Quick Homemade Tomato Sauce (Canned Tomatoes)
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This has become my go-to sauce for homemade pizza, pasta, lasagna, and the like! Made with canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, and lots of fresh basil, it tastes incredibly fresh and comes together in just about 20 minutes. What’s more, you can easily adapt it to make a quick, creamy vodka sauce!
Last month, Memorial Day weekend’s frigid temperatures and relentless rain upended our annual camping trip with my sister’s family, sending us straight past the exit for the campsite, en route to her home instead.
So in place of heating chili and cornbread over a campfire, we baked pizzas under a roof, in the shelter of a waterproof house, a woodburning oven keeping us cozy all the while. My brother-in-law had made the pizza dough that morning, balled it up, and chilled it until we arrived.
Upon learning the pizza plan, I set to work making sauce. Without enough time to make Ina’s vodka sauce, my favorite for pizza, I turned to a faster sauce I hadn’t made in years: Marcella Hazan’s other tomato sauce. Unlike her famous one, this one calls for sautéed onions, crushed garlic, white wine, fresh parsley, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. After 20 minutes of simmering, it’s done.
Friends, I had forgotten how simple and fresh tasting this miraculous little sauce is! That night, I used basil instead of parsley, cut back the oil slightly, and simmered it for 5 minutes less — what can I say, we were hungry! The pizzas, topped with this basil-scented sauce, a hodgepodge of cheeses and toppings exhumed from the fridge, and my brother-in-law’s homegrown wine cap mushrooms (delicious!) and garden greens were fabulous.
The most exciting revelation about this sauce came upon returning home when I again found myself short on time and wanting Ina’s vodka sauce. In place of the wine, I used vodka, and I added 1/2 cup of heavy cream at the end. It turned out beautifully! Delicious, homemade vodka sauce in one-third the time? I’ll take it.
Hope you love it, too.
5 More Favorite Tomato Sauces
Tomato season couldn’t arrive a second too soon, and when it does, these are the fresh sauces I make on repeat:
- Quick, Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce (This one calls for bell peppers, too, and the combination is lovely.)
- Quick Red Enchilada Sauce (Fast, fresh, and delicious.)
- Roasted Broccoli Steaks with Roasted Tomato “Butter” (The tomato “butter” comes together in no time.)
- Pasta with Quick Cherry Tomato Sauce (A late-summer staple.)
- Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, Simplified (No tomato peeling here!)
Quick Homemade Tomato Sauce, Step by Step
First: gather your ingredients.
You need about 2 cups of diced onions and about a tablespoon of minced garlic (from two cloves).
Sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil until they are soft.
Then add white wine and simmer 2-3 minutes or until the alcohol smell dissipates.
Add a can of peeled tomatoes.
Snip them with scissors right in the pot; then simmer 15 minutes.
Purée with an immersion blender or transfer to a food processor or blender and purée until smooth.
Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt to taste.
This will give you about a quart of sauce. I love these deli containers for storing sauces and dressings. At this point, you can freeze the sauce for up to 3 months.
Here’s the vodka sauce variation:
Such a great feeling having homemade sauce on hand!Print
Quick Homemade Tomato Sauce (Canned Tomatoes)
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 1 quart
- Diet: Vegetarian
This recipe has been adapted from this favorite Marcella Hazan recipe (not the famous 3-ingredient recipe.)
- These are a few brands of canned tomatoes I really like: La Valle, Mutti, DiNapoli, and Cento.
- To make a vodka variation, use vodka in place of the white wine, and purée the sauce with 1/2 cup of cream at the end.
- Freeze the sauce for up to 3 months. I love these deli containers for storing sauces and dressings.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 cups finely chopped white or yellow onion
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- kosher salt
- Pinch crushed chili flakes
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 28-oz can of peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes, see notes above
- 1/2 cup (packed) fresh basil (about 1/2 ounce)
- In a medium pot, combine the oil, onions, and garlic. Add a pinch of salt. Turn the heat to high. As soon as the onions and garlic begin simmering, give them a stir, turn the heat to low, and cover the pot. Cook for 10 minutes.
- Uncover the pot, add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, stir once or twice, raise the heat to high; then add the wine. Let it simmer for 2 to 3 minutes or until the alcohol smell dissipates.
- Add the tomatoes. Using scissors, snip the tomatoes into smaller pieces. Season with a generous pinch of salt, and cook at a gentle simmer for 15 minutes.
- Transfer the sauce to a blender or food processor. Add the basil. Purée until smooth. Taste and adjust with more salt if necessary. (Alternatively use an immersion blender to purée)
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Sauce
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian, American
Keywords: quick, tomato, basil, sauce, canned
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25 Comments on “Quick Homemade Tomato Sauce (Canned Tomatoes)”
Another tasty take on a simple delight – I think my biggest takeaway from this is that it validates my approach to tomato sauce – though I’m going to have to add the wine step, to my process. Plus, I’ve never thought about freezing sauce – that’s a great idea!
Thnx – love reading your posts! 😉
Thanks so much Peter 🙂 🙂 🙂 So nice to read all of this. I love the little bit of wine here. Hope you do, too!
I bought a package of cento tomato’s at Costco when I was making tomato soup weekly but then it started to warm up I keep thinking I need to do something with those tomatoes this is perfect. The only thing I’ll do differently is cook it in my crockpot- I love that thing for making tomato sauce. I’m looking forward to making the vodka sauce never done that at home. I must confess I have been relying onRao’s sauce for an easy meal during pandemic. I’m looking forward to making my own again & keeping extra in the freezer. Thanks Ali for great recipes & wonderful posts.
Oh I love this idea, Jo! I’ll have to try my crockpot here … I have a ton of cans on hand I should really put to use as well.
Rao’s is wonderful! Can’t say enough good things about that sauce. Thanks for the kind words 🙂 🙂 🙂
This sounds very good and I will try it. I do wonder what you think about this as far as the instructor’s feeling about cooking tomato pizza sauce before using: I recently took an online pizza making course. The instructor (and restaurant owner) said that she uses canned tomatoes for her sauce but she doesn’t cook the sauce on the stove once the tomatoes have been added because they were already cooked once in the canning process and they will cook again during the baking of the pizza. She said that she feels that the sauce tastes fresher without that stove top cooking of the tomatoes – do you agree?
Cathy, I am SO glad you brought this up. I almost posed the question in the post, but then I thought I should wait till I post my Detroit-style pizza recipe, but I am eager to hear your thoughts as well as those from anyone else who wants to chime in.
OK, I, too, in doing research online and in my various pizza cookbooks have come across many recipes for no-cook pizza sauces — simply purée canned tomatoes with a little bit of salt, sometimes garlic, and sometimes olive oil. Some recipes call for simply puréeing the tomatoes without anything; some call for pureeing just with salt.
I have tried these recipes, and I remember tasting them and being surprised by how much I liked them — I thought they would taste too “canned”, but they were surprisingly fresh tasting.
That said, I think I still prefer a cooked sauce. As I noted in the post, I love a vodka sauce on pizza, and I love this cooked sauce on pizza, too. It’s cooked very briefly, but somehow I think the sweated onions and garlic, the wine, the basil, and the brief simmer all make for a tastier, fresher sauce.
I should really do a side-by-side test with pizza: one with cooked sauce; one with not-cooked sauce.
What are your thoughts?
Oh my, I just saw your Father’s Day post and it seems we’ve taken the same Goldbelly class. (I actually was given a gift card for Goldbelly for Christmas by my son – one of the pleasures of having adult children are the fun gifts!)
Prior to that class, I had previously decided to use pre-made sauce for my “homemade” pizza (in order to save some time, because pizza in my house was often ordered from a nearby restaurant and it was a quick meal) After many tries, I settled on Muir Glen canned pizza sauce. When Emily talked about not stove top cooking the tomatoes, that was an eye opener for me. Also, when she instructed us to use the dough in the pan straight from the refrigerator that was also eye opening.
After the class, I have continued to use the above mentioned canned sauce – because I had it from a large covid stock up purchase but also because I used it straight out of the can and didn’t reheat it.
I do have Emily’s cookbook. In it, for the red pizza sauce recipe, the aromatics and wine are cooked and simmered and then are taken off the heat and cooled completely before adding the canned crushed tomatoes. I honestly haven’t tried that yet, but I plan to.
I’m excited about your upcoming Detroit Style pizza info. You are a great cook. I’m off now to put more mini peppers in the oven, using 100% your recipe – they are like kryptonite in my house!!!
So funny! I loved that class… it was so nice having the ingredients delivered, and I loved the cocktail and the whole experience altogether. Bravo to your son for such a thoughtful gift.
Emily’s tip about using the dough straight from the fridge was SO helpful. I have been assembling pizzas (sometimes on a Tuesday evening); then baking them later in the week, even as far out as Friday. It’s so nice to have a pizza basically ready to go. I put cheese on the pizza before it goes in the fridge but save the sauce and other toppings until just before baking.
I have Emily’s cookbook, too, and missed that recipe … will definitely try it soon. I think what your notes and Emily’s tips confirm, for me at least, is that I like the addition of some sort of aromatics to canned tomatoes, and that a very brief cooking (or none at all) is all it takes.
Thanks for the kind words! Great to hear about those peppers… I feel like those would be good ON pizza 🙂 🙂 🙂
Mein Tipp, noch ein zwei Datteln mit kochen und pürieren, rundet die Sauce noch etwas ab.
Oh I love this idea! I’m going to translate your note for others: “My tip, boil another two dates with them and puree them, rounds off the sauce a bit.”
Hi Ali, if it is with vodka, why adding wine instead as in the previous version?
Hi Veres! Sorry for the confusion here: If I make the vodka variation, I omit the wine, and use vodka in its place. Does that make sense?
Yum! Another great recipe, thank you Alexandra! Using an immersion blender really steps it up a notch. Now I have yummy sauce in my freezer to use whenever!
So great to hear this, Rachel! I love having a sauce full of freezer 🙂 🙂 🙂
I find tomatoes acidic. Would you object to my putting a pinch of monk fruit (sugar) in the sauce or is it better to replace one or two of the onions with a sweet Visalia onion instead?
No objection! Go for it 🙂 🙂 🙂
Made this delicious sauce for pizza tonight. I keep sneak-tasting. It make a lot of sauce so it’s great for freezing. It would be great to gift to someone in a busy season.
Great to hear, Kinny 🙂 🙂 🙂 And you are so right: I think we often forget about savory gifts like soup and sauces, but what a lovely thing to receive when you are feeling busy and overwhelmed.
Hi Ali, I typically don’t have alcohol in my house. What do you suggest as a substitute for white wine?
Hi Monika, I think you could simply omit it or do 1/2 cup water with a squeeze of lemon or a splash of vinegar.
This sauce is so delicious even without blending. Simple and quick to make too! Thank you for the recipe!
Great to hear! Thanks so much for writing 🙂 🙂 🙂
Simple, delicious, and super easy to play with flavor-wise! No more jarred for us!
Woohoo! So nice to hear, Annie 🙂 🙂 🙂
Is my small town canned Italian tomatoes are so expensive that I have found I can approximate the taste by adding a tablespoon of tomato paste to each can of sauce.