomatoes have been crushed to blend them well.

Optional Ingredients

I normally add all three ingredients to my tomato sauce. However, these are not required for a great-tasting sauce.

  • Red pepper flakes: Add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the sauce for a bit of spice, or add more after cooking to taste.
  • Red wine: Add 1/4 cup of red wine to the sauce for depth and flavor complexity. You can also use red wine to deglaze the pan after sautéing the garlic.
  • Sugar: Add a pinch of sugar to the sauce if it is too acidic.

Garnish Suggestions

  • Fresh basil: For a pop of color and flavor, add a sprig of fresh basil to the top of your dish.
  • Parmesan cheese/vegan parmesan: Shave or sprinkle a small amount of Parmesan cheese over your dish for a finishing touch.
  • Red pepper flakes: For a hint of spice, add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the top of your dish.

Instructions

STEP ONE: SAUTE

  • Heat the olive oil in a Dutch pot or large saucepan over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
  • Add the tomato paste and cook until it darkens in color, about 2-3 minutes.

STEP Two: SIMMER

  • Add the tomato sauce and half of the fresh basil to the saucepan and stir to combine.
  • Bring the sauce to a gentle boil, stirring often, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until it has thickened and reduced slightly.
  • Leave the sauce chunky, or use a stick blender and blend until smooth.

Pairing Suggestions

Being versatile, this recipe perfectly pairs with just about any Italian dish. The flavor of the San Marzano tomatoes uplifts any meal, such as meatballs, chicken cutlets, lasagna, calzones, etc. Here are some dishes that you can pair the delicious sauce with:

  • Pizza sauce – Top your homemade pizza with San Marzano tomato sauce for a delicious and authentic Italian flavor.
  • Zucchini Fries –  Serve zucchini fries with a side of San Marzano tomato sauce for a healthy and flavorful snack or appetizer. I also happen to have a recipe for zucchini fries.
  • Garlic bread: Brush slices of bread with olive oil and toast until golden brown. Then, top with San Marzano tomato sauce and grated Parmesan cheese for a simple but delicious side dish.
  • Lasagna: Layer San Marzano tomato sauce between lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese for a classic Italian dish that will surely please everyone at the table.
  • Pasta – San Marzano tomato sauce is perfect for pairing with any pasta shape, but it is especially delicious with  homemade spaghetti noodles
A wooden spoon with sauce on it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between tomato sauce and marina sauce?

In some Italian dishes, the sauces are interchangeable. However, both sauces are different. The marinara sauce tends to be thinner, spreadable, and brighter than tomato sauce. On the other hand, a simple tomato sauce is generally thicker, creamier, and similar to gravy. 

Why are San Marzano tomatoes so good for sauce?

Regarded as high-quality tomatoes in Italy, San Marzano canned tomatoes have thick flesh, a plumb shape, and a sweet flavor. In addition, these tomatoes have fewer seeds and lower water content than other tomato varieties. With all these qualities, these tomatoes are ideal for making a hearty tomato sauce.

How do I store and reheat this sauce?

Refrigerator storage: Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature, then place it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.
Freezer storage – Allow the sauce to cool thoroughly. Then, transfer it to an airtight container or ziplock freezer bag for up to three months. I find the Ziploc bags easy to store by serving size and laying flat in the freezer.
Reheat instructions – Before using the sauce, allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight. Reheat in a pan at low heat. Make sure that you frequently stir till the sauce is warm. 

Sauce in a small dutch oven with basil on top.

San Marzano Tomato Sauce

Vibrant, rich, and flavorful, this San Marzano tomato sauce is easily the best homemade marinara sauce you will ever taste. Made in less than 30 minutes, with six ingredients, this sauce is sure to be a household favorite!
5 from 1 vote
Print Rate
Course: All Day
Cuisine: Italian
Diet:
Servings: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ medium red onion diced
  • 5 -7 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 28 ounces San Marzano whole tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil (2 tablespoons dried basil)

Instructions

STEP ONE: SAUTE

  • Heat the olive oil in a Dutch pot or large saucepan over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
  • Add the tomato paste and cook until it darkens in color, about 2-3 minutes.

STEP ONE: SIMMER

  • Add the canned tomatoes and half of the fresh basil to the saucepan and stir to combine.
  • Bring the sauce to a gentle boil, stirring often, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and reduced slightly.
  • You can leave the sauce chunky, break it up with your wooden spoon for a semi-chunky sauce, or use a stick blender and blend for a smooth sauce.

Notes

Optional Ingredients:
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Red wine – Adds richness
  • Sugar – Cuts through any bitterness
Tips:
  • For a smoother sauce, puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor until smooth before adding them to the pot.
  • If you don’t have red wine, you can use chicken broth or vegetable broth instead.
  • If you find that the sauce is too acidic, add a pinch of sugar to balance it out.
  • To make a thicker sauce, simmer it for a longer period.
  • Serve the sauce over your favorite pasta, pizza, or lasagna.

Nutrition

Calories: 169kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Sodium: 350mg | Potassium: 472mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 444IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 69mg | Iron: 2mg
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