pot of tomato sauce with a wooden spoon in it, garlic and basil in the background



This recipe for Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes is a labour of love (in the best way possible) and great for making in large batches. It’s an easy enough process to follow and the result is delicious tasting tomato sauce to use for a variety of tasty dishes!

As you probably already know by now, I’m Italian (and proud of it). So, it pretty much goes without saying that tomato sauce, especially homemade tomato sauce, is basically in my blood. I not only grew up eating it on everything from pizza to pasta (also in my blood, btw) but I grew up helping my family make it. That’s right. Making tomato sauce from scratch using fresh tomatoes, the true Italian way, is a tradition passed down from generations and something we take pride in doing every year.

Normally, making fresh tomato sauce is a whole day’s work and requires everybody in the entire family to help. From grandparents to cousins and aunts and uncles, everyone gets assigned a task that is as equally important as the next guy’s. There is a lot to do! And because we’re normally making enough jars to feed all of Italy, we need all the help we can get. Luckily for us, it’s a super fun process and the memories made doing it will seriously last a lifetime.

pot of tomato sauce next to full jars of the sauce, herbs and spices

The truth is, since moving out of my parents place many moons ago and especially since after my grandparents passed away, the tradition has become more spread out. Instead of making fresh tomato sauce every year, we only make it once every couple of years. And now, that I’m living in BC with the rest of my family still in Ontario, I’m sad to report that the tomato sauce making tradition is more spread out than ever. So, staying true to my Italian roots, the last thing I was going to do is let one of my all time favourite traditions die. So, here we are, with my very own recipe for sauce with fresh tomatoes. Let’s just say Nonna and Nonno would be very proud.

The good news is that you don’t have to have a large Italian family or any special equipment at all, really, to make this recipe for sauce with fresh tomatoes. As with any good tomato sauce, it still takes a bit of time and patience. But trust me, when you have an abundance of fresh tomato sauce to use for anything and everything your little heart desires, there’s no doubt that this tradition is one worth carrying on.

tomato sauce being poured into a jar with fresh basil


ingredients for recipe for sauce with fresh tomatoes - tomatoes, basil, salt, olive oil, chili flakes and pepper, black pepper, garlic, bay leaves
Complete list of ingredients and amounts can be found in the recipe card below.

The way we make fresh tomato sauce in my family has two stages or parts. The first being the puréeing or breaking down of the tomatoes. And the second stage being the cooking and spicing up of the puréed tomatoes. The second stage actually doesn’t come until after the fact just before you’re ready to use the sauce. Let’s discuss the ingredients you’ll need in both stages of this recipe in a little bit more detail down below:

Stage One

  • Tomatoes: Well, duh! You can’t make this fresh tomato sauce without a bunch of fresh, ripe and juicy tomatoes! That is the key here – that the tomatoes are fresh, ripe and juicy! We use good quality tomatoes and have only ever used Roma or San Marzanos in the past. San Marzano tomatoes have fewer seeds, more flesh, are less acidic and a bit more sweet and pulpy. Roma tomatoes have less water content, are meatier and taste a bit more tangy and rich. When making tomato sauce in extra large batches (family style), it’s better to buy the tomatoes by the bushel. Most Italian markets sell them this way when it’s “tomato season”. When doing smaller, stovetop batches, buying the tomatoes by the pound or case should save you a few bucks in the long run.
  • Fresh Basil: Fresh and only fresh (not dried) basil will do here. It adds a delicious herby freshness and taste to the sauce. It’s added directly to the jars with the puréed tomatoes and basically infuses it with flavour as it sits. You can also add more fresh basil to the tomato sauce in the second stage of the process. Although I highly recommend using basil, if you don’t have any on hand, try using fresh parsley or oregano instead.

Stage Two (Optional Add-Ins)

Now, this is the part where you can get creative! You can add different ingredients to your tomato base depending on what you’re using the sauce for or the flavour profile you’re going for. You can add a combination of any, all or none of these extras. But here are some of the ingredients my family likes to add to ours. We change it up from time to time depending on the dish we’re using the sauce for. Keep in mind that the ingredients in stage one are jarred together. And the ingredients in stage two are added when the sauce is ready to be used/cooked.

  • Garlic: Almost a no brainer, garlic makes this tomato sauce fresh and flavourful with the perfect garlicky bite. You can add minced garlic if you want to keep it in the sauce. Or whole crushed garlic cloves if you just want it for the extra flavour. You can choose to sautée the garlic in some olive oil before adding the tomatoes. Or you can add it directly to the pot with the tomatoes and other ingredients without cooking it at all.
  • Veggies: Chopped veggies such as onions, carrots and mushrooms are an easy way to add a boost of flavour to fresh tomato sauce. Plus, it’s a double win for sneaking in some extra veggies.
  • Some heat: Depending on the dish I’m making, I love adding a bit of heat or a spicy kick to my homemade tomato sauce. I easily do so in the form of chili flakes or by adding a whole jalapeño or other type of hot pepper to simmer in the sauce and be removed later on.
  • Herbs/Spices: Salt and pepper are a must in this recipe for sauce with fresh tomatoes. In addition, you can add more flavour by adding other dried or fresh herbs and spices. Oregano, basil, Italian seasoning, parsley or bay leaves all make great options.
  • Olive Oil: A little goes a long way in this fresh tomato sauce recipe. I love the extra layer of flavour a splash of olive oil adds to a good tomato sauce. I either begin my sauce with it (by sautéeing the onions, garlic and/or veggies) or stir a splash of it in at the end. As always, good quality and extra virgin works best in this recipe.
  • Sugar: Cuts the acidity from the tomatoes and adds a bit of balance to the sauce.
hands holding a pot of tomato sauce with a wooden spoon, garlic and fresh herbs in the background


hands holding a jar of tomato sauce with basil, more herbs and jars in the background

You can find full instructions for how to make this fresh tomato sauce recipe in the recipe card down below. But here are a few quick tips to keep in mind:

  • Use good quality, fresh and ripe tomatoes for the best tasting tomato sauce. We stand true and firm with our tomato choices and have never wavered away from using either Roma tomatoes or San Marzano tomatoes to make fresh tomato sauce. The quality, freshness and ripeness of the tomatoes all play factors in how good your sauce will turn out. Because of how much work goes into making even just a few small jars of tomato sauce, starting with the best tomatoes you can find will ensure the whole process is worth it. Trust me.
  • Use a sharp knife to make an X on the top of the tomato. The X will cause the skin to break apart and open as the tomatoes boil ultimately making them easier to peel. RECIPE NOTE ON CORING THE TOMATOES BEFORE BLANCHING: You could core the tomatoes before dropping them into the hot water if you wish. However, this part is usually not necessary as peeling the tomato normally takes away any part of the stem.
  • Use an ice water bath to shock the tomatoes making them easier to peel. Moving the tomatoes from hot to cold will make the skin easier separate from the flesh. After the tomatoes are blanched in the hot water and then come out of the ice bath, the skin should come right off and you should have absolutely no problems peeling them. EXTRA TIP: If you are doing a lot of tomatoes at the same time, you will have to freshen the ice water every so often as the heat from the tomatoes will cool it down rather quickly.
  • You control the consistency of the sauce. For a smoother sauce, process until smooth. Alternatively, use a food mill. For a chunkier sauce, only pulse a few times. Alternatively, break the tomatoes up with your hands instead of a food processor. Remember, the sauce will thicken as it cooks in the next stage of the process as well. RECIPE NOTE ON SEEDS: There really isn’t many seeds in this recipe for sauce with fresh tomatoes and the ones that are left behind don’t bother me at all. Therefore, IMHO, there is no need to remove the seeds at any point especially since the food processor will break most of them down anyway. However, if that’s something you want to do, you do you, boo!
  • Don’t cook or add any flavour to the sauce until you’re ready to use it (other than a few leaves of fresh basil). In my family, we jar the fresh tomato sauce after the first blanching, peeling and puréeing stage of the process. All of the flavour and spices get added and cooked into the sauce after the fact and only when you’re ready to use it. This allows you to have total control over the flavours of the sauce each time.
  • Use fresh basil in the first (canning) part of the process. It’s okay to use dried basil/herbs in the second (cooking) stage. But in the first stage of the process, fresh basil will infuse the base of the sauce with a profound and delicious flavour you simply won’t get from dried.
  • Use 2 piece lids with the flat metal part and the screw on ring band, especially if you’re planning on canning this recipe for sauce with fresh tomatoes (instructions for how to do so are in the recipe card down below). EXTRA TIP: Use care when boiling the jars and careful not to over boil. After the water comes to an initial boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes. EXTRA EXTRA TIP: Allow the jars to cool completely before handling or removing from the water (they will be HOT, HOT, HOT!)
  • Store your canned fresh tomato sauce in a cool, dry place for best and longest lasting results. SIDE NOTE: Have you ever walked into an Italian’s Cantina aka cold cellar any time of year? You’re likely to find rows and rows of homemade jarred tomato sauce and trust me, it’s a thing of beauty.
  • When ready to use your sauce, simmering it on low heat for a while (after you add all your other desired ingredients) will give you the best tasting sauce. Nonna and Nonno would let that beauty simmer ALL.DAY.LONG. However, if you’re short on time or only cooking a small jar at once, 30 minutes to an hour should be enough to thicken it and develop delicious layers of flavour.
4 jars of homemade tomato sauce next to herbs and spices



Yes, peeling tomatoes for sauce will give you the best results. Drop the whole tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for a minute or two. This helps loosen the skins making them easier to peel. However, peeling is unnecessary if you own a fool mill as passing the tomatoes through there will remove the skins.


Boiling the tomatoes before making sauce will make them super easy to peel. When you blanch the tomatoes for a minute or two in boiling water and then immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water, the change in temperature will shock them making the skin easier release from the flesh. The skin should literally peel right off after this process! Therefore, boiling tomatoes before making sauce is fast, efficient and desirable.


Canning this recipe for sauce with fresh tomatoes substantially improves it’s shelf life. See instructions for how to do so in the recipe card down below. If stored in a cool and dry place such as a cold cellar, this canned fresh tomato sauce will last for at least a year. Hence why Italians make their sauce once a year! It’s important to use the proper 2 piece lids. Ensure that they are still tightly sealed before cooking or using your sauce.

Don’t want to can your fresh tomato sauce? Don’t worry! This fresh tomato sauce also freezes well. Simply allow it to cool completely before transferring it to freezer safe containers or bags. It’ll be good for up to 4 months.

pot of tomato sauce next to herbs and spices
pot of tomato sauce with a wooden spoon in it, garlic and basil in the background


Yield: ~6 Small Jars
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

This recipe for Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes is a labour of love (in the best way possible) and great for making in large batches. It's an easy enough process to follow and the result is delicious tasting tomato sauce to use for a variety of tasty dishes!


Stage One

  • 10 pounds Fresh, Ripe and Juicy Roma or San Marzano Tomatoes
  • 1 bunch Fresh Basil

Stage Two (Optional Add Ins)

  • Minced or Crushed Garlic
  • Pinch of Chili Flakes, Whole Jalapeño or other Hot Pepper
  • Chopped Veggies such as Onions, Mushrooms or Carrots
  • Fresh Herbs/Dried Spices such as Oregano, Basil, Parsley, Italian Seasoning, Bay Leaves
  • Splash of Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Sugar


  1. To make the base layer of the fresh tomato sauce: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and set a large bowl of ice water next to it. Using a sharp knife, make an X on top of each tomato (you can core them first, if you wish, however not totally necessary as peeling the skin afterwards should take this part right off). Working in batches, drop a few tomatoes in the water at a time and blanch for 1-2 minutes or until you notice the skin starting to wrinkle and peel back from the flesh. Using a slotted spoon, immediately transfer the tomatoes from the hot water to the ice bath.
    hand holding a whole tomato with an x on the top
    6 whole tomatoes in a pot with water
    slotted spoon holding up a whole tomato with broken skin
    4 tomatoes in a bowl with water and ice
  2. Using your hands, easily peel off the skin from each tomato (you can use a knife to core out the hard tops/centers if they don't come out on their own). No need to worry about the seeds.
    hands peeling the skin off of a whole tomato
    whole, peeled and cored tomatoes in a bowl
  3. Place the whole tomatoes into the body of a food processor (working in batches, if you have to). For a smooth sauce, process until completely smooth. For a chunkier sauce, pulse a couple times. Alternatively, you can use a food mill or your hands to break down the tomatoes, depending on how chunky you like your sauce.
    whole, peeled and cored tomatoes in the body of a food processor
    tomato purée in the base of a food processor
  4. Add 5-6 fresh basil leaves to the bottom of the mason jars you plan to use for canning. Evenly distribute the tomato purée amongst the jars. Seal tightly with 2 piece lids (flat metal part and screw ring) which is important for the next step.
    basil in a jar
    tomato sauce in a jar
    hand holding a jar of tomato sauce
  5. Place the tightly sealed jars into a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes. This will seal the jars and substantially prolong their shelf life. The tomato sauce is ready to be stored in a cool, dry place until you're ready to use/cook it.
    jars of tomato sauce in a pot with water
    jars of tomato sauce with basil
  6. When ready to use/cook the sauce: Dump out the desired amount of sauce into a sauce pan and add any desired additional ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for at least 30-60 minutes (longer for larger batches) in which time the sauce should thicken up nicely. Sometimes, I like to cook the veggies, onions and garlic in good quality olive oil first for extra flavour before adding the jar of tomato sauce.
    pot of tomato sauce with spices
    pot of tomato sauce with basil


This fresh homemade tomato sauce is done in two separate stages - blanching, puréeing and canning (storing). Then cooking and flavouring when ready to use/eat.

You can use this fresh tomato sauce for anything from pasta and lasagna, to veal cutlets and pizza.

If stored in a cool, dry place and canned correctly, this homemade tomato sauce will last for at least a year. Always check to make sure that the jar is still tightly sealed before cooking or using. Alternatively, you can freeze it for up to 4 months.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 67Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 68mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 3gSugar: 5gProtein: 2g

Nutrition is only an estimate and calculated using Nutritionix.

Did you make this recipe? I love seeing your creations!

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