Italian Tomato Starter Sauce

Andy Anderson !


Whenever I teach a series of classes on Italian cooking, I almost always begin with this recipe. My Aunt Josephine taught it to me when I was just a lad. But it’s no family secret. Almost every Italian chef knows this recipe by heart.

It’s quick, easy, and my go-to recipe when I want authentic Italian tomato sauce. I use it on pasta, calzones, lasagna, and even pizzas. Give it a try and I think that you’ll agree that it’s pure Italian.

So, you ready… Let’s get into the kitchen.

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10 Min
30 Min
Stove Top


1/2 large
yellow onion, diced, about 4 ounces
2 clove
garlic, sliced as thin as you can manage
1 1/2 Tbsp
chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 medium
carrot, shredded, about 2 ounces
1/8 c
olive oil, extra virgin
28 oz can(s)
peeled whole tomatoes
salt, kosher variety, to taste
1 pinch
black pepper, freshly ground


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1Chef’s Note: I call this a starter sauce because it’s one that most good Italian chefs know… However, you could add a lot of different ingredients to this starter. For example: artichokes, how about some crushed red pepper and some ground beef, and get a start on a nice easy puttanesca, black olives… mix it up. But I’ll say this… this sauce totally stands up on its own. It doesn’t need any help.
In addition, if you want a smoother sauce; like a marinara, just put it into a blender and give it a few pulses.

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2Gather your ingredients.

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3Open the can of tomatoes, remove them from the juice, and crush by hand.

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4Reserve both the juice and the tomatoes in a non-reactive bowl.

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5Chef’s Note: Why crush them by hand? Well, it’s how the Italians do it, and it’s fun. Remember the best tools a chef has are his or her own two hands.

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6Slice the garlic and dice the onions.

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7Chef’s Tip: When slicing the garlic, cut it as thin as you possibly can. I cut it so thin that it practically melts when it hits the saucepan.

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8Shred the carrots on a box shredder.

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9In a medium-sized saucepan, over medium heat, heat up the extra virgin olive oil.

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10Add the garlic and onion.

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11Cook until the ingredients begin to soften and start to color, about 10 to 12 minutes.

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12Chef’s Note: This part is very important. The difference between color and burn can be as short as a minute. Keep you eye on the saucepan, and don’t leave your post.

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13Add the carrots and thyme.

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14Continue to cook (stirring often) until the carrots are nice and soft, about 4 to 6 minutes.

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15Chef’s Note: If you don’t have any fresh thyme, you can substitute 1/2 tablespoon of dried.

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16Add the crushed tomatoes, and the juice.

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17Stir often, as you bring the mixture to a boil.

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18Reduce heat, and bring the mixture to a light simmer.

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19As the sauce is simmering, add the pepper, and salt… a little bit at a time, until you achieve the right taste. Season and taste, season and taste… the mark of a good chef.

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20Simmer for about 30 minutes, remove from heat and serve with your favorite Italian goodies. Enjoy.

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21Chef’s Note: This sauce has a shelf life in the refrigerator of about 5 to 7 days, and 6 months if properly frozen.

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22Chef’s Tip: Never put a hot sauce in the fridge or freezer. Allow it to naturally come down to room temperature before storing.

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23Keep the faith, and keep cooking.

About this Recipe

Course/Dish: Other Sauces
Main Ingredient: Vegetable
Regional Style: Italian
Other Tags: Quick & Easy, Healthy, Heirloom