the easiest basic tomato sauce

I’m a firm believer in making tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes, primarily because I can’t stand the tinny taste of canned tomatoes.  Unfortunately, I’m never organized enough to make giant batches of tomato sauce during the summer when tomatoes are in-season – I’d rather have a caprese salad! – which means I’m stuck trying to find decent tomatoes in the fall and winter.  Most of the large off-season tomatoes in the market tend to have a pretty mealy texture and lackluster flavor; accordingly, the resulting sauce tends to be a far cry from what’s desired.

Cue the cherry tomato: they’re available year-round and tend to have good texture and flavor.  Roasting them intensifies the flavor but still leaves a clean tomato taste.  There’s 5 ingredients in this recipe, but the sky is the limit here.  I like to keep the basic tomato sauce on-hand in my freezer and doctor it up for various applications: if I’m planning a pasta diner, I’ll saute onions and garlic with some oregano, then add the defrosted sauce and some red wine and let it simmer away to make a fantastic marinara. I’ll turn it into a salsa by adding some garlic, lime, cilantro, jalapeno, and onion.  Let me know what unique applications you come up with in the comments below!

Basic Tomato Sauce
Basic Tomato Sauce

basic tomato sauce

prep time: 5 minutes

cook time: 30 minutes

total time: 35 minutes

yield: Appx 2 C


  • 2 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 6 large basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Mise en place, and read this recipe all the way through.
  2. Toss the tomatoes in the olive oil and transfer to a sheet pan.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (about a teaspoon of each) and wiggle the pan to evenly distribute the seasoning.
  4. Roast in a 450 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, until the tomatoes have started to caramelize and have released their juices. If they look like they're shriveling up, it's time to take them out.
  5. Let cool slightly, then transfer to the bowl of a food processor and add the basil. Pulse 3-5 times for a coarse sauce, 5-10 times for a smoother one.
  6. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the freezer.

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