IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Best Tomato Sauce

Riley Wofford for TODAY
Cook Time:
20 mins
Prep Time:
5 mins
2½ cups

Chef notes

Think about how versatile a good tomato sauce is. It can serve as the base of a pizza crust or simple baked pasta dish, be spooned over breaded chicken cutlets to make chicken Parm or be simmered on the stovetop with meatballs. It’s always a good idea to have a jar of tomato sauce in your refrigerator — and it’s even better if it’s homemade. 

You don’t need to simmer tomato sauce on the stove for hours to develop a concentrated flavor. This recipe is quick and simple — it comes together in under 30 minutes and only uses a handful of basic ingredients. To build flavor, start out by sautéing some shallots and garlic in olive oil. From there, add a can of crushed tomatoes and simmer the sauce for just about 15 minutes. I like to add a pinch of red pepper flakes to add a touch of heat, but if you’re sensitive to spice, you can always omit the pepper flakes or swap in a few cracks of black pepper. I also like to add a few pats of butter to the sauce at the end, which adds richness and makes the marinara sauce full-bodied. 

This recipe is made with canned tomatoes, but you can also make it with fresh tomatoes (we recommend Roma or beefsteak tomatoes on the vine) when they’re in season. It’s a great way to use up the bounty of fresh produce that the summer season has to offer. 

Technique Tip: If you don’t use all of the tomato sauce (or you make a double or triple batch), you can freeze extra sauce for up to six months. Freeze it in small portions — that way you only have to defrost what you need for a recipe. 

Swap Option: If you don’t have any butter on hand, you can either leave it out or use more olive oil instead.


  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Fulfilled by



Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper flakes and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. Partially cover the pot and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until melted.


If you prefer a smooth tomato sauce, transfer it to a blender and pulse a few times (or blend it with an immersion blender right in the pot).