San Marzano Tomato Sauce Recipe — ButterYum — a tasty little food blog (2024)

Patricia @ ButterYum

I thought I'd show everyone how I make my family's favorite pasta sauce. I use this sauce for everything - my pizzeria style pizza, no-carb pizza crust, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, stuffed shells, eggplant parmesan, spaghetti and meatball pie,mozzarella sticks, chicken parmesan bites, toasted ravioli, meat sauce.... I even use it as a base for my chili.

I start with a huge can of San Marzano Tomatoes. They are, without question, the very best. Some good brand names to look for are Cento,Muir Glen, Sclafani, Tuttorosso, Pomi, or any San Marzanos that list "DOP" on the label (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta).

I also chopone large Spanish onion, and mince5-6 big cloves of garlic.

I like to buy whole tomatoes and process them myself. Today I'm pureeing mytomatoes becauseI'm feeding a picky eater who doesn't like chunky tomatoes, but you make them as chunky or pureed as you like. A blender or food mill can also be used.

If the kids are around, they like to help me crank the tomatoes through a food mill. It's kind of fun.

After the tomatoes are processed, blended, or milled,you end up with pureed tomatoes that look like this. Set them aside for now.

Okay, in a large, heavy-bottomed sauce pan over med-high heat,saute the onions in olive oil until they are nice and caramelized.

Add1/2 teaspoon each of kosher salt and pepper. You have to season every step of the way.

Yum. Cook your onions until they're caramelized like this. They're going to addan incredible depth of flavor to the sauce.

Now it's time to add the minced garlic. Don't add it earlier that now or it will burn and taste bitter. Saute the garlic with the onions for just about 30-60 seconds, stirringwell so the garlic doesn'tburn. As soon as that wonderfulgarlicy aroma fills the kitchen...

Add a whole can of tomato paste and stirconstantly for 3-5 minutes until the tomato paste darkens and starts to caramelize (again, adding even more depth of flavor).

Here's a tip - keep a cup of water (or a splash of red wine) near the stove top. The minute you notice any spots getting too brown - like you see here at 10 O'clock...

Add a splash or two.It will bubble up and dissolve the spot and keep your food from burning. The technical term for this is called "deglazing".

See - the liquid evaporated and thedark spot is all gone (actually, it's been incorporated into the sauce), but nothing has burned!

Okay, time to add the reserved tomato puree and most ofthe remaining ingredients (everything except the fresh basil). Simmer for about an hour. Just before serving, remove the bay leaves and addthe fresh basil.

I hope you'll give this sauce a try. Let me know how you like it. Enjoy!

Items used to make this recipe:

(affiliate links)

makes about 12 cups (enough to feed a big Italian family with plenty of leftovers!)

Printable Recipe


  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 jumbo onion, diced

  • 5-6 garlic cloves (pressed, crushed, or minced)

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 6 ounce can tomato paste

  • 6 pound can San Marzano whole tomatoes (pureed until smooth in food processor, blender, or food mill)

  • 3 tablespoons dried parsley

  • 4 dried bay leaves

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon dried basil

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (kids might find this amount a tad spicy - adults usually love it - I double it)

  • *Fresh basil, chopped or torn (as much as you like, but don't add until serving)


  1. Over med-high heat, saute onions, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper in olive oil until caramelized (I save the leftover oil from jarred sun-dried tomatoes to use for things like this).

  2. Add garlic and stir constantly for 30-60 seconds, or until very fragrant.

  3. Add tomato paste and caramelize for 3-5 minutes; stirring constantly.

  4. Add pureed tomatoes, bay leaves, dried oregano, dried basil (don't add the fresh basil yet), red pepper flakes, 1 tsp kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper; stir to combine.

  5. Simmer on low for about an hour.

  6. Remove bay leaves.

  7. Add fresh basil just before serving.


  • You can simmer this sauce longer if you like, but you don't need to.

  • For meat sauce, I like to add Italian sausages or ground beef that has been browned with lots of onion and garlic.

  • If you happen to have a rind of Parmesan cheese leftover, throw that in too (it won't really melt into the sauce, but it will add a lot of great flavor).

  • For a smaller batch, use a 28oz can of tomatoes and scale the recipe down to 1/3.

To Make Meat Sauce:

The general rule of thumb is 1 pound of cooked meat to 1 quart of sauce, but you can certainly add as much or as little as you like.

Here's what I do... I like to dice a medium yellow onion, then cook it in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil (with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes), stirring frequently until the onions develop some nice caramelization. Then I add a clove or two of minced garlic, 1 pound of ground beef, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Chop and stir until the meat is crumbled and cooked through. Drain excess grease if needed, then add a quart of sauce and heat through. Some of my family members are not fans of Italian sausage, so I usually only added beef, but if you choose to use sausage, hold off on adding the salt and pepper until you cook and taste the sausage to see if it needs additional seasoning (it's usually pretty flavorful on its own).

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categories vegetable recipes, pasta recipes

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San Marzano Tomato Sauce Recipe — ButterYum — a tasty little food blog (2024)


What is the best use of San Marzano tomatoes? ›

Beyond sauce, the sweetness of a whole plum San Marzanos combined with fresh mozzarella will lend itself perfectly for a traditional Margherita Pizza. Baked pasta, soups, and seafood this tomato is a fine addition and will give your dishes that extra authenticity you've been searching for.

What brands of San Marzano tomatoes are real? ›

Authentic San Marzano tomatoes can be identified by the D.O.P. symbol (Protected Designation of Origin, shown below, bottom right) Certified product will be labeled as San Marzano dell'Agro Sarnese – Nocerino and will have the proper certified designations on the can (shown below, bottom left).

What's so special about San Marzano tomatoes? ›

That's why you might see American-grown tomatoes labeled as San Marzano-style—they're growing the right plants, but doing so outside of the designated region. What makes these tomatoes so special? Their meaty flesh and minimal seeds are key for cooking tomato sauces, where water is evaporated out as the sauce simmers.

How do you deepen the flavor of spaghetti sauce? ›

Tossing in strips of basil, a sprig of thyme or some oregano can take your sauce to the next level. Although fresh herbs might pop a bit more, dried herbs and spices can work just as well. Sprinkling in some red pepper flakes, a pinch of parsley and a dash of salt and pepper can liven up your jarred pasta sauce.

Why do Italians put sugar in spaghetti sauce? ›

Up until the early 1900s, the U.S. had a limited tomato supply, and it didn't stack up to Italian standards. It is widely held that Italian immigrants began adding sugar to their sauce to make up for the overly acidic tomatoes they were forced to work with in their new home.

Does Rao's use San Marzano tomatoes? ›

Rao's sauce really is made in Italy, with tomatoes grown in the San Marzano region. Other jarred sauces contain powdered spices while Rao's uses the fresh stuff.

Which is better Roma or San Marzano tomatoes? ›

While both Roma and San Marzano tomatoes are low-moisture plum tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes only have two seed chambers and tend to be longer and pointier than Roma tomatoes (via Specialty Produce). They have a mild acidity, as opposed to Roma's high acidic profile, making them sweeter and jammier.

Why are San Marzano tomatoes so expensive? ›

Why Are San Marzano Tomatoes So Expensive? Because true San Marzanos are so prized, they have to be imported from Italy, and the sunny, volcanic region in which they're grown is relatively small, there is more demand for them than other types of canned tomatoes. So the price tags match.

Are Cento actually San Marzano? ›

Here at Cento, we put our San Marzano Tomatoes through a rigorous set of certification stages to ensure premium quality and authenticity. Year after year we continue to raise the bar for this coveted tomato variety.

Does Costco sell San Marzano tomatoes? ›

Cento San Marzano Tomatoes, 28 oz, 3 ct | Costco.

How can you tell if San Marzano is real? ›

How can you determine which are real? San Marzano Tomatoes are only sold whole or in filletes, so labels with "puree," "chopped," "diced," "sauce," or "organic" are fraudulent. The can must state, "S. Marzano dell'Agro Sarnese Nocerino D.O.P."

What is the difference between San Marzano and San Marzano 2? ›

They have a similar flavor to the classic 'San Marzano', but the plants are more productive. The 'San Marzano 2' variant is also a choice variety that's more disease resistant than the original, exhibiting resistance to both fusarium and verticillium wilt.

Are San Marzano tomatoes worth the price? ›

Bottom line: Yes, they are high-quality and ultra-delicious, but it's only worth the money if you're making something where quality tomatoes are the center of attention.

Can you eat San Marzano tomatoes raw? ›

San Marzano tomatoes boast a unique flavor – sweet but tart – which make them suitable both to be eaten raw, or cooked into sauce. The first person to pair pasta with sauce was Ippolito Cavalcanti, the duke of Buonvicino.

What gives spaghetti sauce the best flavor? ›

What is in your spaghetti sauce that makes it taste so deliciously authentic? Tomatoes (canned or fresh), garlic, onions, olive oil, herbs (such as basil and oregano), and sometimes red wine. The flavors develop through slow cooking, which allows the ingredients to meld together and create a rich and savory taste.

What is the secret to good tomato sauce? ›

Starting with good quality tomatoes and crushing them by hand offers great flavor and texture later on. The combination of butter and oil releases fat-soluble aromatics and gives the sauce a creamy texture. Slowly cooking the sauce in the oven creates rich caramelization without burning.

What is the secret to the best spaghetti? ›

IF YOU COOK spaghetti in a big pot of water, drain it, then toss it with sauce, you are pouring a lot of flavor down the drain, says Vendemmia chef Brian Clevenger. “The trick to good pasta is cooking it in the sauce,” he says. It was while working at Delfina in San Francisco that he really started to understand why.

What is the secret ingredient in tomato sauce? ›

Anchovy paste is considered a hidden ingredient in spaghetti sauce because most people have no idea it is in there. You do not need much, but even a small amount creates a rich, salty base. You'll find countless tomato sauce recipes that call for anchovy paste online, so the secret is out.

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