How To Make Fresh Homemade Tomato Sauce and ‘Small Sauces’ for Your Dishes

Tomato sauce in a jar.

Tomato sauce is a Mother Sauce that was once made with a roux but is not really practiced in the kitchens anymore. Tomato sauce is more than just opening a can and pouring it into your spaghetti sauce. A true fresh tomato sauce recipe requires a little bit of work but it is worth the effort and the wait. The cooking is what takes the most time.

There is a difference between this tomato sauce recipe and Italian tomato sauce for pasta. It’s not much of a difference and you can use this tomato sauce for your pasta recipes or even as a pizza sauce. The difference between this tomato sauce and pasta sauce is the use of olive oil in the pasta sauce and the omission of the puree, bones, and spices. Although, if you used this sauce as your pasta sauce, we wouldn’t tell anyone. To make matters worse, there is even a difference between tomato sauce and marinara sauce. A marinara sauce uses garlic, crushed red pepper, and fresh basil. It’s a quick sauce that is not as flavorful as tomato sauce.

This recipe will make roughly 1 gallon which is enough for you to freeze or to make the three small sauces derived from tomato sauce: Portuguese sauce, Spanish sauce, and Creole sauce. They are all similar but slight differences give each a unique flavor and texture, as well as spiciness.

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Basic Tomato Sauce Variations

Spoonful of tomato sauce and herbs.

Here are some things to take note of before trying your hand at the recipes below:

  • All tomato sauce recipes will do better with fresh tomatoes but you can use canned tomatoes just as easily.
  • Depending on which recipe you are working on, you can also use canned whole tomatoes.
  • Some of the best-canned tomatoes we can get are San Marzano from Italy.
  • Try charring the fresh tomatoes for a roasted tomato sauce and add an extra level of depth.
  • To make these sauces vegetarian, just omit the pork and bones and sweat vegetables in olive oil.

These recipes in no way complete the possibilities of tomato sauces. There are variations everywhere that are used for just about everything. These four sauces will get you far, though, and you’ll be perfecting that homemade spaghetti sauce in no time and leaving that canned stuff where it belongs – on the grocery store shelf.

Easy Tomato Sauce Recipe

A wooden spoon in a pan full of tomato sauce on a cloth, surrounded by tomatoes and other ingredients on a wooden table.

As the name implies, this is a beginner-friendly recipe for home chefs who are making their first tomato sauce. Don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients, though.

Makes: 1 gallon

Ingredients:

  • .5 cup salt pork (can substitute with bacon)
  • 1 cup onion, medium dice
  • 1 cup carrots, medium dice
  • 4 quarts tomatoes, canned or fresh, rough chopped
  • 2 quarts tomato puree, canned
  • 1 pound ham bone (substitute ham hock)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • .25 teaspoon dried thyme
  • .25 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • .25 teaspoon peppercorn, crushed (can substitute ground pepper)
  • salt to taste
  • sugar to taste

Method:

  1. Render the pork in a large stockpot on low heat. Do not brown.
  2. Add onion and carrots. Saute until soft but do not brown.
  3. Add tomato and juice, purée, bones, and herbs, and spices. Bring to a boil
  4. Reduce heat, simmer over low heat for 2 hours or until reduced.
  5. Remove bones, strain sauce, or purée with a blender or food processor.
  6. Adjust seasoning with salt and sugar.

Portuguese Sauce

A wooden spoon in a pan full of tomato sauce and veggies in the kitchen.

Portuguese sauce can be used on chicken and meats by braising or stewing the meat in the sauce and serving them together.

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup onions, small diced
  • 1 ounce oil
  • 1 pound of tomato concassé (or a can of diced tomatoes, drained)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • sugar to taste

Method:

  1. Simmer and reduce by 1/3.
  2. Add 1 quart of tomato sauce
  3. Adjust seasoning and add parsley

Spanish Sauce

A spoon in a pan full of tomato sauce.

A spicy tomato sauce that will pair well with chicken, pork, and seafood.

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart tomato sauce
  • .75 cup onion, small dice
  • .5 cup green bell pepper, small dice
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped fine
  • .5 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • red pepper sauce to taste

Method:

  1. Sweat onion, bell pepper, and garlic until onion is slightly translucent.
  2. Add mushrooms and sauté until liquid is reduced.
  3. Add tomato sauce and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and pepper sauce.
  4. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Creole Sauce

A jar of Creole sauce with spoon and a tomato sauce-based dish on a table.
Photo Credit: Julia Hartbeck/The Spruce

This spicy sauce goes great with shrimp and other seafood, meatballs, and chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart tomato sauce
  • .5 cup onion, small dice
  • .5 cup celery, sliced thin
  • .25 cup green bell pepper, small dice
  • 1 tsp garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • .5 tsp dried thyme
  • .5 tsp lemon zest
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • cayenne to taste

Method:

  1. Sweat onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic.
  2. Add tomato sauce, bay leaf, thyme, and lemon zest. Simmer 10-15 minutes.
  3. Remove bay leaf and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Tips and Tricks

A jar of tomato sauce with spoon on a cutting board, tomatoes, and assorted ingredients for preparing tomato sauce on a table.

Below are additional tips on making a restaurant-quality homemade tomato sauce:

  • Cooking times will vary based on the desired consistency you want for each of your sauces.
  • Tomatoes in general have a lot of natural sugars and can burn very easily so make sure you cook on low heat.
  • Try using different tomatoes for different flavors. Heirloom tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, and vine-ripened tomatoes. They all have different flavors and textures.
  • Concassé tomatoes are tomatoes that are blanched, skins peeled, deseeded, and rough chopped. It takes some time to prepare them which is why we suggested using canned and drained diced tomatoes.

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