Gluten Free/ Italian/ Sauces/Condiments/ Vegetarian

Basic Red Sauce

Basic red sauce is just that, a basic tomato sauce for pasta or any other Italian dish.  This is my grandmother’s recipe and will be referred to quite frequently in other dishes, often being modified slightly to fit the needs of that particular dish.

This is the sauce I make when I need comfort food.  We all have that dish or two that reminds of home, of happiness, of comfort.  This dish is it for me.  As a result, I have become somewhat of a red sauce snob when I go out to eat in restaurants.  Same goes for meatballs.  I can taste a jarred or canned sauce from a mile away, and sadly too many restaurants use prepared sauces instead of making them from scratch.

I cannot begin to count the ways in which I adapt this sauce for various dishes, so I decided to post the basic sauce, then will just write about the modifications each and every time I concoct one.  Use this sauce as your base, then add veggies or meat as you desire.  This is a thick and hearty sauce, so use a sturdy noodle like penne or rigatoni.

Basic Red Sauce

Author: Michelle


  • Olive Oil (about 2 tbsp)
  • 3-15 oz cans tomato sauce
  • 1-6 oz can tomato paste
  • Water (3/4 filled tomato paste can, mixed between all tomato product cans)
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic or 3 cloves grated/minced; plus more to taste
  • 1 tsp oregano +/-
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese; finely grated or the green-can stuff
  • 1 bay leaf


  1. In a large pot, skillet, or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over a medium-high heat.
  2. Add garlic and quickly mix around to heat up the garlic, but take care NOT TO BROWN it.
  3. Remove pot from heat.
  4. Add tomato sauce, paste, and water.  Mix well.
  5. Return to heat.
  6. Add oregano, bay leaf, salt, and pepper.
  7. Bring to a low boil or high simmer.
  8. Taste for salt, pepper, and garlic and add if needed to taste.
  9. Add parmesan cheese and allow to resume a low boil/high simmer for about 3 minutes.
  10. *After cooked, discard the bay leaf and serve.
  11. *If using immediately, reduce to low and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.
  12. *If using in slow cooker or oven, add to slow cooker/baking pot and allow to cook 3-6 hours on low with desired protein or on its own.
  13. **The longer this sauce sits "around" the better it tastes!

Thank you for sharing!

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  • Reply
    Joanne/WineLady Cooks
    July 12, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    An easy and delicious recipe for Basic Red Sauce, a ‘Sunday Supper’ staple in our family. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe. Pinned/shared.

  • Reply
    July 13, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    Yes, Sunday staple! Perfect description.

  • Reply
    Pork "Frances" - The Complete Savorist
    February 25, 2021 at 2:40 pm

    […] Frances uses the basic red sauce recipe but omits one can of tomato sauce.  This will initially be a thicker sauce but as the pork cooks, […]

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