Easy Tomato Sauce

A quick and easy Tomato Sauce which you can serve simply with pasta or use in a variety of recipes. Recipe with step-by-step photos.

marinara sauce in skillet with chopped herbs

Easy Tomato Sauce

If there is one recipe which I make most often, it is probably this easy tomato sauce, also called a marinara sauce

I have lost count of the number of meals I have made with just this basic tomato sauce and how thankful I am each time for such a life-saving recipe.

Knowing how useful this tomato sauce recipe is, I make sure that I always have a few cans of tomatoes in the pantry for those occasions when I am too lazy to do the grocery shopping or, frankly, just too lazy to cook!

Why This Recipe Works

  • This tomato sauce takes about 20 minutes from start to finish!
  • All you need is canned tomatoes and a few pantry staples to make a delicious tomato pasta sauce, ready to serve with your favourite pasta.
  • Use this tomato sauce as a blueprint and bulk it up with your favourite vegetables.
marinara sauce in skillet with fresh herbs

How to Make a Tomato Sauce

Step 1

To make a homemade tomato sauce, start by sautéeing the onions and garlic in cold olive oil with a sprinkle of sea salt. This will cook the onions and garlic gently to allow them to release their flavour without burning them.

chopped onions and garlic sautéing in pan

Step 2

Add the canned tomatoes, together with the sugar, and season with salt and pepper.

Let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the tomatoes have broken down.

If the mixture is too thick, thin it out with some boiling water.

chopped onions and garlic with canned tomatoes in skillet

Step 3

Once the sauce has thickened, taste for seasoning.

Stir through the chopped herbs, and reserve some herbs for garnishing.

cooked marinara sauce in black skillet with basil leaves and chopped herbs

What to Serve with Tomato Sauce

Once you have made a tomato sauce from scratch, you will discover the endless possibilities for this sauce.

It is essentially the base for many pasta dishes, including this delicious and vegetarian Spinach Lasagna.

You can serve marinara sauce simply with some cooked pasta, but to take it to another level, some other ideas include:

  • add some chopped vegetables, such as courgettes (zucchini), aubergine (eggplant), or capsicums (bell peppers)
  • add some dried chilli flakes (crushed red peppers) for a spicy kick
  • change the herbs, depending on what you have in the fridge or spice rack
  • cook some bacon or pancetta with the onions and garlic for extra savouriness
easy marinara sauce or tomato pasta sauce in large saucepan with fresh herbs

Easy Tomato Sauce

5 from 4 reviews

  • Author: Thanh | Eat, Little Bird
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3 to 4
  • Category: Sauces
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Italian

A quick and easy tomato sauce which you can serve simply with pasta or use in a variety of recipes.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 x 400 g (14 oz) canned diced tomatoes
  • 12 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • parsley, finely chopped
  • basil leaves, finely chopped


  1. Pour the oil into a medium-sized skillet or saucepan.
  2. Add the onion and garlic to the cold oil, together with a sprinkle of sea salt.
  3. Sauté over medium-high heat until the onion and garlic have softened.
  4. Add the canned tomatoes, together with the sugar, salt and some pepper to taste.
  5. Simmer the mixture over low-medium heat for about 20 minutes.
  6. Stir the mixture frequently, and use a wooden spoon to help break down the tomatoes.
  7. If the mixture has thickened too much, thin it with some boiling water.
  8. Taste for seasoning. Depending on the acidity of your canned tomatoes, you might need to add some more sugar.
  9. Stir through the chopped herbs, and reserve some herbs for garnishing.

Kitchen Notes

Simply leave out the onions, and use tomato passata (tomato purée) for a shorter cooking time.

Some suggestions for variations include:
* Add 1-2 teaspoons of crushed red peppers (dried chilli flakes) to the onions and garlic for a spicy kick.
* Add 1 teaspoon of dried Italian herbs to the onions and garlic.
* Add or substitute fresh marjoram or oregano.

Add some chopped vegetables to the onions and garlic, such as:
* courgette (zucchini), cut into large slices
* aubergine (eggplant), cut into small dice
* capsicums (bell peppers), cut into large dice

To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.


  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 96
  • Sugar: 9g
  • Sodium: 1024.4mg
  • Fat: 3.9g
  • Carbohydrates: 15.8g
  • Fiber: 2.4g
  • Protein: 2.1g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

Did you make this recipe?

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This recipe was first published on 26 February 2019. It has been updated with more comprehensive recipe notes.

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  1. Rachel 23 March 2021

    Thanks for the great recipe! It was very easy and quick to make.

  2. Greg 8 May 2021

    Very easy and tasty recipe!

  3. George 18 May 2022

    Easy and delicious! Thanks!

  4. Amy 24 August 2022

    This is a lovely basic tomato sauce for pasta. I didn’t know it could be so easy.