Homemade Red Pasta Sauce

This is an Italian-American red pasta sauce recipe that’s perfect for spaghetti, chicken parmesan, eggplant parmesan, and lasagna. You can make this homemade sauce with canned or fresh tomatoes.

Homemade Red Pasta Sauce (easy spaghetti sauce)

Our family eats a lot of pasta. We love red spaghetti sauce and especially love this homemade version.

This red pasta sauce freezes exceptionally well. It’s easy and tastes as good (if not better) as your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce (my favorite is Rao’s, and this homemade version is just as good).

How to Make Pasta Sauce

This pasta sauce recipe couldn’t be easier! You can store it in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze it for up to 3 months.

Sauté onions, garlic, and tomato paste in olive oil. Add your tomatoes (canned or fresh) and simmer until the sauce thickens.

Whole peeled tomatoes in a pot for pasta sauce
Stirring fresh basil into homemade red pasta sauce

Season with salt, pepper, and Italian herbs. Then, use it in your favorite pasta recipes!

You can make this easy sauce with canned or fresh tomatoes. I usually use canned tomatoes, but I have included tips for fresh tomatoes below.

Best Canned Tomatoes for this Sauce

You’ll see many canned tomato options at the store. We always choose whole, peeled tomatoes. They break down perfectly for a rich, flavorful sauce. I use them when making homemade tomato soup, too.

Diced tomatoes stay too firm, crushed can be inconsistent, and I’m not fond of canned tomato sauce.

San Marzanos are excellent, but any good-quality whole peeled tomatoes will work.

Using Fresh Tomatoes to Make Pasta Sauce

The most important thing when choosing fresh tomatoes for this sauce is how they taste! If your tomato tastes good raw, it will make a delicious sauce. While specific varieties are ideal for sauces, any tasty tomato will work.

You can peel your tomatoes for a smoother sauce, but it’s optional. If you’re short on time, leave the skins on – you’ll notice some bits in the finished sauce, but the flavor will be just as good.

To peel tomatoes for pasta sauce: Boil a pot of water and prepare an ice bath. Cut a shallow “X” on the bottom of each tomato. Then, boil for 30 to 45 seconds and transfer to an ice bath. You can use a knife or your hands to remove the tomato skins as they cool.

A saucepan of homemade red pasta sauce

How to Thicken Pasta Sauce

If your pasta sauce is too thin, you can make it thicker by placing it over medium-low heat and simmering for 10 to 15 minutes. As the sauce simmers, it will thicken nicely.

What’s the Difference Between Marinara and Red Pasta Sauce?

Marinara and red pasta sauce are both tomato-based and delicious, but they are different:

  • Marinara: Lighter, brighter, cooks quickly. Think garlic, herbs, and fresh tomato flavor.
  • Red Pasta Sauce: Richer, more complex, similar to jarred spaghetti sauce. This sauce recipe is in that category.

Here’s a link to our homemade marinara recipe. The pasta sauce recipe below is perfect if you’re craving sauce similar to jarred varieties. It’s perfect for spaghetti!

Storing Tips

Homemade pasta sauce lasts in the fridge for up to 4 days and can be frozen for up to 3 months (maybe more). Thaw frozen sauce in the refrigerator overnight.

Reheat pasta sauce in a saucepan over medium heat.

Ways to Use Homemade Pasta Sauce

Anytime you would have reached for a jar of spaghetti sauce, you can use this simple tomato sauce.

  • Meat Sauce: Brown ground meat with onions and garlic, then add your sauce and simmer until the meat is cooked through. For inspiration, look at our spaghetti with meat sauce recipe.
  • Veggie Sauce:  Sauté your favorite veggies (onions, zucchini, and bell peppers are great!). Add your pasta sauce and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. We do this for our veggie spaghetti recipe.
  • Perfect for Lasagna: This homemade sauce is amazing in lasagna! We use it to make this ultimate cheese lasagna.

Homemade Red Pasta Sauce

  • PREP
  • COOK

How to make red pasta sauce perfect for spaghetti, chicken parmesan, eggplant parmesan, and lasagna.

Make this homemade sauce with canned or fresh tomatoes. We typically use canned whole peeled tomatoes, but I have included tips for fresh tomatoes in the article above. When olive oil is used, this pasta sauce is naturally vegan. For a richer sauce, substitute the olive oil with butter.

Makes about 6 cups (48 ounces)

You Will Need

1/4 cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup (75g) finely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced, about 2 teaspoons

2 tablespoons (35) tomato paste

2 (28oz) cans whole peeled tomatoes

1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves or 1 to 2 tablespoons dried basil

Dash fish sauce, optional, see tips below


    1Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft (3 to 4 minutes).

    2Stir in the garlic and tomato paste. Cook for another minute to let the flavor develop.

    3Pour in your canned tomatoes with their juices. Use a spoon or potato masher to gently break them up for a chunky sauce. Don’t worry about perfect consistency just yet!

    4Lower the heat so the sauce gently simmers. Stir in the salt and pepper (you can add more later if needed). Let it simmer for about 40 minutes or until it reduces by about a third. Taste and adjust the seasoning as it cooks.

    5Turn off the heat and stir in the dried oregano and fresh basil. We leave our sauce chunky, but we blend it with a stand or immersion blender for a smoother sauce.

    6You can use the pasta sauce immediately, store it in the fridge for up to 4 days, or freeze it for up to 3 months.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Fresh tomatoes: Swap out the canned tomatoes for 4 to 5 pounds of fresh, ripe tomatoes. See the article for tips on prepping them for homemade sauce.
  • If the sauce lacks flavor, add a bit more salt.
  • If it’s too acidic, a pinch of sugar will balance it out.
  • Try a few dashes of fish sauce or minced anchovies for a deep, savory flavor.
  • While the sauce simmers, add a leftover parmesan rind for extra richness. Remember to remove it before serving!
  • Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates.
Nutrition Per Serving Serving Size 1/2 cup / Calories 65 / Total Fat 5g / Saturated Fat 0.7g / Cholesterol 0mg / Sodium 207.8mg / Carbohydrate 5.6g / Dietary Fiber 2.6g / Total Sugars 3.7g / Protein 1.2g
AUTHOR:  Adam and Joanne Gallagher
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