Salsa di Pomodoro | Tomato Sauce

The recipe for a good salsa di pomodoro is the cornerstone of a great meal. Your pasta, meatballs, ragu, are all only as good as your sauce is. Like many Italian families, in August, when tomatoes are at their peak freshness, we process bushels upon bushels of tomatoes and create passata, which translates to “passed though”. We boil probably about 100 pounds of tomatoes until they are tender and the skins are breaking, then pass them through a huge food mill that separated the juices and pulp of the tomato from the skin and seeds. We discard skin and seeds and then jar the rest, boiling the glass jars we use year after year so that the jars seal completely and will stay fresh until the following August.

It takes all day and we always eat penne with the fresh sauce that day, topped with grated ricotta salata. Whenever anyone asks me for my sauce recipe, I warn them – it’s not the same unless you use passata! But, in the event you aren’t lucky enough to live near a generous nonna who will give you a jar, many grocery stores are beginning to carry it! Mutti, Cento, and Wegmans all carry their own jars (though they’re smaller than the amount I use in this recipe). If you cannot find passata, you can also use tomato puree, but you must ensure there is nothing added – no extra salt or other seasonings!

This sauce can be used in a myriad of other recipes you’ll find on the site. I use fresh herbs for this recipe in the summer and dried during the winter – either way this sauce has all the flavors a classic Italian sauce needs. I hope you love it!

Salsa di Pomodoro | Tomato Sauce

  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 32 oz jar of Passata, or 1 28 oz can tomato puree with no salt or other seasoning added
  • 14-16 oz water
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
  • Red Pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil


  1. Set a saucepan over medium-high heat and heat for 1-2 minutes. Add extra virgin olive oil and heat, about 1 minute. The oil is ready when it thins and swirls easily around the pot. Add red pepper flakes and sliced garlic and cook until starting to brown and fragrant – about 1 minute.
  2. Add your passata or tomato puree, then rinse out the jar or can by filling it halfway with tap water. Add the water to the sauce and stir to combine.
  3. To the sauce, add all the seasonings – salt, oregano, parsley, and basil. Stir to combine. Allow sauce to come to a vigorous boil.
  4. Once the sauce is boiling, turn the heat down low and allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes.

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