I'm quite new to cooking, but nonetheless I have been experimenting in the kitchen for a while to try and make some sauce from tomatoes. But all my attempts failed: I usually get just a bunch of fried tomatoes or something similar.

I have tried the following:

  • Chopping and just throwing on the pan, this one seems like the correct way.
  • Grating the tomatoes - this one sounds odd and, well, it is.

I just really need to find a simple method to generate sauce from tomatoes and I haven't found anything that worked for me. I'm obviously doing something wrong.

  • Also, what kind of tomatoes are you using? Have you tried making sauce from canned (whole peeled) tomatoes first to see how it goes, as those are very simple to make sauce with?
    – lemontwist
    Aug 2, 2012 at 12:23
  • The difference between chopping and grating is only in the consistency (the sauce will be rather chunky or more smooth). Personally, I didn't see any other difference between the two along the years.
    – Coral Doe
    Aug 2, 2012 at 12:33
  • @lemontwist I use normal fresh tomato not some sort of fance italian tomato that I heard alot about. I havent tried canned tomatos because im not really sure what to type to buy.
    – m1sk
    Aug 2, 2012 at 15:10
  • Where are you setting your temperature control, and how long are you letting them cook?
    – baka
    Aug 2, 2012 at 15:43
  • It depends on what kind of tomato sauce you want to make. I've at times used the method of JoeFish, usually adding some wine to the mix. When I want a thick red sauce to freeze, I buy a huge box of tomatoes, blanch/peel, put them in a large stockpot and heat until they basically disintegrate into juice and add a bunch of tomato paste. Otherwise I cheat, buy a can of whole peeled tomatoes (buy store brand or Tutto Rosa if you can find it), blend, add a tbsp or so tomato paste, and heat. Add whatever you like to it as you see fit (garlic, onions, herbs). Sauce is about experimentation.
    – lemontwist
    Aug 2, 2012 at 23:41

2 Answers 2


Whenever I'm looking to make something I've never tried, I seek out recipes from a site that has reviews. I look for something that has many good reviews (not just 5 stars from one person). Then be sure to read the reviews, as they often have good suggestions and details on how the recipe worked for them.

For example, here's a tomato sauce recipe from Allrecipes.com. Seems pretty straight forward: smush up the tomatoes, throw them in a pot with oil and spices, cook until done.

Based on your description, I'd guess you're either cooking at too high a heat, cooking too long, not using enough tomato, or not using enough oil. Very hard to tell without knowing more about your process.

As for a simple method to generate sauce from tomatoes: I generally don't make that rich, heavy sauce one typically associates with Italian tomato sauces. I make a fresher, lighter sauce that goes something like:

  1. Start some pasta cooking in well-salted boiling water.
  2. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a fry pan over medium-low heat. I generally use decent extra-virgin here, as I won't be sauteing or frying in it.
  3. Dice some onion and add to the pan to sweat them down a bit. They should gently sizzle, not hiss and pop. If they do, turn the heat down.
  4. Mince some garlic, add to the pan. Just cook for a minute or two to flavor the oil.
  5. Dice the tomatoes and add to the pan. I normally dice them whole, skin on, and leave most of the pulp, juice and seeds.
  6. Add a pinch of salt, some pepper and a small pinch of red pepper flakes (a larger pinch if my wife isn't joining me).
  7. Cook until the tomatoes cook down and the sauce looks yummy.
  8. Chiffonade some fresh herbs (I love fresh basil and oregano, and roll up all the small herbs in the big basil leaves to make everything easier to thinly slice) or add a pinch of dried. I like to wait until the end to keep the herbs tasting bright and fresh.
  9. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water.
  10. Drop the pasta into the fry pan and toss with the sauce, adding a bit of the reserved pasta water (see here for some reasons why).
  11. Toss and cook for a minute or two to get the sauce and pasta loving each other thoroughly.
  12. Taste, adjust seasoning to your taste.
  13. Enjoy with a nice Chianti.

I know that looks like a lot of steps, but it's actually super-simple, and breaking it down into print is way more complicated than actually making it.

  • Ok, ill try out this recipe sometime next week, but the major changes ill make are more tomatoes and either smushing or dicing them.
    – m1sk
    Aug 2, 2012 at 15:32
  • You guessed too high heat and cooking too long, but my guess is that it might be too high heat and not long enough; I get the impression the OP wants a slow-simmered sauce, not a briefly cooked fresh sauce.
    – Cascabel
    Aug 2, 2012 at 15:40
  • 1
    Also, another form of "too high heat" is cooking a small amount in a wide pan; if you don't want to just cook all the water out right away, you need some depth.
    – Cascabel
    Aug 2, 2012 at 15:52
  • Both good points.
    – JoeFish
    Aug 2, 2012 at 19:52

Blanch and peel the tomatoes, put into a stock pot and simmer, and kind of mash them up so they get juicy. As you cook them down the tomatoes will get juicier. It sounds like right now you are just frying them, and there really is no need to grate them. What recipe are you using?

  • could you explain what you mean by "mash them up"? Im not really sure what recipe but what I do is pretty similar to what everyone says to do except what I do doesnt work.
    – m1sk
    Aug 2, 2012 at 15:22
  • Just smoosh them with the blunt end of a spoon.
    – lemontwist
    Aug 2, 2012 at 19:06

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