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How To Make the Best Italian Red Sauce Recipe

I love this Italian Red Sauce Recipe and I’m so happy I finally wrote it down. Better than a jar, IMO, this Sunday sauce is totally worth making!

When it’s cold outside I want pasta with Italian red sauce.

And with Alex coming home I always figure he’s had plenty of Asian food and now that he is spending more time in Houston he gets lots of Southern food and Cajun food.

So, with good motherly intentions I decided pasta was it.

Many over the years have asked if I’m Italian. They have also asked if I am Greek.

I am neither of these, but when it comes to food, I would love to claim I’m from both.

Growing up I only had meat sauce with ground beef, because that is what my mom made.

It was known as spaghetti in our home and only came one way.

Over the years, I’ve luckily discovered the magic of amazing Italian sauces and I must say there isn’t much better than an authentic Italian tomato sauce.

A great homemade tomato sauce can cure anything and I venture to say maybe it’s like Jewish chicken soup.

So bring it on.

I promise even this Jewish girl can make a great sauce!

Italian red sauce recipe in white bowl with ladle

Yes, I know every Italian nonna has her own secret recipe with a secret ingredient, but since I’m not a nonna, I will share mine.

One of the first cookbooks I ever received was Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cooking.

I admit to taking some of Marcella’s secrets and thank goodness she shared!

Enjoy my version of traditional Italian tomato sauce, even if it’s a bit un-traditional!

One not so secret secret is to use the best quality ingredients you can find and afford.

I say this about all my recipes and yes, it does make a difference.

Once when Alex was home we took from the pantry a variety of canned tomatoes I found at the grocery store. 

We tried each one and truly San Marzano came out in first place.

I don’t remember what the others were but I am guessing they were Hunt’s or a store brand.

San Marzano, Cento and Pomi are less acidic and both use Italian tomatoes so I try to stick with these.

spaghetti on plate with Italian red sauce recipe in background

Ingredient List for this Italian Red Sauce Recipe:

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Butter (for sweetness and richness)


​Fresh Red Pepper

Carrots (for sweetness)

Minced Garlic Cloves

Red Wine

Bay Leaf

Fresh Basil

Dried Oregano

Tomato Sauce (San Marzano Tomatoes, Pomi, Cento)

Dried Red Pepper Flakes, Black Pepper and Salt

This is definitely a sauce that should be made on Sunday but it is NOT a Sunday sauce, because it does not contain meat.

It is a slow-cooked tomato sauce that should simmer as long as possible, which to me makes Sunday a great day for sauce.

If you feel the need for meat, I would serve this with browned Italian sausage that could be added to the sauce in the last 15 minutes before serving.

Or you could brown the sausage in the pot before starting the red sauce. Remove and add back before serving.

Italian Red Sauce Recipe

What is Tomato Puree?

Tomato puree is a thick sauce made by cooking and straining tomatoes.

What is Tomato Paste?

Tomato paste is  a thicker consistency and more concentrated which means it becomes sweet and thicker.

It is often stirred in to a sauce to add more flavor.

However if I use tomato paste I like to cook it to caramelize it a bit for extra richness.

What is Pomodoro Sauce?

Pomodoro actually means tomato in Italian. It is a thicker sauce than a marinara and contains fewer seasonings.

What is Marinara Sauce?

Marinara sauce is thinner and contains more seasonings so consider this a homemade marinara sauce recipe!

The main difference between the two is mainly texture and consistency, with pomodoro being thicker.

All that being said, I like my sauce on the thick side, so maybe this is a combo of the two.

If you want it thinner, just add water.

The longer it simmers, the thicker it becomes so make sure to keep the lid on so it doesn’t simmer away!

It took me a long time to write down this homemade sauce recipe, so I hope you like it.

And yes, I’ve made tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes when I have them in the garden.

I will tell you though that a fresh tomato sauce is reliant on the tomatoes used and using a can of tomatoes that you trust makes your sauce more consistent each time you make it.

Italian Red Sauce Recipe with spaghetti on plate

​Ways to use this Italian red sauce recipe:

This sauce makes a great pizza sauce, but I do have a great one that is uncooked here.

However if you have leftover sauce do not hesitate to use it on pizza.

Serve this over your favorite pasta with parmesan cheese.

This makes a great homemade spaghetti sauce recipe. 

And if you have leftovers of spaghetti make this fried spaghetti pie.

Use this for chicken parmesan.

Don’t be afraid to add more fresh herbs. That includes extra basil, fresh rosemary and Italian parsley.

If you prefer a smoother sauce use your immersion blender directly in the pot.

My favorite Italian Red Sauce Recipe:

This is the best red sauce I know of, but I think every Nonna says the same thing.

With just a handful of ingredients you can  make a homemade pasta sauce that is better than any jar.

However there are many tomato sauce recipes out there, and it is how the ingredients are used that make the best tomato sauce.

It’s up to you to play with proportions and come up with your own great recipe.

Make it a family recipe, because to me this simple Italian red sauce recipe deserves to be honored!

Italian spaghetti on plate

Still Hungry?

Iceberg Lettuce Salad with red peppers on red towel with fresh basil

Italian Salad

Giada's Bolognese sauce recipe over pasta on white plate

Giada’s Bolognese

sliced garlic bread

Garlic Bread

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Italian Red Sauce Recipe

Italian Red Sauce

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  • Author: Abbe Odenwalder
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 60 Minutes +
  • Total Time: 0 hours
  • Yield: 6 cups 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Cuisine: Italian


This Italian red sauce recipe is one of my faves. Better than any jarred sauce I’ve come across-take some time and make this easy, delicious sauce.


Units Scale

3 T olive oil

2 T unsalted butter

1 c chopped onion

1/2 c chopped red peppers

1 sliced carrot

2 t minced garlic

1/4 c red wine

17.5 oz Pomi tomatoes

28 oz Cento tomato sauce

1 bay leaf

1 T Italian parsley

1 T fresh basil

1 t dried oregano

Red Pepper flakes to taste

Kosher Salt to taste

1 t sugar (optional)


Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, peppers and carrot cook until translucent. Stir in minced garlic and saute until soft.

Add red wine to deglaze pan. Pour in tomatoes. I used Pomi tomato sauce and Cento tomato sauce. Add bay leaf, parsley, fresh basil, dried oregano, hot red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and stir in unsalted butter. Add up to 1 t sugar if needed and check after simmering and add more if needed. It shouldn’t take much because of the carrots.

Simmer covered for at least 60 minutes. I prefer to simmer it longer. If sauce becomes too thick feel free to stir in water until you reach desired consistency. However, if you add water let it simmer a bit more.


See above post for adding Italian sausage.

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