If you haven’t made this recipe yet, get ready for a game changer for your fav comfort foods. This homemade tomato sauce was inspired by one of my most popular recipes: my summery tomato basil soup, and it is the perfect staple recipe to have on hand (and to share with friends & family!)

This sauce is full of flavor thanks to fresh tomatoes & herbs and comes together in about an hour. In this step-by-step tutorial for making basic pasta sauce, I’ve included options for adding a rich creaminess, a kick of heat, meat and more. It’s so versatile that you’ll want to skip the canned stuff for good!

If you haven’t had a big old pasta dinner in a while, here is your sign. Family dinner made extra delicious!

The difference between marinara sauce & tomato sauce

  • Marinara sauce actually originated as a tomato-based sauce used for seafood. It’s typically made with plum tomatoes or canned ones like San Marzano tomatoes, plus garlic, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes. It’s thinner and lighter in flavor than tomato sauce and is often used on pasta and pizzas.
  • Traditional tomato sauce is thicker and richer and is typically made with meat like salt pork or bacon, veggies like onion and carrot, fresh tomatoes, some type of stock, and even some flour and butter to thicken it up.

What makes this homemade tomato sauce truly AMAZING

The AK homemade tomato sauce is closer to a thick marinara sauce with some special ingredients, techniques and optional add-ins that make it truly incredible. It has a natural sweetness from ripe fresh tomatoes and caramelized onions instead of any additional sugar. Trust me, you’re going to LOVE this one.

Everything you’ll need to make the best homemade pasta sauce

In this pasta sauce recipe, we’re using fresh tomatoes instead of canned, which gives the sauce a wonderful, rich flavor. Here’s everything you’ll need to make it:

  • Tomatoes: I like to use plum or roma tomatoes because they have the best flavor when roasted. Even better if they’re fresh from your garden.
  • Garlic: oh yeah, we’re adding 8 cloves of wonderful garlic to this sauce recipe. And they’ll get roasted to sweet perfection.
  • Olive oil: you’ll need some olive oil to roast the tomatoes and garlic, and also to caramelize the onions.
  • Onions: speaking of onions, YES we’re caramelizing these babies to give a natural, delicious sweetness to the pasta sauce. WORTH IT.
  • Herbs & spices: you’ll also need some fresh basil, dried oregano and plenty of salt and pepper. Feel free to add a few shakes of red pepper flakes, too, if you like a little spice.

ingredients for homemade pasta sauce on a marble board

Simple add-ins for rich tomato sauce flavor

Looking to make an even richer tomato sauce? Here are some great add-ins:

  • Coconut milk: feel free to add regular or light coconut milk to give the sauce a creamy texture while still keeping it plant-based and vegan.
  • Regular milk or cream: adding some whole dairy milk or heavy cream will also make it super creamy. You won’t need much, a 1/4-1/2 cup or so should do the trick.
  • Cheese: stir in salty parmesan cheese for a bolder flavor. HELL YES.
  • Butter: add a delicious richness with 1-2 tablespoons of butter. Salted butter is my fav.

How to make the best homemade tomato sauce

Learn exactly how to make this easy tomato sauce in a few simple steps!

tomatoes and garlic on a baking sheet to make tomato sauce

roasted tomatoes on a baking sheet to make homemade pasta sauce

Step 1: roast your tomatoes & garlic with olive oil, salt & pepper for about 40-45 minutes. No peeling necessary for the tomatoes!

caramelized onions in a pot to make pasta sauce

Step 2: caramelize your onions with some more olive oil, stirring occasionally. Check them every 5-10 minutes until they turn nice and golden. This should take about 20 minutes, which can be done while your tomatoes are roasting.

ingredients in a food processor to make a tomato sauce recipe

Step 3: let the tomatoes and garlic cool for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a food processor or high powered blender. Add in the caramelized onions and fresh basil leaves.

homemade tomato sauce in a food processor

Step 4: blend or process the sauce until it’s the consistency you like. Blend it completely for a smooth tomato pasta sauce, or leave it chunkier. We like ours on the chunkier side.

Don’t have a blender or food processor? No problem! Simply add the ingredients to a large pot and use an immersion blender.

adding herbs to a tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes

Step 5: transfer the sauce to a large pot or dutch oven, turn it on medium low heat to let it simmer, and stir in the dried oregano, salt and pepper to taste. This is where you can add in any milk or cheese.

spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce on a plate with a fork

Step 6: serve with your favorite noodles, top with cheese and fresh basil and enjoy! Our noodles of choice are spaghetti (best spaghetti sauce EVER), rigatoni and penne. Or feel free to use it in a lasagna or chicken parmesan recipe.

homemade tomato sauce in two jars

Can I add meat to this tomato sauce?

Sure! If you want a more bolognese-style tomato sauce, feel free to cook ground beef or even ground turkey in the pot before adding the blended tomato mixture. This will give the pasta sauce a super savory flavor and boost of protein.

How to store homemade tomato sauce

  • In the refrigerator: store any leftover tomato sauce in a jar or airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. Reheat it back on the stovetop or in the microwave.
  • In the freezer: add the leftover sauce to a freezer-friendly, airtight container and place it in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, let the sauce thaw in the fridge before heating it through on the stovetop or in the microwave.

More of our fav ways to use this pasta sauce

twirling pasta with homemade pasta sauce

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I hope you loved this simple tutorial for making homemade tomato sauce! If you try it, leave a comment and a rating so I know how you liked it. Enjoy, xo!

Recipe by: Evi Madison // SRCooking | Photography by Eat Love Eats

This post was originally published on July 11th, 2021, and republished on August 15th, 2022.