Basic Tomato Sauce


Although there’s still 6 months to go before the first ripe tomatoes come out of the vegetable garden, I’m fortunate to have several containers of frozen chopped tomatoes from last year’s small-but-good-enough tomato harvest. It’s a nice remedy to the flavorless pale pink (and rock solid) tomatoes available in supermarkets this time of year. Basic tomato sauce is a great way to showcase the garden-fresh tomato flavor.

The recipe below provides sauce of exponential versatility. In an attempt to be a “neutral” tomato sauce that can be used in a variety of recipes, this sauce omits the use of any herbs.  It can be used with pasta, on pizza, as an ingredient in chicken parmesan or lasagna, as a topping for baked Mediterranean-style white fish…basically anything your heart desires. 

Many tomato sauce recipes call for peeling the tomato and removing the seeds, but I strongly encourage you to keep the seeds and the gel-like substance that covers them. That’s where much of the sweet-tart flavor of the tomato is. I usually leave the tomato skins on since the process of blanching clutters up the kitchen. However, for a sauce free of tomato skins, see my note at the bottom of the recipe on how to peel a tomato.

Pasta smothered with tomato sauce, summer 2011

Basic Tomato Sauce

Serving Size: for four servings


  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and cut into cubes (keep the juices too)*
  • ½ cup white wine (optional – can be substituted with chicken stock, vegetable stock, or plain water)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil
  • salt & black pepper to taste


  1. Start with the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. When moderately hot, add the garlic and fry for 10-20 seconds, until the garlic just barely starts to turn brown on the edges.
  2. Deglaze. Add the wine - it will bubble furiously and that's okay. While it boils down use a wooden spoon and scrape up any brown bits to mix it into the liquid. All of this should take no more than 15-20 seconds.
  3. Add the tomatoes and season with salt & pepper. Stir, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook until the tomatoes have reduced down to a sauce, about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Variations:
  5. For more “kick”, add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes to the garlic when cooking
  6. Add 1-2 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil when adding the tomatoes for a more italian-style sauce, or add 2 tablespoons of other fresh herbs such as thyme, sage, and oregano
  7. *The peeling step is optional but recommended. To peel tomatoes, cut an X in the bottom of each tomato with “legs” that extend 1-inch in each direction. Using a slotted spoon, submerge in boiling water for 30 seconds, then drain. When cool enough to handle, gently peel away the skin, starting where the points of the X converge (the skin should have begun to peel back in this spot during the blanching process).


Posted in Sauces, Vegetables & Salads

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