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Simple canned tomato sauce on pasta.

Simple Canned Tomato Pasta Sauce

A traditional Italian-style pasta or red sauce that uses canned tomatoes and dried herbs. Thick and delicious, it's perfect for spaghetti, eggplant parmigiana, stuffed shells, or any other dish that uses tomato sauce.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour


  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup onion grated or finely diced (about 1 medium-large onion)
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup carrot grated (about 1 medium-large carrot)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves mashed or finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon each dried oregano and basil
  • 2 cans tomatoes 28 ounce cans, either peeled whole or crushed or a combination, including juice, 28 ounce
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar optional
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  1. In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter. Add the grated or finely chopped onion and cook it, stirring frequently, for about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add the grated carrot, oregano and basil, and continue cooking for another 5 minutes until the carrots and onion are well softened.
  3. Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds.
  4. If using whole tomatoes, place them in a bowl and crush them into small chunks, with the juices freely flowing. Add the tomatoes (hand crushed or bought crushed in the can) and their juices to the pot containing the vegetables and herbs. Stirring frequently, bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat until the mixture is at a simmer and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until it is as thick as oatmeal.
  5. Add the optional sugar (see note), salt, and olive oil.
  6. Serve over pasta or use in a recipe.

Recipe Notes

The sugar is added to help sweeten the tomatoes. If you taste the sauce and it is not too acidic (i.e. it does not need sweetening) or you do not use sugar for other reasons, then by all means leave the sugar out. Conversely, if you need a bit more sugar than 1/4/ teaspoon, you can add it after tasting the fully cooked sauce.