Simple authentic Italian tomato sauce (sugo di pomodoro)

cooking class in Rome make marinara sauce

Even though in Italy we have some of the best tomatoes in the world, good quality tomatoes are not available throughout the year. Canning tomatoes during peak production has been a long standing Italian tradition. Growing up, I spent one week every August canning 200 kg (400 lb) of tomatoes with my parents for the winter.
Nowadays I don’t do that anymore as excellent organic canned tomatoes are available in most supermarkets. If you are unsure how to select a good product to follow these simple tips :

  1. Check the ingredients list: there should be no sugar added. Inferior quality tomatoes are sweetened to mask their unpleasant acidity and lack of flavor.
  2. Texture: no matter if puree, diced or simply peeled, canned tomatoes should be suspended in a thick, almost creamy juice like in the photo below. This way you can cook them for the briefest time to keep a fresh taste or to use them for pizza without cooking them first.
  3. Plain: Do not buy canned tomatoes added with herbs or other condiments. Add the condiments yourself so you can control the quality. Again, added ingredients often mask poor quality tomato and often taste stale.


thick and sweet with no sugar added
a good tomato product: thick and sweet with no sugar added

Once you have your perfect tin of tomato and your best extra virgin olive oil you can prepare this lovely sauce and enjoy it with your favorite pasta.

ravioli with marinara sauce


  • One 400 gr./12 ounces can diced/crushed canned tomato
  • 2 tablespoon white wine
  • 1 small onion thinly diced
  • 2 tablespoon fresh, flat leaf parsley, very finely chopped or a handful of basil leaves
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 300 gr. (10.0z) spaghetti, penne or other short pasta

Combine the olive oil and the onion in a shallow pan over low heat, cover cook until soft and slightly caramelized. Increase heat and, when the onion is sizzling, add white wine and reduce quickly. Lower the heat again, stir in the diced tomato, cover and cook for approx. 10 min until slightly thick.
Cook pasta al dente according to package instructions. Strain, stir in the fresh parsley, stir in the sauce and about one teaspoon extra virgin oil per person. Serve immediately with grated cheese on the side if desired.

You can substitute onion with garlic as in the fresh tomato sauce . Only use onion and garlic together if you want a sweeter taste. This is suitable e.g. to fish based sauces.
Serves 2-3.

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