Make a big batch of pantry-friendly tomato sauce for a leg up on dinner all week

Ann Maloney

THE WASHINGTON POST – Marinara, tomato sauce, red sauce, red gravy, tomato gravy.

Many of us use these terms interchangeably to mean a simple tomato-based sauce that we can toss with pasta, Parmesan and maybe a little fresh basil.

We can argue that marinara is something very specific and that anything called “gravy” must have meat, but rather than have a semantics discussion, let’s agree that a straightforward tomato-based sauce – no matter what you call it – can be a powerful utility player in our kitchens. I always have tomato sauce on hand. I invite you to do the same, so you can easily pull together a weeknight pizza or pasta.

I used canned whole tomatoes, tomato sauce and dry seasonings. The only fresh ingredients I included are two long-lasting ones: chopped onion and garlic.

Yes, it’s basic, but it’s basic in a good way.

Big-Batch, Pantry-Friendly Tomato Sauce. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST


24 servings

Storage Notes: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days, or in the freezer for up to six months.


1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Three cups chopped onions

Nine garlic cloves, minced

Three tablespoons Italian seasoning

Four cans no-salt-added whole peeled tomatoes

One can no-salt-added tomato sauce

Three bay leaves

Four teaspoons kosher salt

Two teaspoons freshly ground black pepper


In a pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil until just shimmering. Add the onion and lower the heat to medium. Cook until softened.

Add the garlic and cook until aromatic. Add the Italian seasoning and stir.

Over a medium bowl, crush the tomatoes and add them to the pot. Stir to combine. Add the tomato sauce and bay leaves and stir.

Raise the heat under the pot and bring the sauce to a boil, about six minutes, stirring frequently. Then, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to break up and the sauce thickens a bit, about one and a half hours.

Add the salt and pepper, then taste and adjust with more salt and/or pepper as desired.

Remove from the heat, and, if desired, blend with an immersion blender until smooth.

If not using right away, cool completely before storing.

Nutrition | Calories: 90; Total Fat: 4g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 210mg; Total Carbohydrates: 8g; Dietary Fibre: 2g; Sugar: 4g; Protein: 2g.