The Best Ever Homemade Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti (or Pizza) Soup from The Best Ever Basic Tomato Sauce

Tomato Soup never sells at the school store. Ever. Now, Pizza Soup, well that is a whole other story. It sells out in minutes! There doesn’t need to be any difference: we have sold regular tomato soup to very happy students with pizza garnishings (basil and oregano mixed in) with a generous amount of shredded cheese on top and they rave for days about it and beg for more. But, rarely do I have regular tomato soup around at school. However, we always have our special homemade tomato sauce. With half of the batch puréed and the other half left chunky, a dollop of yogurt (homemade, of course) and the cheeses and basil… well, sing me a song, Piano Man! It is pure Rock ‘n Roll in a bowl for kids!

Look at it!

Man cannot live on bread alone. He needs tomato sauce. And, not just any tomato sauce. A tomato sauce that knocks your head back and opens your eyes wider as you taste it; a tomato sauce so full of fresh garden goodness that you feel healthy energy surge through you after the first bite; a tomato sauce that distills the essence of the quintessential Italian kitchen so well that you looks your footing and plop in the nearest chair. Now, that is tomato sauce. And, you shouldn’t bother with any other.

When I first decided to share my “secret” recipe with my students a few years back, I knew immediately that I had changed each one, forever. The peeling and the cleaning and the chopping, dicing and mincing were all met with quiet sighs as each rendered himself helpless to resist. I coached and kept up the pace and the passion and the enthusiasm: “”Stop, everyone! Look at this onion! Did you ever see such a perfectly sliced onion? Come on!! Standing O!” We cheered one another on through to completion… then, mise en place, good to go to the stove… and the magic started to happen. The aroma. The sizzle. The glistening of the fragrant vegetables transformed through this specific combination: onions, carrots, and celery (2:1:1) “The Holy Trinity

“Stop! Stop! Everyone! Can you feel it? Can you hear it? Can you smell it? It’s a religious experience!!! The holy trinity is in our skillet!” And it was a religious experience. Students were stirring, breathing it in, tasting, and dropping to their knees. “Oooooohhhh! Mrs. Rodgers! You sure know how to make a good sauce. This is mighty tasty. I didn’t believe that carrots and celery were in a tomato sauce, but they make it so so so yummy!”

Nothing bonds people together: woman to man, mother to children, teacher to students – like food. It really is a religious experience. It is so empowering to to it yourself. “It’s not hard! It is work, but it is not hard! I can do it! I can do it! I cannot wait to get home and make my own!”

I cannot wait for you to either, sweetie.

And there is nothing like making your own. Nothing. Just look at that!

It smelled so good, I had to eat some. I never eat a bowl of tomato sauce, but a bowl of Pizza Soup with my homemade yogurt embraced by the thick warmth of the Holy Trinity? Now, that is an entirely different matter. MMMM MMMM good! (NOT Campbell’s Good: Homemade Good!)

I use it on pizzas and on pasta. It is incredible. It goes very far as I have my massive batch on a low simmer at the back of the stove 8-10 hours. It is not at all a soupy sauce. It is a thick, deeply flavourful, thank-God-in-Heaven I am alive to eat this kind of sauce. I freeze it in 1/2 cup portions, 1 cup portions and 2 cup portions.

Make this with your kids. See if I am fibbing. You will have the time of your life, and so will they!

What is your go-to tomato sauce?

Best EVER Basic Tomato Sauce Recipe

(makes 2 1/2c sauce)


  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, including green tops, diced
  • 2 T fresh parsley, sliced chiffonade style
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 t dried basil
  • 2 t dried oregano
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, including juice (DOP tomatoes make ALL the difference! OR fresh from the garden heirloom tomatoes)
  • 1/2 small (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste (start with a teaspoon of salt)


  1. Heat olive oil in a large wide skillet on medium heat
  2. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery and parsley (I didn’t use it this time, but added it in later: do use it this way)
  3. Stir to coat
  4. Reduce the heat to low
  5. Cover the skillet and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened and cooked through
  6. Remove the cover and add the garlic, and mix in for 30 seconds
  7. Add the tomato paste, the basil and oregano; stir to coat (about 30 seconds to a minute)
  8. Add the canned tomatoes; simmer (reduce the heat to low, and cook) uncovered, until thick (about 90 minutes to 2 hours); puree in a blender, if preferred (I don’t)
  9. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as needed (start with a teaspoon of salt)
  10. Use for whatever recipe it is intended, or cool and use a rubber spatula to scrape sauce into plastic freezer bag (label and date)

Note: This is a lovely thick condensed sauce: I only use 1/4 cup for a pizza (use sparingly, it goes a long way). I made 4 times this recipe above.


  1. says

    It shows you that marketing plays a big factor. I just heard on the radio that when L’Oreal first started making conditioner that they could sell to women in the 40’s? that it came with instructions…massage into hair, leave on for 30 minutes, rinse. Now the conditioner worked in 2 minutes but women were used to being pampered in salons and would excpect the same experience at home.

    • Valerie says

      Bellini: So true. Marketing is incredibly powerful. Ask Carghill, Monsanto, or others! Go to their websites, and you would think you were visiting a World Vision website.

  2. says

    I have honestly been craving pasta with a good sauce lately! I haven’t ever found a sauce that really makes me do cartwheels so I’d love to try this Best Ever sauce! This has my mouth watering.

  3. says

    Hey Valerie!

    This looks absolutely amazing – so hearty and delicious. This is so shameful but I’m going to admit it anyways, my go to tomato sauce is Prego. I’ve never made my own sauce before, but now with this recipe I must! Love that second picture with the beautiful spoonful of that sauce. You have me craving for pasta tonight! Omg, I’ll bet this would go wonderfully with your flatbread too.

    You’re so right about nothing bonding people together like food. It’s amazing the power food has, isn’t it. That is why I love food blogging, meeting beautiful, sincere like-minded people like you. Look at this wonderful friendship that food has created for us. Powerful stuff, that food ;-). Hope you and Vanja have a beautiful weekend. Hugs!!!

    • Valerie says

      LQ. You truly are a doll. The sauce recipe is easy to follow. You CAN do this. Buy a bloody bottle of PREGO when you do it. THIS IS A MUST. The taste it and taste yours. You will never buy Prego again. Then figure out the cost difference, then the health benefits. Then, can you replace that stool by the stove with little K standing on it with a bottle of Prego? No. OK. I will stop ranting, after all – you said you would try. Here is an important tip. Stir it regularly and use a heavy cast iron type pan or pot when you make it. Also, your bread can serve as an EXCELLENT pizza crust.

  4. says

    My fondest memory was going over to my ‘Nonna’ for Sunday’s sauce and meatballs…and no one came close to her magic touch.
    They say I’m the one that resembles her the most in the kitchen…and I take great pride in that. I also take particular joy to slow cook this very special sauce.

    Valerie…your photos have just cheered me up incredibly…so many beautiful arrays of deep character and the colors are inviting me to your table ;o)

    Btw…you must be a great cook because our recipes resemble each other. LOL

    Ciao for now and have a great weekend,

    • Valerie says

      Claudia (Foodessa): You must share the differences in our recipes! I would love to know what they are. Nonnas are the best!

  5. says

    This looks delicious. The color is just gorgeous and I can imagine how this smells as it simmers on the stove. I hope you have a great weekend. Blessings…Mary

  6. says

    This just goes to show you that it’s really all about advertising. Call it tomato soup and it’s “yucky”. Call it pizza soup…and the crowds come running. No matter what the name, it looks and sounds delicious!

  7. says

    There is nothing more heavenly than the delicious fragrance of a perfectly made tomato sauce on the stove. And this one looks perfect indeed. I love your enthusiasm and no doubt you pass it on to your students. Lucky kids!
    Can’t wait to try pizza soup; an invention made in heaven!

    • Valerie says

      HH: I love soups, but do you like dips? Just dip some fresh pizza dough in this sauce for a yummy tummy moment!

  8. says

    This is definitely the best tomato sauce ever! I love all the flavors you use in it. Wonderful combination! Would love to use this sauce as meatballs topping too!

  9. says

    I must admit you know tricks of the trade.If I were a kid, I would always be more than interested in buying pizza soup that a tomato one.Infact looking at your post I have a craving for basil and tomato pizza now.I love your post and the innovative idea with which u decked up the simple sauce.It looks awesome!

    • Valerie says

      That’s the problem! We don’t make the grilled cheese to go with it! And, you are right about that! YUM!

  10. says

    Ohhh, ohhhhh my. This looks amazing. I am a huge lover of tomato based anything, and my usual tomato sauce has no set recipe, so this would be an excellent “go to”. I was laughing so much at your description of the students making this sauce! Love it, and the pictures make it look absolutely scrumptious!

  11. says

    Hi Valerie! What a delightful post to read on my Sunday night. You are so right…food brings people together! I loved thinking of you sharing this recipe with your students. They are so lucky to have had you. I love a good pizza and pasta dish, so I will be making this VERY VERY soon! Did you get my last message by the way? I tried to send it via email but it didn’t work so I left a comment here. Let me know if you did! Thank you for sharing, my blogging friend! I’m sending you wishes for a happy and delicious week!

  12. says

    Now there’s a clever trick, calling it “pizza soup” instead of tomato soup! I’ll have to remember that if, God forbid, I ever have picky kids. And the colour is so deep and rich!

  13. says

    They always say never to refer to a recipe as “the best ever” but boy oh boy this time I can believe it! I love your description and the sauce looks spectacular! I am in desperate need of a fab recipe and I absolutely love that you use it for everything from pasta to soup! I am so making this! Thank you!

    • Valerie says

      Jamie: Who are “they” anyway? If I have made something for years and tweaked it to past perfection – it is definitely “best ever”! Sometimes “they” miss the point. I have already lived the thousand years “they” have not yet! (double sideways grin!!!)

  14. says

    This looks simple enough to cook except all the chopping up…haha. I love the look of the thick sauce. Looks like it will be good on anything. I would love to try. I just wonder whether the fresh tomatoes would do instead of the canned ones. Thanks very much for sharing this lovely recipe.

  15. says

    homemade sauce make the world go round, lol add the word pizza and the kids come A great sauce, bottled are so watered down, no veggies..thanks for sharing!!


  16. says

    That looks and sounds absolutely wonderful. I love the color and the thickness of the sauce, it can be difficult to find tomato sauce recipes that don’t turn out all watery and thin. The addition of carrots sound yummy too! I’ll need to make a big batch of this and freeze it in bags to use over the next few months :)

  17. Susan says

    So comforting and delicious looking. Now you have to find me just as great a recipe for vegetarian “meatless” balls. I just love the way kids like anything familiar. Coca cola cake is still popular with the kids here in TX. That might be a great dessert with your pizza soup. Or maybe a ketchup macaron (thanks to Pierre Hermes)I wonder if fries come with that? :0

    • Valerie says

      No one makes French Macarons like you! I am always in awe! Now, a ketchup macaron: hmmm. Coca Cola cake would be banned at my house! And, we have never even heard of that cake on the Alberta prairies (thank GOD!)… major industrial food giants have far too big of a hand here already!

      • Susan says

        Sweet Valerie for those macthoughts. Yip, Coca cola cake, beer cake balls…I could go on, but it might be too scary. My mom, from the Saskatchewan prairies :) shares your same sentiment on all these interesting combinations, but I guess I like living dangeoursly. :) Happy cooking. Hugs,SUSAN

  18. says

    Wowzers, Valerie! This looks so incredibly delicious. I’m going over the contents of my pantry and fridge right now to see if I can make it. Plus, I’m totally in need of a religious experience (smile;-)…!

  19. Virginia says

    Looks absolutely delicious… I have a huge amount of tomatoes from Grandpa’s garden, and wondered if you could just use them instead of canned? Thanks.

    • Valerie Lugonja says

      Hi, Virginia
      Theoretically, fresh tomatoes are the way to go, but I would oven roast them first. See my oven roasted tomato recipe… because I have made the sauce with fresh tomatoes and they contain so much water that they need to be simmered much longer which doesn’t necessarily enhance the flavour of the sauce. The oven roasting absolutely will. The sauce will be even better with fresh oven roasted tomatoes. I have done this, too. It is time intensive, but so so worth it!
      Lucky you to have lovely fresh garden tomatoes!

  20. Suzette Sanford says

    I also take particular joy to slow cook this very special sauce. This looks amazing. So comforting and delicious looking.

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