Simple Tomato Sauce

Kiss jarred marinara goodbye – this tomato sauce recipe is so easy and delicious, you’ll prefer to make your own!

A photo of tomato sauce in a jar.

Last night I had the most amazing dinner with friends at La Tavola in Little Italy.  The service was friendly and the food was fantastic. I had an incredibly fresh bruschetta appetizer and the gnocchi with pesto.  But by far the best thing I tasted all night was the tomato sauce that several of my dining companions had with their pasta.  It’s amazing how the simplest things can have the biggest wow factor when done exceptionally well.  Everyone was raving about it and when I returned home I couldn’t stop thinking about how I might possibly recreate it.

The sauce I’ve made doesn’t quite compare to theirs, but I really, really like it.  Next time I plan to try this with my slow-roasted vine tomatoes instead of canned and cherry, but I wanted to see what I could do with the canned variety since winter is arriving.  I’m also a big fan of using what I already have in the kitchen.  (Tip: if you use larger tomatoes, blanch, skin and seed them first).

This recipe uses a lot of garlic.  A LOT.  But it’s not overpowering the way you might think.  The sauce last night was good because it was so rich with flavor.  Roasting the garlic and tomatoes in advance really intensifies the flavor so you don’t need a lot of ingredients.


Simple Tomato Sauce

Kiss jarred marinara goodbye - this recipe is so easy and delicious, you'll prefer to make your own!
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 6 hours
Author Jennifer Farley


  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 head plus 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/8 - 1/4 cup finely chopped basil
  • Regular olive oil
  • Good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 425.
  • Using a knife, slice off the top of the head of garlic, exposing the individual cloves. Drizzle the exposed cloves with olive oil and a bit of salt, wrap in foil, place on a baking sheet and set aside. Carefully slice the grape tomatoes in half and toss with some regular olive oil and salt in a roasting pan. Place the garlic and the tomatoes in the oven. Keep an eye on the tomatoes to make sure they don't burn and take them out after 12-15 minutes. Remove the garlic from the oven after 45 minutes.
  • Drain the canned tomatoes, reserving the liquid, and place in a saucepan on low heat with the chopped basil, some salt and pepper. Chop the remaining garlic and saute in a small pan on medium-low heat for 2 minutes then add to the tomatoes. Add the roasted grape tomatoes into the saucepan.
  • Remove the head of garlic from the foil and squeeze the cloves out of their skins. Use a mortar and pestle to make a garlic paste and then stir it into the tomatoes. Add a healthy splash of the extra virgin olive oil, 2 or 3 tablespoons, and stir. Use an immersion blender, carefully, and puree the sauce. You can use a regular blender for this step, if you prefer. Then leave the sauce on low, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 hours. The sauce will thicken up noticeably. When you're about to serve, stir in a bit more extra virgin olive oil and some of the reserved tomato juice. Serve on pasta with freshly grated Parmesan cheese!

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About Jennifer Farley

Jennifer graduated from the Culinary Arts program at L’Academie de Cuisine, and has worked professionally as a line cook, pastry chef, and cooking instructor. Her cookbook, The Gourmet Kitchen, was published in 2016 by Simon & Schuster.

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  • I had the most fabulous food La Tavola two weeks ago as well! The closest thing I have found yet to the food I found in Piemonte.