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.


☆☆☆☆☆ 0 votes

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

How to Make Italian Tomato Starter Sauce


  1. Chef’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.
  2. Gather your ingredients.
  3. Open the can of tomatoes, remove them from the juice, and crush by hand.
  4. Reserve both the juice and the tomatoes in a non-reactive bowl.
  5. Chef’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.
  6. Slice the garlic and dice the onions.
  7. Chef’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.
  8. Shred the carrots on a box shredder.
  9. In a medium-sized saucepan, over medium heat, heat up the extra virgin olive oil.
  10. Add the garlic and onion.
  11. Cook until the ingredients begin to soften and start to color, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  12. Chef’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.
  13. Add the carrots and thyme.
  14. Continue to cook (stirring often) until the carrots are nice and soft, about 4 to 6 minutes.
  15. Chef’s Note: If you don’t have any fresh thyme, you can substitute 1/2 tablespoon of dried.
  16. Add the crushed tomatoes, and the juice.
  17. Stir often, as you bring the mixture to a boil.
  18. Reduce heat, and bring the mixture to a light simmer.
  19. As 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.
  20. Simmer for about 30 minutes, remove from heat and serve with your favorite Italian goodies. Enjoy.
  21. Chef’s Note: This sauce has a shelf life in the refrigerator of about 5 to 7 days, and 6 months if properly frozen.
  22. Chef’s Tip: Never put a hot sauce in the fridge or freezer. Allow it to naturally come down to room temperature before storing.
  23. Keep the faith, and keep cooking.

Printable Recipe Card

About Italian Tomato Starter Sauce

Show 30 Comments & Reviews

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Kitchen Crew @JustaPinch

Easy homemade caramel sauce that is perfect for topping treats and dipping! Click here for the Homemade Caramel Sauce recipe!

22 Fall Butter Recipes

22 Fall Butter Recipes

Kitchen Crew @JustaPinch

From pumpkin to apple to salted caramel to cinnamon, enjoy the fresh taste of all the autumn flavors with these fall butter recipes. Using your Crock Pot, Instant Pot or...

How To Make Homemade Mayonnaise

How to Make Homemade Mayonnaise

Kitchen Crew @JustaPinch

You’ll be surprised to find out mayonnaise is quick and easy to make at home. A handful of ingredients, probably already in the pantry, whip up the most delicious, silky...