Basic Italian Tomato Sauce

Everyone should know how to make a basic Italian tomato sauce! This tomato sauce is extremely versatile and easy to make.

Basic Italian Tomato Sauce is an essential sauce

A good basic Italian tomato sauce can be used as is or as a base for cooking other dishes. You can toss this sauce onto a bowl of pasta, put it on a pizza or use it as a dipping sauce for fried eggplant or calamari. If you’re going to cook it for a while with meatballs and sausage, it doesn’t need to be pre-cooked.

Basic tomato sauce is used as a base for many different recipes. Depending on what you make, the sauce will take on a different flavor in the cooking process. One of the most common uses of basic Italian tomato sauce is when making meatballs and sausage. Properly cooking this dish is time consuming, because you have to stir it regularly to keep it from burning.

Joe, the sauce stirrer

Joe was the oldest kid in his family. When he was young, it was his job to stir the sauce. On Sunday mornings, his family went to the early mass at St. Hedwig’s in Milwaukee while he stayed at home and stirred the sauce. When his family got home from church, he handed the wooden spoon over to his mom and went to the noon mass. On the way, home he picked up the bread from Peter Sciortino’s Italian bakery on Brady Street. All the food was on the table and his family was sitting around it ready to eat the second Joe walked in the door.

Over the years, we figured out a better way to keep the sauce from burning. We bake the sauce and meat in a large covered roasting pan for 3 hours at 350 degrees. The sausage becomes fork tender, in addition Joe’s Big Italian Meatballs cook thru without become too dry. So, you end up with a delicious sauce to go with your entrée and there are usually enough left overs to make something else with it the next day.

Basic Italian Tomato Sauce

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Joe Sanfelippo Course: DinnerCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy


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This tomato sauce is extremely versatile and easy to make. You can toss it on a bowl of pasta or put it on a pizza. If you’re going to cook it for a while with meatballs and sausage, it doesn’t need to be pre-cooked.


  • 3 26 – 28 oz 3 boxes or cans of good quality crushed tomatoes like Pomi or Contadina 

  • 1 tbsp 1 garlic salt

  • 1 tbsp 1 Sicilian oregano

  • 1/2 tsp 1/2 red pepper flakes 

  • 8 8 fresh basil leaves

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, grated 

  • 1/2 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

  • 2 tbsp 2 extra virgin olive oil


  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot on medium high heat. Add the chopped onion to the pot, and sprinkle with the red pepper flakes and half of the garlic salt. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Now add the crushed tomatoes and season with the rest of the garlic salt and the oregano. Bring to a simmer.
  • Add in the grated cheese. Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to lightly simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the stove and stir in the fresh basil leaves.


  • This recipe makes enough sauce for 2 lbs of pasta.

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