How to Make Authentic Italian Tomato Sauce (aka Tomato Gravy)

Basic Italian dishes are beautiful in their simplicity. All the ingredients are used to the absolute maximum of their potential, and no element goes to waste. For example, a classic pasta alla carbonara even makes exceptional use of the pasta water! Today’s recipe is a pasta sauce so simple, fresh, and flavorful, that you might just forget about pre-made sauces altogether (if you haven’t already).

Photo from The Paupered Chef

Photo from The Paupered Chef

Since this recipe relies on only a handful of ingredients for its taste, it’s important to get the best ingredients possible! As such, it’s recommended that you make this sauce with San Marzano tomatoes, a variety of plum tomatoes which have a bolder, sweeter flavor and fewer seeds. (Had I not been gifted a whole slew of home-grown tomatoes from a friend, I would have done the same!)

Photo by The Paupered Chef

Photo by The Paupered Chef

Italian Tomato Sauce (or Gravy)


  • 2 (28oz cans) of San Marzano tomatoes
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp fresh Italian flat leaf parsley (or basil, or thyme), chopped
  • sea salt
  • black pepper


  • Crush the tomatoes, separating the juice and seeds from the pulp. The pulp should be the consistency of a puree. Set aside.
  • Heat olive oil in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic once the pan is hot and let it cook until they're golden brown (it should take under 10 minutes). Add the carrots and let them cook until they're soft. Then, add the crushed tomato puree to the mixture and wait until it all comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. If the mixture seems too thick, add enough of the reserved tomato juice to reach the desired consistency. If it's thickening too quickly, reduce the cooking time!
  • Toward the end of the cooking process, add in your fresh herbs (and/or save them for serving!) Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve!
 How to Make Authentic Italian Tomato Sauce (aka Tomato Gravy) Recipes

Tips and Tricks

  • If you prefer a completely smooth tomato sauce, leave all of your veggies and herbs whole and remove them from the sauce prior to serving. If you do this, the cooking time will probably increase to about 2 hours. 
  • Refrigerated, this tomato sauce will last about 1-2 weeks. If you freeze it, it should keep for up to 6 months!

Photos from The Paupered Chef


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