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


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