Tomato-based Pasta Sauce

If you’re going to have a nice homemade pasta dinner like spaghetti or penne, opening a jar of sauce just doesn’t cut it. And I got tired of the old canned tomato sauce + tomato paste + seasonings as well, so I kept my eye out for something different. I ended up recording an old episode of Good Eats, and used that for the inspiration for my super awesome (if I do say so myself) tomato sauce.


2 28-ounce cans of whole tomatoes
1 tbsp minced garlic (or you can crush and mince 3-4 fresh cloves)
plenty of Italian seasonings (I use about a tablespoon each of oregano and basil, and rosemary if it’s not dried and twig-like)
1 tbsp sugar

The Process:

Drain the juice out of the tomato cans into a saucepan and start it on medium heat. Stir in the seasonings (except garlic). Let it come to a very soft boil, just bubbling a little, stirring every couple minutes, while you do the other stuff.

Cut the stems out of the tomatoes and de-seed them, catching the juice that comes out (work over a bowl). Strain this juice into the juice that’s already cooking; add the sugar to the saucepan.

Spread the stemless seedless tomatoes into a 9×13 baking dish; add the garlic; broil under broiler set on low for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Don’t let the tomatoes get charred.

By the time the tomatoes are done broiling, maybe before, the juice in the saucepan will have reduced and thickened some. Coarsely chop the broiled tomatoes and add to the sauce. If it hasn’t thickened and reduced to about half its original value, cook a few minutes more till it does.

That’s it. grind some fresh black pepper into it and it’s ready to spoon over your pasta.


  • Spicy: add a couple teaspoons of red pepper flakes.
  • Smooth: this is pretty chunky (depending on how much you chop up the broiled tomatoes). For a sauce that’s smoother, you can blend it somewhat. I suppose you can put it in a blender and pulse it a few times, or Alton Brown mentions going after it with a stick blender. I haven’t tried either, so you’re on your own there.

Tips & Gotchas:

De-seed the tomatoes as much as is reasonable. It can take a long time if you’re too diligent. You don’t have to get them all, but try to get most of them out — Alton Brown says the seeds make the sauce bitter, but I can’t confirm this.
Make sure you don’t char the tomatoes. Charred tomatoes are great for salsa, but not for pasta sauce.
No salt. It’s a common thought that people, especially Americans, over-salt everything. This sauce doesn’t need it, especially if you used generously-salted water to cook your pasta like you should.

4 Replies to “Tomato-based Pasta Sauce”

  1. My Grandma made the same recipe and I think it was a cook to taste dish she proeud it over bread and we thought it was the greatest thing. I found several recipes by Googling and this one seems to be the closest:Ingredients:2 tblsp. flour2 tblsp. oil or bacon grease1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce (Grandma used stewed tomatoes but mashed them up you could probably use the blender)3 tblsp. flour dissolved in a half cup of very hot water1/2 cup milksalt and pepper Directions:Pre-measure all ingredients and have at hand next to stove top. Heat the oil or bacon grease in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Thoroughly stir in the 2 tblsp. flour until all the bits of flour have been mixed into the oil. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the flour and oil form a thick fluffy paste, and stir constantly for about ten minutes (longer if you have more patience than I do 20 minutes makes a great roux). Be very careful not to burn it. If it smells scorched, start over! Very slowly pour the tomato sauce into the skillet, while still stirring. Simmer for a few minutes until this mixture begins to thicken and boil (keep it at a slow boil). Once it begins to boil, very slowly pour in the hot water/flour mixture, stirring constantly. Again let the mixture begin to thicken and boil. When it starts to boil, pour in the milk or buttermilk, stir thoroughly, season with salt and pepper, and let simmer for about five minutes, stirring almost constantly. If at any point the gravy gets too thick, thin out by adding a little hot water. Or, if you want it thicker, add a little more hot water/flour mixture.

    1. No, your Grandma didn’t make this same recipe. You are a liar. I made this recipe. Proeuing something like this over bread is just disgusting. Two strikes against your Grandma, sorry.

  2. Tomato PuddingINGREDIENTS:2 cans (28 ounces each) crusehd tomatoes with juice1 cup brown sugar, packed1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste2 teaspoons dry mustard1 teaspoon saltpinch baking soda3 cups toasted white bread cubes1/2 cup butter, meltedfresh parsley sprigs, optionalPREPARATION:Grease a 3-quart baking dish. In a bowl, combine tomatoes, sugar, paste, mustard, soda, and salt. Place bread cubes in the baking dish; drizzle with melted butter. Pour tomato mixture over bread. Refrigerate up to 4 hours, if desired.Bake at 375b0 for 35 to 40 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Garnish with fresh parsley sprigs, if desired.Serves 8 to 10.

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