I've been making a simple tomato sauce using tomato puree, basil, oregano, dried pasilla peppers, and garlic (as well as the left-over bits from cooking beef meatballs in the same pot). The flavor is good, but the sauce is visually very dark: a dark red that isn't very appetizing. I think this is because of the amount of basil I'm adding, but I'm not sure.

What techniques can I use or changes can I make to my recipe that will lighten the color closer to the red color of the tomato base, without changing the flavor too much?

  • 2
    how thick is your tomato purée ? are we talking passata or something else ?
    – Max
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 23:41
  • How finely chopped do you add the basil and oregano? Dried or fresh? Fresh herbs are best if added at the end of cooking, and you could keep them in larger pieces to have a "green flecks in red sauce" appearance instead of a dark red
    – Tinuviel
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 9:46
  • A pasta sauce, yes, so fairly thick. I've been using dried herbs; the typical name brand from a bottle type.
    – Aetherfox
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 13:58
  • Store bought sauce are usually already thick (reduced( and usually only require heating up.
    – Max
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 16:21

2 Answers 2


Maybe too much basil, depending on how much you are using. It really only takes a couple of leaves to add flavor, if you are using fresh. I would not recommend dried. You are probably also getting color from the dried pasilla pepper. You could leave that out. If you want a hit of pepper, add some to your final presentation. Cooking time will also effect the color of a tomato sauce. Try cooking for a shorter time. My basic tomato sauce cooks for 20 - 30 minutes.


If the dried herbs are the reason for the dark color: Try substituting them with fresh herbs, in larger pieces, added towards the end of cooking, which should result in a "green flecks in red sauce" appearance that you may like better.

If the reason is something else or you don't have access to fresh herbs, you could try adding a little bit of cream/cream cheese/sour cream/mascarpone to your sauce. This will lighten the color, but since you have a lot of green stuff you might not end up with a good-looking red color, so try that with a small portion of your sauce first.

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