Sure, you can buy a jar of tomato sauce from the store. But making it yourself is quick, easy and tastes so much better. My version is ready in 20 minutes and it's virtually prep-free. The secret? Cooking the sauce in a wide skillet. The increased surface area reduces the sauce faster than a traditional deep pot. Basic tomato sauce is an excellent shortcut to have on hand for quick pasta dinners, pizzas, soups and more.

In terms of flavor, I do not add garlic or go crazy with herbs and spices; it's a light and delicate sauce. I do, however, add butter. My inspiration comes from chef Marcella Hazan. Butter mellows out the natural acidity of the tomatoes making the sauce silky and rich. In my opinion, it's the best thing that's ever happened to homemade tomato sauce. Try it!

Serves 4


  • Makes 1 1/2 quarts (1.5 liters)
  • 4 Tbsp. (60 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (80 grams) diced onion
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole, peeled plum tomatoes in thick puree
  • 1 handful basil leaves, when in season
  • Coarse salt, to taste
  • 1 to 2 tsp. (5 to 10 grams) sugar


    In a large, 12-inch (30 cm) skillet, gently melt the butter over low heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.

    Add the tomatoes to the pan. If using fresh basil leaves, throw them in, too. Bring the sauce to a rolling boil and reduce the heat. Simmer (uncovered) for about 20 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.

    Taste the sauce, and season with salt. Add the sugar to balance any tart, acidic flavors. Quick Tip: The tomato sauce we had growing up was on the sweeter side (in a good way), so I'm a 1 1/2 teaspoons (6 grams) kind of gal.

    At this point, your tomato sauce is ready. For a smoother texture, puree the sauce with a hand blender directly in the pan.

    When the sauce has cooled down completely, transfer to airtight containers or zip-top bags and label accordingly. Refrigerate 4 to 5 days, or freeze up to 3 months.

    From The Clever Cookbook (Page Street), by Emilie Raffa.

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