Sugo in a white bowl and tomatoes and basil plant in a background.

Sugo Di Pomodoro – Quick and Simple Tomato Sauce

Quick and simple sugo di pomodoro is a basic Italian sauce that makes the tomatoes shine. It’s a perfect solution for busy weeknights when you want a homemade sauce without spending hours in the kitchen. This delicious recipe comes together in under 20 minutes, using pantry staples such as canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, and dried herbs.

Spruce it up with fresh basil leaves and you have a rich and flavorful sauce that pairs perfectly with pasta, Eggplant Polpette, Manicotti, Zucchini Rollatini, pizza and other dishes.

Red sauce holds a special place in the hearts of Italians, with each household cherishing its own unique version passed down through generations. It is lovingly referred to as “nona’s sauce” and goes by various names such as sugo finto, alla marinara, salsa or tomato gravy.

Tomato sauce in a bowl with a spoon.


Tomatoes originally a “new world” fruit, made their way into Italy during the high renaissance around 1540s. At first categorized as a novel variety of eggplants, and even deemed as possibly toxic, tomatoes had a long journey of transformation before becoming a culinary staple. The botanists, captivated by their vibrant hues of deep red and golden yellow coined the new name “pomi d’oro” (meaning “golden fruit”), eventually recognized as “pomodoro”. It took almost three hundred years for the tomato to transform from a curiosity and ornamental plant to a fundamental and indispensable ingredient in Italian cuisine.

David Gentilcore dedicated an entire book to tracing the historical trajectory of tomatoes in Italian cuisine, providing a comprehensive documentation of their journey. Within its pages, readers are immersed in a wealth of juicy information about tomatoes, delving into their centuries-long voyage from Spanish ships to Italian tables.

Pellegrino Artusi’s book, “La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene,” published in 1891, possibly contains the earliest documented recipe for tomato sauce. In this culinary tractate, Artusi presents a recipe for Salsa di Pomodoro.

Quick and simple sugo di pomodoro or marinara sauce.

Grocery and Pantry List for Sugo

  • Canned tomatoes: Using canned tomatoes is the shortcut to making this recipe quick and simple. Use crushed tomatoes if you don’t want to do the extra step of blending the tomato chunks. Crush tomatoes are much denser so might require less cooking. If using whole or diced tomatoes, either process them in the blender or with immersion blender at the end of cooking. 
  • Onion or Shallot: Finely-diced onion for this sauce, so that the onion chunks aren’t too big. But go with whatever size of dice you prefer. I like using shallots (which belong to the onion family and have similar sharpness to an onion with a much milder taste).
  • Garlic: Garlic gives the tomato sauce a distinctive flavor. I like leaving big crushed pieces of garlic in the sauce which you can easily remove after the sauce is cooked. Sometimes I used finely pressed garlic that integrates within the sauce. 
  • Basil and oregano: I use dry oregano in the sauce (fresh is fine too) while cooking and add roughly chopped basil leaves right after turning the heat off. Adding the leaves at the end nicely perfumes the sauce. 
  • Crushed red pepper flakes: This is optional if you like spiciness and heat.  

Time Required:

5 minutes preparation

10 minutes cooking

Making Sugo Step by Step

  • Begin by heating the oil in a saucepan, then incorporate the finely minced diced shallots or onions. Sauté the onions until they become tender without changing the color.
  • Next, add the crushed garlic and cook for just under a minute followed by crushed tomatoes, along with a seasoning of salt, pepper, and oregano.
  • Once the mixture starts boiling, reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for 5 minutes. Incorporate freshly chopped basil, and then turn off the heat.
  • Finally, if necessary, make any adjustments to the seasonings according to your taste preferences.
Marinara Sauce

Ways to Use Sugo Tomato Sauce

  • Use it for pizza
  • Use it with pasta
  • Mix with vegetable noodles
  • Use in baked dishes such as lasagna, baked ziti
  • Highlight as a standalone dipping sauce

How to Store Homemade Tomato Sauce

Once cooled, store in a glass jar or non-reactive container and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze.

Tomato sauce freezes well. Defrost at room temperature (or fridge) or reheat on the stovetop or microwave.

Tips and Wisdom from Cafe Osharak

  • Incorporate fresh basil as a finishing touch.
  • Avoid overcooking canned tomatoes, as their natural sweetness diminishes during the lengthy cooking process.
  • Gently sauté the onions until they turn translucent and lightly tanned.
  • Immediately add the garlic after the onions are done, but sauté for a mere 30 seconds.
  • If you intend to utilize the sauce in baked dishes, refrain from reducing its consistency through prolonged cooking.
  • Opt for canned tomatoes of exceptional quality preferably without additives. San Marzano tomatoes are widely regarded as the finest choice. These tomatoes typically refer to a specific variety grown in Naples, Italy. They have a meatier texture and contain fewer seeds, resulting in a sweeter sauce. The distinctive flavor is attributed to the combination of volcanic soil and abundant sunlight. However, it’s important to note that products labeled as “San Marzano” may not always originate from that specific region, and thus, they might not possess the same depth of flavor.
  • When tomatoes are in season use the fresh tomatoes to make the sauce.
  • Sugo or tomato sauce develops rich and deeper flavor the next day.
  • If the canned tomatoes are too watery, I would suggest draining them with a mash strainer. The excess liquid can be repurposed for soups, stocks, or even cooking pasta. Straining the tomatoes for approximately 10-15 minutes effectively removes the moisture, eliminating the necessity of further cooking them down.

More  Recipes From Cafe Osharak

Sugo Di Pomodoro – Quick and Simple Tomato Sauce

Quick and Simple Sugo di Pomodoro is the perfect solution for busy days when you want a homemade sauce without spending hours in the kitchen.
Print Recipe
Sugo in a bowl and tomatoes in the background.
Prep Time:5 minutes
Cook Time:10 minutes


  • 1 can 28-ounce can diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 shallot or onion
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 -2 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon dry oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh basil


  • In a saucepan heat the oil and add the diced shallots.
  • Saute the onions until they soften but do not change the color.
  • Add the crushed garlic and cook for a minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, and season with salt, pepper, and oregano.
  • Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat down and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add the basil and turn the heat off.


Calories: 644kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 58g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 42g | Sodium: 8214mg | Potassium: 1509mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 939IU | Vitamin C: 76mg | Calcium: 257mg | Iron: 8mg
Calories: 644kcal
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