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The Best Real Italian Tomato Sauce (Homemade Spaghetti Sauce)

The best real Italian tomato sauce uses only 5 simple, high quality ingredients to create the best homemade spaghetti sauce ever. A blend of sweet, slightly tart rich flavor that tastes like it’s been slow cooked to perfection, it tastes better than any you could buy and will instantly upgrade any of your favorite spaghetti and pasta recipes.

A pot of real Italian tomato sauce with basil ready to be spooned over spaghetti, meatballs, or anything else you can think of!
Real Italian Tomato Sauce with Basil
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We don’t do store bought sauce in our house for good reason.

My Italian ancestors would murder me.

I’m actually sure I could posthumously break my Italian grandmother’s heart enough to seek revenge from the beyond if I used a jar of storebought sauce.

It would be this whole zombie situation that honestly I don’t want to inflict on myself, my family, the ancestors, or my Italian grandma.

Yes, she was a stereotypical Italian grandma.

One that made a huge pot of tomato basil sauce and homemade meatballs every single weekend ever.

It was the real deal just like this authentic Italian tomato sauce that I learned to make by watching her weekend after weekend as she simmered a pot of spaghetti and meatballs big enough to feed her whole neighborhood and send them all home with leftovers.

While the neighbors thought it was hard to do, the real secret is that homemade spaghetti sauce is so unbelievable easy to make if you use the magic ingredient: patience.

Plus, you’ll see why my gruff Italian grandma was easily the most popular person on her street when you taste the result and try her homemade spaghetti sauce.

Homemade Italian tomato sauce, just like homemade basil pesto and beef ragu, blows store bought sauce right out of the water.

And it’s easy enough for even someone who’s never cooked before to make and doesn’t need a single fancy, expensive, or hard to find ingredient.

It will knock the socks off anyone who tries it on your spaghetti, pizza, or authentic Italian meatballs.

Ingredients and Kitchen Supplies

Ingredients for Real Italian Tomato Sauce with Basil: Tomato Puree, Olive Oil, Garlic, Salt, Pepper, and Basil
Ingredients for Real Italian Tomato Sauce with Basil: Tomato Puree, Olive Oil, Garlic, Salt, Pepper, and Basil

You only need a few ingredients to make real Italian tomato sauce.

Here’s what to buy:

  • Canned tomatoes – This is a bit of a cheat. You could boil down or roast your own roma tomatoes (and I have a recipe for that that is coming soon!), but canned crushed tomatoes saves you time. For the most authenticity use San Marazano style crushed tomatoes. For a nice smooth sauce, you could use tomato puree instead. Whether you use crushed tomatoes or tomato puree, make sure you are not buying anything that is preseasoned.
  • Garlic cloves – Fresh garlic adds a lot of flavor to the sauce as it cooks. You can crush it, press it, or finely mince it with a knife.
  • Fresh basil – Super important! Don’t sub dried basil here unless you plan to use this sauce for a recipe that will get baked. The flavor profile is totally different of the dried sauce and it actually does make a difference in the sauce.
  • Olive oil – Not only does olive oil let you saute the garlic, but it adds a beautiful rich flavor in the background of the sauce.
  • Salt and pepper – This depends on personal preference so I recommend tasting the sauce and seasoning it with salt and pepper to your liking. You can also add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes if you like just a bit of a warming spice in the background.

Kitchen supplies you’ll want to have on hand include:

How to make Real Italian Tomato Sauce for Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

1. Sautee the garlic

Start by making homemade tomato sauce by heating olive oil and crushed or minced garlic and red pepper flakes in a sauce pan.
Heat the garlic in the olive oil until fragrant and add the red pepper flakes.

Heat the olive oil over medium low heat in a medium sauce pan.

Add the crushed garlic, salt, and pepper and sautee for about 1 minute.

Once the garlic is fragrant, it’s time to add the crushed tomatoes or tomato puree.

2. Cook the sauce.

Stir the crushed tomatoes into the garlic olive oil mixture and bring this to a simmer.
Stir the crushed tomatoes into the garlic olive oil mixture and bring this to a simmer.

Pour the tomato puree over the garlic.

Turn the heat to low and cover with a lid.

This part of the cooking process is abit subjective.

For best results, let the sauce simmer for an hour or more.

Otherwise, you can simmer the sauce for about 15 minutes to let the flavors incorporate.

3. Add in the basil and finish the sauce

Cut the basil into ribbons (a chiffonade) and add the basil to the Italian tomato sauce.
Cut the basil into ribbons (a chiffonade) and add the basil to the Italian tomato sauce.

To finish the sauce, chop up the basil and mix it into the sauce.

Only allow the basil to cook for about 2 to 5 minutes.

This allows the flavors to come together.

Serve the real Italian tomato sauce fresh from the pot over your favorite noodles, on pizza, or any of your favorite recipes that require tomato sauce.

Storing Italian Tomato Sauce

Real Italian tomato sauce tastes amazing the first day you make it but it’s pretty forgiving.

If you want to make it ahead, you can.

Once it is done cooking, pour the sauce into an airtight container.

You can store it in the fridge for about 4 to 5 days.

To reheat the sauce, you can microwave it, covered, until warmed through.

You could also reheat it on the stove over low heat until warm.


Do Italians put Parmesan in tomato sauce?

For an authentic Italian tomato sauce, you add parmesan cheese on top. You do not need to add it directly to the sauce. But once its done, feel free to load on as much cheese as you like. However, if you happen to have a parmesan cheese rind in your fridge, you can throw it into the sauce and cook it in the sauce. It will add a salty cheesiness to the sauce that’s *chef’s kiss* good. Just be warned that you will not need as much salt if you do this.

Do true Italians put sugar in tomato sauce?

No! Sugar is a way to help reduce the acidity of tomato sauce, but it is not something most Italians do because they use nice sweet, ripe tomatoes. My grandmother never did and neither do I, but some swear by it.

Can I use butter instead of oil in real Italian tomato sauce?

You can if you want. A trick straight from my grandma was using oil in the sauce itself and then tossing the hot spaghetti with a few pats of butter before topping it with sauce. That way you get the richness from the oil in the sauce and the flavor and silky mouth feel from the butter on the pasta.

Tips and tricks

Stir the the basil into the spaghetti sauce.
Stir the basil into the tomato sauce.

When making real Italian tomato sauce, follow these tips and tricks for best results:

  • Fresh basil will go from tasty to gross and bitter if it cooks for too long. To prevent this, add it at the end and then only sautee for a few minutes before removing from heat.
  • You can add more garlic to the tomato sauce recipe. This can increase the intensity of the flavor as well as the heat.
  • Do not heat the pot too much. Garlic can burn very quickly in very hot olive oil.
  • Want just a hint of garlic flavor? First off, we can’t be friends. Ok just kidding. But seriously instead of mincing or crushing the garlic, just crack a clove or two of peeled garlic by pressing it under a can to release the garlic flavor and heat it in the oil for a couple of minutes. Then pull out the garlic cloves before you add the sauce. That way you get some garlic flavor but not too much.
  • Speaking of garlic, 6 cloves is a jumping off point. You want more garlic? Hey, me too! Measure that with your soul until you hear the ancestors whisper, “That’s enough, my child.”
  • Another way to get delicious garlic flavor that’s a bit more mellow is to substitute roasted garlic instead. It takes some of the sharpness out of the garlic.
  • You can put this sauce together in as little as 15 minutes but it tastes the best the longer you let it simmer. I recommend letting it simmer on the stove, stirring occasionally, until it has reduced down a bit. This concentrates the flavors and makes for a richer sauce.
  • Feeding a crowd? Double or even triple the recipe and use a large sauce pot.

What to Serve Real Italian Tomato Sauce With

A pot of real Italian tomato sauce with basil ready to be spooned over spaghetti, meatballs, or anything else you can think of!
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

You can put this on almost anything!

Italian tomato sauce is delicious on:

This Italian sauce also works great as a dip for homemade garlic bread or mozzarella sticks.

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A pot of real Italian tomato sauce with basil ready to be spooned over spaghetti, meatballs, or anything else you can think of!

Real Italian Tomato Sauce

This real Italian tomato sauce recipe uses only a few simple ingredients to make a flavorful sauce that you can use however you like.
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Course: dinner
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: real Italian tomato sauce
Servings: 4 cups
Calories: 85kcal


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
  • 1 28 ounce can tomato puree or crushed tomatoes San Marzano style preffered
  • 20 leaves of fresh basil


  • Heat the olive oil over medium low heat in a medium sized pot.
    2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and sautee for about a minute or until it becomes fragrant.
    6 cloves garlic, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pour in the puree and turn heat down to low.
    1 28 ounce can tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
  • Cover and allow the sauce to simmer for about an hour or a minimum of 15 minutes.
  • Cut or break the basil leaves into smaller pieces and stir into the sauce.
    20 leaves of fresh basil
  • Cook the basil for about 5 minutes and then remove from heat.
  • Serve over your favorite pasta, as a pizza sauce, or as a dip.


Do not over cook the basil, it can become bitter and not taste right if it cooks for too long. 


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 85kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 13mg | Potassium: 212mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 349IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 1mg
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  1. David lee says:

    Only use real San Mariano tomatoes. We add a little and reduce for extra flavor

  2. Dennis A Siriani says:

    Been making this for 60 yrs. Never changed the recepi.

  3. Nicola Assante. says:

    Hi All and friend,
    Who ever you are that wrote this recipe and don’t know where you guys from,
    With all do respect, I don’t want to diminish your recipe and and good memories you have because I respect all that, and every one of us have they own.
    I cone straight from Italy, and I did followed as you did all the traditional recipes of my family too.
    In America here there is a lot of stereotype of things on all races.
    I and my family heritage,personally we never ever put together spaghetti and meatballs, on Sundays.
    We do use pastas of any kind but never spaghetti and I always have eaten meatballs as a second course and not with pasta…in Italy.
    The rekation between spaghetti and meatballs is a pure American thing to stereotype italian.
    Anyway, there is also someme others mistakes that American commonly makes. Tge ingredients you named are correct besides some of it .
    First for ragu souse as we called in Italy we don’t use garlic, but onions, and we also use besides olive oil a little tablespoon of lard wile frying the onions first.
    Than we use pork rib for favor also fried during the onions process first, than we add some basil and salt and pepper and at the and you throw in a glass of white sweet wine in it to deglaze the onions and ribs, let it dry and then throw in the tomato’s.
    The meatballs we normally can frying at side and we throw in at the middle of sauce cooking for flavor.
    Fir pasta it is more indicate rigatoni, penne or other short pasta styles as you like.
    Try it and let me know my friend, that’s the real deal.

    • jfletcher says:

      Hello and thank you for your detailed comment. I am just sharing how my Italian American grandmother taught me to make her homemade sauce, which is how her mother who was who emigrated to the States made it. I understand that spaghetti and meatballs are an Americanized combination- especially in the area that her family settled (the Northeast). I don’t mean at all to spread stereotypes, but in this case the stereotype of the Italian American grandma making the big pot of sauce and meatballs and often braciole along with it every weekend and most holidays was my actual real life experience and what I grew up with. I have made variations of the sauce you mention with wine and onions and it is delicious as well.

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