When plum tomatoes are no longer available at the farmers' market, I turn to this easy, yet still delicious basic sauce (sugo di pomodoro semplice). Using superior-quality canned tomatoes and good olive oil makes all the difference in this recipe. I use diced imported Italian tomatoes packed in their natural juices, which yield a fresher-tasting sauce than one made from tomatoes in heavy puree, which gives the sauce the flavor of tomato paste/puree.

Makes about 5 cups


  • 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Two cans (28 ounces each) diced tomatoes, with their juice
  • Kosher or fine sea salt
  • 5 large fresh basil leaves, shredded or torn


Warm the garlic in the olive oil in a large saucepan placed over medium heat. Use a wooden spoon to press down on the garlic to release its flavor and then swirl the pan to infuse the oil. After about 2 minutes, when the garlic begins to sizzle and release its fragrance but before it starts to brown, carefully pour in the tomatoes (the oil will spatter) and stir to coat with the oil. Season with 1 tsp salt, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring the tomatoes to a simmer. When the juices start bubbling, reduce the heat to medium-low and let the tomatoes simmer uncovered, stirring from time to time, for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the oil has separated from the tomatoes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the basil. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, if you like.

Simplify: The sauce may be stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.


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