Italian Tomato Sauce

This is one of those recipes that acts as a foundation for all kinds of great dishes. Lasagna, baked ziti, spaghetti, spaghetti pie. It’s even delicious as a breadstick dipping sauce.

About once a month, you’ll find a giant pot of this Italian Tomato Sauce bubbling away on my stove, making the house smell scrumptious.

Italian Tomato Sauce recipe

Usually when I make a big ol’ pot of it, I spoon some over spaghetti for an easy dinner that evening. Then I scoop the rest into labeled freezer bags and freeze and use later on.

It’s a terrific red sauce – I’ve found none better. It’s perfectly balanced – not too acidic, not too sweet – with loads of flavor thanks in part to lots of Italian seasoning, green peppers, garlic, and parsley. And when you make it with fire-roasted tomatoes … yes.

Italian Tomato Sauce recipe

Sometimes, after it’s all done, I’ll add some to a pot of browned hamburger and spicy sausage, where I let it simmer away for another 20 minutes or so, and voila – this Italian Tomato Sauce for the vegetarian can convert to Italian Meat Sauce for the meat-eater.

Italian Tomato Sauce recipe

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Italian Tomato Sauce

A perfectly balanced, intensely flavorful red sauce that I use as the foundation for all kinds of recipes like lasagna, baked ziti, spaghetti, spaghetti pie, and more.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced small (about 3 cups)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced small (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole fire-roasted tomatoes (diced fire-roasted tomatoes will work too)
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon honey or granulated sugar*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley


  1. Add the olive oil to a large pan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, bell pepper, and Italian seasoning. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent and the pepper is tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for one more minute.
  2. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, honey or sugar, salt, and pepper. If you’re using whole tomatoes, break up the tomatoes with a spoon. To save time, I like to give the tomatoes a quick spin in the blender to break them down a bit, then add them to the pot.
  3. Continuing to cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat, until it comes to a boil. Turn the heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the parsley, then remove from the heat.
  5. Serve over pasta, in lasagna, or use it as a dipping sauce. I like to make double (or triple!) batches and freeze it in freezer bags.

Vegan Option

Use a vegan granulated sugar.

Adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook

// All images and text © for Kitchen Treaty.
Originally published on March 22, 2012. Updated and republished November 30, 2016.

Karen Raye

Kare is a vegetarian home cook living among carnivores. She loves creating irresistible and flexible recipes that help multi-vore families like hers keep the peace - deliciously.