Amazing Pizza and Pasta Sauce

While I've never done a blind tasting, my guess is that 10 out of 10 people would be able to tell the difference between jarred pasta sauce and homemade pasta sauce....and prefer the latter.

Awesome Pizza and Pasta Sauce
Awesome Pizza and Pasta Sauce
This is one of those recipes I've been tinkering with for quite some time - and I doubt that I'm done.  For now, this is one awesome marinara sauce to go on pizzas, pasta, polenta and even pancakes.  OK, I'm kidding about the pancakes.

About the Tomatoes

If you're fortunate to have fresh tomatoes, this is a great recipe for you.  In Chicago, tomato season lasts about 3 weeks, so I use canned tomatoes (which are now available in cans without the BPA-laden liner).  In this case, it's a mix of crushed tomatoes and whole peeled tomatoes (go with San Marzano Tomatoes if you feel like being a big spender).  Whatever you do, don't get any tomatoes that are already seasoned.  Some unfortunately will contain basil, oregano and an unnecessary amount of sodium.  You're in control of the seasoning, not them.  

I'm also using a can of tomato paste here.  I found that without it, the sauce tended to be watery.  This is rather undesirable for pizza and can make the crust soggy while cooking.  The addition of the paste not only helps thicken the sauce, but gives it an even more robust tomato flavor.

Other Ingredients

For other ingredients, I like fennel seed.  Toast them ahead of time to really open up their flavor and give an added earthiness to the sauce.  It also helps make your dish pork-friendly.  Any sort of canadian bacon, ham, sausage or pepperoni will go great with the fennel in the sauce.  If you want to give it a more traditional pasta sauce flavor, add the Italian Seasoning Mix.  If you have some on your shelf, make sure it's no more than 6 months old or it's going to be bitter and ruin the sauce.  I like to buy small amounts from the bulk section at Whole Foods and write on the lid when to toss it out.


This recipe is definitely built for scale and the quantities below will get you through several meals.  Because of the time involved I like to make a large batch and freeze the rest.  If you have a super large stockpot, feel free to dial it up even more.

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Pizza and Pasta Sauce Recipe
An amazing tomato (marinara) sauce for pizza, pasta, polenta and more...
Prep time: Cook time: Total time:
  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Large White Onions
  • 8 Cloves Garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Fennel Seed
  • 1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning Mix (optional)
  • 1 6oz can Tomato Paste
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Basil
  • 2 28oz cans Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 28oz can Whole Peeled Tomatoes
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the garlic first and give it about 30 seconds alone in the oil. If you slice it paper thin, like Paulie Cicero in Goodfellas, it will supposedly melt into the pan. I've never had that happen, but it does give off more flavor than simply crushing. Be careful not to let it burn!
  2. Add your onion and continue to cook for about 10 minutes to soften the onion and allow them to turn translucent
  3. Add the sugar, fennel seed and seasoning mix. Stir this in well and give it 2-3 minutes to work into the onion and garlic
  4. Carefully pour in the whole peeled tomatoes (don't drain them) and the crushed tomatoes. To help the tomato paste mix in better, you can heat up 1/2 cup of the crushed tomatoes and stir in the paste to thin it out. Add this to the pot as well along with 1 tablespoon of the basil
  5. Optional: a splash of vodka at this point is supposed to open up the flavors even more. I've never tried this recipe blindly with and without the booze to know if it really makes a difference...but there are plenty that swear by vodka pasta sauce
  6. Bring this to a boil and then simmer for the next 30 minutes. The longer the better. Add the remaining basil just prior to plating.