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An overhead shot of finished San Marzano tomato sauce fills a large white double-handled skillet. The quick tomato sauce is garnished with chopped basil and the skillet sits atop a creamy white textured surface. A wooden spoon rests inside of the skillet for serving and a light blue linen napkin is tucked underneath the skillet.

Quick & Simple San Marzano Tomato Sauce

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 3 cups 1x
  • Category: Sauces & Condiments, Pasta Recipes
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegan


This San Marzano tomato sauce is one of my all-time favorite recipes. Unlike the slowly simmered bolognese & ragu recipes we’ve shared here on PWWB, this quick & simple tomato sauce recipe leans on 5 simple ingredients, 5 minutes of prep, & just 10 minutes of easy, hands-off cooking. The result? A restaurant-worthy homemade tomato sauce with seriously light & fresh flavor. I’m positive you’ll love it just as much as we do!

The secret lies in using high-quality ingredients, like fresh basil, fruity extra virgin olive oil, & real-deal San Marzano tomatoes, the super-special Italian tomatoes with the perfect balance of sweetness & acidity. (Check the Recipe Notes, below, to learn more about San Marzano tomatoes!)

But best of all – you can use this San Marzano tomato sauce in just about anything – pasta dishes, meatballs, pizza night, crispy chicken cutlets, & so much more. It’s a great staple recipe you’ll come back to time & time again. 


  • one 28-ounce can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes (see Recipe Notes)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 68 cloves garlic, crushed & roughly chopped
  • optional: up to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 23 sprigs fresh basil (about 68 leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season Simple San Marzano Tomato Sauce ingredients arranged on a creamy white textured surface: whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, fresh basil, granulated sugar, kosher salt and ground black pepper, and optional crushed red pepper.


  1. Chop the tomatoes: Place the San Marzano tomatoes & their juices in a food processor. Pulse to chop the tomatoes as chunky or smooth as you’d like – I like a good rough chop with some texture. Set aside.How to make San Marzano tomato sauce, step 1: Chop the tomatoes. An overhead shot of a food processor bowl is filled with San Marzano tomatoes that have been pulsed & chopped leaving some textured to use in a quick tomato sauce. The food processor bowl sits atop a creamy white surface.
  2. Perfume the olive oil: Add the olive oil & garlic to a medium skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring often to prevent browning, until the garlic is golden & fragrant. If desired, add crushed red pepper flakes & cook 30 seconds – 1 minute longer, stirring often.How to make San Marzano tomato sauce, step 2: Perfume the olive oil. Olive oil, crushed garlic cloves, and crushed red pepper flakes rest inside a white double-handled skillet. The skillet sits atop a creamy white surface.
  3. Assemble & quickly simmer the San Marzano tomato sauce: Add the chopped tomatoes from Step 1 to the skillet, along with the fresh basil, granulated sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Stir to combine. Increase the heat under the skillet to medium, & simmer, stirring often, for 8-10 minutes. Once simmered, remove & discard the spent garlic & basil as desired.How to make a quick tomato sauce, step 3: Assemble and simmer the San Marzano tomato sauce. Chopped tomatoes, fresh basil, granulated sugar, kosher salt, and ground black pepper are added to perfumed olive oil in a large white double-handled skillet. The combination will simmer to create a simple tomato sauce.The skillet sits atop a creamy white surface.
  4. Serve: Once the San Marzano tomato sauce is simmered, you can use immediately (toss into your favorite pasta, serve with meatballs, layer into a lasagna, etc.) or you can cool & store for later use (see Recipe Notes for storage & freezing directions). Enjoy!An overhead shot of pasta tossed in San Marzano tomato sauce that is plated on a creamy white speckled plate. The pasta has been garnished with parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil. The plate sits atop a creamy white surface with a light blue linen napkin tucked underneath the plate. A set of silverware rests alongside the plate and a few loose basil leaves and a small wooden pinch bowl filled with parmesan cheese rest just above the plate.


  • San Marzano tomatoes are a special Italian plum tomato grown in the San Marzano region near Naples, Italy, where the volcanic soil produces sweeter, less acidic tomatoes. They are picked at peak ripeness to preserve the best flavor throughout the canning process. They are readily available in the canned tomato aisle in most conventional grocery stores, though you can typically be sure to find them at an Italian market. Be sure to look for DOP certification noted on the label, which ensures the tomatoes are authentic San Marzano tomatoes. If you cannot find authentic San Marzano tomatoes at the store, regular whole peeled tomatoes will work great as a quick substitute for this simple tomato sauce recipe – even better if they’re “San Marzano-style” tomatoes. 
  • Make-Ahead, Storage & Freezing:
    • Storage & Reheating: This quick and simple San Marzano tomato sauce stores incredibly well – it’s the type of thing that gets even better as it sits & its flavors have the chance to meld together! To store, prep the sauce through Step 3 of Recipe Directions, above. Once cooled, transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Reheat on the stovetop for tossing into pasta during the week.
    • Freezing Instructions: This quick and simple San Marzano tomato sauce is also incredibly freezer-friendly. To freeze, transfer the cooled San Marzano tomato sauce to a freezer container (or divide it up between multiple freezer containers for smaller portions – these are my absolute favorite freezer containers!). Freeze up to 3 months. To thaw, place the frozen San Marzano tomato sauce in the refrigerator overnight or submerge the freezer container in room temperature water for a quicker thaw. Reheat the tomato sauce in a skillet. If the thawed sauce is a little watery at first, simply allow any residual water to simmer out. If the thawed sauce is too thick, simply add in a splash of water or stock until your desired consistency is reached.

Keywords: simple tomato sauce recipe, San Marzano tomato sauce