Quick Tomato Sauce

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Keep this Quick Tomato Sauce in your back pocket for lazy days and last-minute dinners. The recipe is simple to prepare and tastes great after a short simmer time (just 15 minutes). Spoon it over pasta, meatballs, or your favorite Italian recipes.

A saucepan with quick tomato sauce simmering in it.

There are plenty of reasons to make your tomato sauce at home: You want to consume fewer processed foods, the “healthy” options at the store are too expensive, or you just genuinely enjoy cooking.

This quick tomato sauce recipe came from a mix of all of those reasons, but the main goal was to increase my flexibility in the kitchen. I don’t necessarily buy spaghetti sauce regularly, but I always have canned tomatoes on hand.

I wanted to be able to convert those pantry staples into a sauce for pasta, pizza, or a casserole without having to commit in advance.

This quick tomato sauce is a great recipe to keep in your back pocket for busy nights when you are just “winging it.” But it’s also great to plan for it too, because the flavors are top-notch and you’ll just love it.

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for quick tomato sauce.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Sugar: This is an optional sauce ingredient; I prefer just 1 teaspoon to balance out the acidity in the canned tomatoes. Sweeten to taste or feel free to omit.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add garlic cloves and sauté until browned, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove garlic and discard.
Browning sliced garlic in a skillet with oil.
  1. Stir in crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, sugar (if using), basil, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper).
Tomato sauce cooking in a black skillet.
  1. Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until flavors have blended, about 10 minutes. Keep warm over low-heat until serving time, or cool completely and store covered in the refrigerator.
A saucepan with quick tomato sauce simmering in it.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes 4 cups (1 quart) sauce.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: The sauce can be made, cooled, covered, and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance.
  • Freezer: Cool the finished sauce, then pack into freezer-safe containers (I like to use glass Mason jars; leave a half-inch of head space for expansion), and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Blender: For a smooth sauce, process in batches in a blender (or use an immersion blender). Ideal for dipping appetizers like mozzarella sticks or pizza bites.
  • Creamy: Add heavy cream to taste (start with ¼ cup and see if you want more).
  • Spicy: Stir in red chili flakes to taste with the other spices.
  • Buttery: Add 1 or 2 tablespoons butter to the sauce for a rich, buttery taste.
The best make ahead lasagna in a white baking dish with one piece removed.
For a meatless option, try Quick Tomato Sauce in homemade Lasagna.

Recipe FAQs

Can I use fresh tomatoes in homemade tomato sauce?

This recipe is quick and easy because of the canned tomato products, but you can substitute 16 to 20 Roma tomatoes for the crushed and diced tomatoes. You’ll want to peel the tomatoes and seed the tomatoes for this recipe, and you’ll need to cook the sauce longer.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

This classic Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe is a hearty and comforting family dinner idea. One bite of this Italian-American dinner recipe will transport you to a Midwestern red sauce restaurant.

1 hour
View Recipe

Put your tomato sauce to work

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A saucepan with quick tomato sauce simmering in it.

Quick Tomato Sauce

Keep this Quick Tomato Sauce in your back pocket for lazy days and last-minute dinners. The recipe is simple to prepare and tastes great after a short simmer time (just 15 minutes).
Author: Meggan Hill
5 from 5 votes
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Servings 8 servings (½ cup each)
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Calories 51

Ingredients 

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes undrained
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (see note 1)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions 

  • In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add garlic cloves and sauté until browned, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove garlic and discard.
  • Stir in crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, sugar (if using), basil, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper). Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until flavors have blended, about 10 minutes.
  • Keep warm over low-heat until serving time, or cool completely and store covered in the refrigerator.

Notes

  1. Sugar: This is an optional sauce ingredient; I prefer just 1 teaspoon to balance out the acidity in the canned tomatoes. Sweeten to taste or feel free to omit.
  2. Yield: This recipe makes 4 cups (1 quart) sauce.
  3. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  4. Make ahead: The sauce can be made, cooled, covered, and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance.
  5. Freezer: Cool the finished sauce, then pack into freezer-safe containers (I like to use glass Mason jars; leave a half-inch of head space for expansion), and freeze for up to 3 months.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cupCalories: 51kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 1gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 1mgPotassium: 8mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 3IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 6mgIron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @culinaryhill on Instagram so we can admire your masterpiece! #culinaryhill
Executive Chef and CEO at | Website | + posts

Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.

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Comments

  1. Meggan, I have been on the hunt for the “perfect marinara sauce” for years. Had to be made with ingredients I can get and have on hand. This is absolutely the best, easiest marinara sauce I have ever had. I used the 1 tsp of sugar and added the 2 tbsp of butter at the end. Tomato can sizes are what I can get at Costco. This is better than our best Italian restaurant’s sauce. I am over the moon. I wake up every day to your email of recipes and absolutely could not be more thrilled to have found you. Thank you!5 stars

  2. Recipes all look good & easy, Iā€™m so over cooking since COVID STARTED, frozen dinner s are awful
    So looking for easy!
    Thank you