Homemade Italian Pizza and Pasta Sauce

While I’ve never done a blind tasting, my guess is that 10 out of 10 people would be able to tell the difference between jarred pasta sauce and homemade pasta sauce….and prefer the latter.  So if you’re looking for a recipe for homemade pasta sauce from scratch, keep reading.

This is one of those recipes I’ve been tinkering with for quite some time – and I doubt that I’m done.  For now, this is one awesome homemade pasta sauce to go on pizzas, pasta, polenta and even pancakes.  OK, I’m kidding about the pancakes.

Making Homemade Pasta Sauce

If you’re fortunate to have fresh tomatoes, this is a great recipe for you.  In Chicago, tomato season lasts about 3 weeks, so I use canned tomatoes (which are now widely available in cans without the BPA-laden liner).  In this case, it’s a mix of crushed tomatoes and whole peeled tomatoes (go with San Marzano Tomatoes if you feel like being a big spender).  Whatever you do, don’t get any tomatoes that are already seasoned.  Some unfortunately will contain basil, oregano and an unnecessary amount of sodium.  You’re in control of the seasoning, not them.

I’m also using a can of tomato paste here.  I found that without it, the sauce tended to be watery.  This is rather undesirable for pizza and can make the crust soggy while cooking.  The addition of the paste not only helps thicken the sauce, but gives it an even more robust tomato flavor.

Other Ingredients for Homemade Pasta Sauce

For other ingredients, I like fennel seed.  Toast them ahead of time to really open up their flavor and give an added earthiness to the sauce.  It also helps make your dish pork-friendly.  Any sort of canadian bacon, ham, sausage or pepperoni will go great with the fennel in the sauce.  If you want to give it a more traditional pasta sauce flavor, add the Italian Seasoning Mix.  If you have some on your shelf, make sure it’s no more than 6 months old or it’s going to be bitter and ruin the sauce.  I like to buy small amounts from the bulk section at Whole Foods and write on the lid when to toss it out.

Scaling Up

This recipe is definitely built for scale and the quantities below will get you through several meals.  Because of the time involved I like to make a large batch and freeze the rest.  If you have a super large stockpot, feel free to dial it up even more.
The only thing I haven’t figured out is how to can homemade pasta sauce to save it all.

Pizza and Pasta Sauce Recipe
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 30 mins
An amazing tomato (marinara) sauce for pizza, pasta, polenta and more...
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Tony Bailey
  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Large White Onions
  • 2 Tablespoons Crushed Garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Fennel Seed
  • 1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning Mix optional
  • 6 Ounce Can of Tomato Paste
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Basil, Divided
  • 2 28 Ounce Can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 28 Ounce Can Whole Peeled Tomatoes
  1. Heat the olive oil in a stockpot over medium low heat.  Add the garlic first and give it about 30 seconds alone in the oil. 

  2. Add your onion, raise to medium heat, and continue to cook for about 10 minutes

  3. Add the sugar, fennel seed and seasoning mix. Stir this in well and give it 2-3 minutes to work into the onion and garlic
  4. Carefully pour in the (undrained) whole peeled tomatoes, crushed tomatoes. Stir and then add the tomato paste and 1 tablespoon of the basil

  5. Optional: add a splash of vodka or rum

  6. Bring this to a boil and then simmer for the next 30 minutes. The longer the better. Add the remaining basil just prior to plating.


  1. I've been looking for a new go-to pizza sauce. This sound mouthwatering! Thanks for the recipe!

  2. I really, really need a new go-to sauce myself. I can't even handle eating the jarred stuff anymore. If I have to – I use Newman's because it's natural.. but still! This looks great, and thanks for sharing your recipe!

  3. Marlys Folly

    Found you through GYB hop… I started my blog for the same reasons… love to cook and love photography. Your pictures make your recipes mouth watering. I am now following you through bloglovin. I would like to invite you to our Foodie Friends Friday Linky Party. It starts this evening and ends Sunday morning. Always great fun.

  4. How many ounces are the cans of the tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and tomato paste?

  5. Sounds like a great recipe! Thank you for stopping by my blog from the 3Jan GYB blog hop 😉

  6. I'm pinning your sauce recipe… I can make the dough but trying to find a recipe for homemade sauce – I'll give it a try!!

  7. Dont kid about the pancakes. I will eat them with anything. This looks like a really good sauce. What an interesting addition of the fennel seeds. I bet they take the sauce to a whole other level.

    • tbailey1712

      Hey Bintu – The fennel is definitely a little different. A nearby Italian restaurant had a really tasty pasta sauce and I asked what their secret was…the chef told me about using toasted fennel, golden raisins and dark rum (instead of vodka) all to bring out sweetness of the tomatoes and better pair to Italian sausage. So I'm trying little tweaks like this to see what I like as well.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. I am really enjoying your blog. Not only do you have great recipes, you are well organized and so versed, so to speak. Can you blog about what the main difference is between pizza sauce, basic tomato sauce, marinara and spaghetti? It is hard to determine what is what and when to use; varies on if you cook the tomatoes, add the herbs or not, but who doesn't add some kind of herb to tomatoes? The net has conflicting info. I know to a large degree it comes down to personal taste/preference. But, through your findings, do you have a cut and dry way to categorize all of it? Sauces 101. Thank you!

  9. Pingback: Mediterranean Breakfast Pizza with Za'atar and Eggs

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