10 Tasty Uses for a 4-Ingredient Tomato Sauce

Batch cooking starts with basic tomato sauce, I think we can all agree on that one. Having a few quarts of it in the freezer – or jarred up in the pantry – is reassurance of a quick hot meal in the future.

Tomato sauce is:

  • good for you – see ‘fun facts’ below;
  • versatile – I’ve listed ten quick uses, but there are many more;
  • seasonal year round – if you use canned tomatoes, as I do;
  • popular! Most children gobble up anything doused in it. This guarantee alone is worth a multi-quart stash.

The basic tomato sauce recipe I’ve included is ideal because of its down-and-out simplicity. I mean, four ingredients, folks. Canned tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh garlic and salt, that’s IT.

By using only basic ingredients, this tomato sauce is suitable for incorporating into many different cuisines. Many international cuisines, such as Greek, Thai, and of course, Italian, use tomato sauce as a base and then add different spices to create their unique flavor profile.

I have found that it is more practical to store a very simple tomato sauce and add seasonings (such as chili flakes or fresh basil) only when suited to the particular recipe or dish.

Four-Ingredient Tomato Sauce

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Course: Condiments
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 10 1-lb servings
Calories: 184kcal
Author: Aimee


  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 to 10 large cloves garlic peeled
  • 10.5 lbs tomatoes (6 28-oz cans) diced or whole
  • 2 teaspoons salt


  • Open cans of tomatoes and, using an immersion blender, purée until smooth.
  • Finely chop garlic, or pulse it in a mini-food processor until quite small.
  • Heat a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat and add olive oil. When olive oil is hot, add garlic and stir continuously for a minute or two, taking care not to let the garlic brown.
  • Add about a 1/2 a cup of tomato purée to the pot and stir it into the garlic mixture. Let it cook for a minute and the olive oil will take on a golden colour. This will give the sauce a boost of flavour as the tomato sauce caramelizes in the garlic oil.
  • Add remaining tomato purée and salt. Stir well. Simmer on medium low heat for at least 4 hours. Sauce will thicken. Continue cooking if you want a thicker sauce.
  • Taste and adjust salt, if desired. Remember that you will be adding salt to most recipes that you will be using this base tomato sauce for.
  • Remove from heat. Cool completely, then portion into Zip-lock bags or containers and freeze.


Calories: 184kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 489mg | Potassium: 1136mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 3967IU | Vitamin C: 66mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 1mg

10 Uses for Basic Tomato Sauce

1. Pizza Sauce

Add 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 can tomato paste and 1 teaspoon each dried basil and oregano to 6 cups sauce. Simmer sauce an extra hour until sauce is quite thick.

2. Shrimp & Tomato Capellini

Sauté a handful of shrimp in garlic and butter. Add tomato sauce, chopped fresh herbs and toss with capellini (thinner than spaghettini) for a simple supper.

3. Easy Rosé Sauce

Add 1/2 cup 35% cooking cream to 4 cups sauce and cook an additional 15 minutes over medium low heat, stirring often. Serve over ravioli or manicotti.

4. Chicken Parmesan

Spoon tomato sauce generously over cooked breaded chicken cutlets. Top with mozzarella and bake until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling. Serve with spaghetti. Try Skillet Chicken and Zucchini Parmesan.

5.  Sausage Ragout

Remove 4 Italian sausages from casings and sauté in a skillet with a chopped onion. Add 4-6 cups tomato sauce, 1 cup quartered button mushrooms and chopped green peppers, if desired. Simmer 15 minutes and serve over penne pasta.

6. Simple Bolognaise

Brown ground beef in a skillet. Add chopped onions & celery and cook for a few minutes. Add tomato sauce, a splash of red wine and cook over low heat for an hour or so. Serve with spaghetti or as a base for lasagna.

7. Baked Cauliflower or Zucchini

Spoon tomato sauce over cauliflower florets or chopped zucchini, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and bake in a casserole dish until vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with Parmesan during the last few minutes of baking, if desired. This is particularly nice with garlic-infused olive oil.

8. Grilled Vegetable Gratin

Grill softer vegetables such as peppers, zucchini, eggplant, or asparagus. Place in a casserole dish, top with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. Broil until cheese is melted.

9. Penne Arrabiata

Add crushed chillies to taste to basic tomato sauce. Serve over penne pasta and top with grated Romano cheese and parsley.

10. Meatballs

Simmer homemade meatballs in tomato sauce and serve with spaghetti.

Did You Know? Canned tomato fun facts

  • Most canned tomatoes are packed in natural juices and contain no preservatives.
  • They’re picked and packed at the peak of ripeness and are believed to be the ‘freshest’ canned vegetable available.
  • They are cooked rapidly at high temperatures and sterilized in steel cans to keep nutrients in.
  • Canned tomatoes and tomato sauces are among the best sources of Lycopene, a pigment that is responsible for the tomatoes’ red color and that is said to help protect against certain cancers.
  • The heat from the canning process allows lycopene in tomatoes to be better absorbed by the body.
  • Many canned tomatoes are available in low-salt and no-salt alternatives.

What gets doused in tomato sauce in your kitchen?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Can you use the same recipe with fresh tomatoes? Sounds simple and easy! I will definitely be trying this one to can in the upcoming summer months!!

    • Hi Alyssa,
      Yes, this sauce would be delicious with fresh tomatoes, although the cooking time may be slightly longer.

      • I am making this sauce at this very moment and it is SOOO good! I think I could eat a bowl of it by itself! 🙂 I have a question, though: if I used fresh tomatoes, would I need to do something to them first? Should I cook them a little, or just peel them and then stick ’em in the blender? Thanks!

  2. This sounds so easy! I don’t like tomatoes (I know…sad,right?) but do enjoy sauce once in a while. I’m always a little hesitant in making my own as I don’t feel I can be a good judge of how it tastes seeing as I’m not fond of the main ingredient. I will be definitely trying this. We love to bake eggs in tomato sauce and then top with parmesan cheese.
    .-= Jan (Family Bites)’s last blog: Cowboy Cookies =-.

  3. What great suggestions! I love making my own tomato sauce because it’s so easy and so good! I love the idea of keeping it super simple, then you can add whatever spices match the dish you end up using it for!

  4. Awesome post! I retweeted this on twitter for you. Such a great reminder of how you can turn something simple into great meals.
    .-= Katie @ goodLife {eats}’s last blog: Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers =-.

  5. LOVE this. The spaghetti sauce I make is very similar to this bit I never thought of it’s versatility. I will definitely be making a batch of this to use in place of store bought tomato sauce.

    Our most popular use is Spaghetti Bolognese (my husbands fave) but another favourite is Lasagna (my favourite recipe can be found here ) We tend to keep it with beef because my husband doesn’t like the combination of chicken and tomatoes. He’s the picky eater of our family. 🙂

  6. I’ve been making a similar recipe for years, except I haven’t tried the caramelizing step. I’m going to give that a try next time. Thanks for the great idea!
    .-= Barbara Bakes’s last blog: Key Lime Cream Cheese Pie and Spring Flower Macarons =-.

  7. I love bolognese and meatballs. I try to avoid canned tomatoes, but I know I could use my favorite boxed tomato sauce for this recipe. Thanks for the great meal ideas!!

  8. I really enjoyed your photos and will definitely try your recipe! Can you please email me and let me know what kind of pasta that is? It looks superb, thanks!

  9. We grow and process our own tomatoes—two years ago we put up 110 quarts of tomato products. Top on the list are: salsa, red wine tomato sauce, pizza sauce, oven-roasted Romas (put in jars and frozen), diced tomatoes, and tomato juice. All that to say, we eat a lot of tomatoes, just not necessary in sauce form.
    .-= Jennifer Jo’s last blog: A fast update =-.

    • Jennifer, I’ve seen your photos of your home preserves stash and they are impressive!

    • Jennifer – For a new-to-home-cooking gal, what type of fresh tomato would you recommend for this 4-ingredient recipe? I am wary of canned tomatoes b/c of BPA & I just don’t know which type of tomato to use. Also, do you know when the best time of year to buy your recommended type of tomato is? Thanks in advance 🙂

  10. AAAGH! don’t put tomato sauce (or any acidic foods) in plastic! can the sauce or use glass jars to freeze it.

    other than that – sounds like a great base recipe.

  11. I think this is an incredibly great idea! Can’t wait to make up a batch and add one of these tomato sauce recipes to my menu each week!
    .-= Aimee’s last blog: Beware the "Good Deal" =-.

  12. Great ideas, Aimee. Making my mouth water. I think I’ll be changing my my menu for this week.

  13. I love using canned tomatoes! They are so versatile. However, I have heard a lot about BPA in canned products lately. Particularly, some talk about BPA being especially prevalent and/or problematic in tomato products (because of the high acidity). Do anyone know anything about this issue?

    • Try the jars of strained tomatoes by Bionaturae, they are organic and come in glass jars so they are BPA free. And being that they are already pureed for you, one less step. 🙂


      • Look for canned tomatoes by Eden Foods. They do not have BPA in their cans (they’re the only ones I know of, at this point). They have tomato products both in BPA-free regular cans and glass jars. Whole Foods Market carries some Eden Foods products, usually.

  14. Thanks for the reminder to re-stock my freezer! My favorite uses of tomato sauce are enchiladas (add sugar and chili powder) and baked chick peas (add curry paste and onions).

  15. I used this recipe today on spaghetti. This sauce is so good, yet super simple. I can’t wait to try it out in some other recipes!

  16. Finally, a tomato sauce recipe that doesn’t have tomato sauce as one of the ingredients! I’m planing on doing some major canning this year, do you know if this recipe will hold up to the canning process?

  17. Hey, just wanted to let you know I included a link to this post in my Friday Link Love. I really love the idea here! 😀 I even tried it and loved it :D.
    .-= Kris’s last blog: Boiled Corn pp117 =-.

  18. I tried this sauce and love it! I made a batch a few months ago and still have some in my freezer. And we use tomato sauce regularly! My family loves garlic, so I put in 10 cloves. That was way too much! I could smell garlic in my nose for three days after making it. When I make it again, I’ll stick with 6 cloves.

    My favorite use for this is chicken enchiladas. I don’t like the store-bought and my son is lactose intolerant so we can’t use cream sauces. I tried mole but didn’t like it much. I cooked my chicken with taco seasoning, shredded it, and added this sauce, along with some onion and chopped bell pepper. It’s amazingly delicious! Thank you so much for this recipe!

  19. James Anderson says

    My little tip here would be if you like a sauce with a little kick add a whole red chilli piercing it and let in simmer in your sauce until you have desired hotness. It’s a great way to get it just right and remove completely when finished.

  20. Looking forward to trying this. Do you think this would work in a slow cooker?

  21. I love this! Great idea to list so many ways to use what looks like a simple delicious sauce! And super informative. Thanks so much! I definitely want to try baked zucchini and the spicy arrabiata!

  22. How long will this sauce last in the freezer?

  23. Dennis Hinrichsen says

    If you are experiencing weight gain while enjoying your home-cooked dinners, check your ingredients for any added ‘natural flavorings’! Simple ‘tomato sauce’ in the list of ingredients for your cans of diced or stewed tomatoes may introduce MSG or one of its 30 plus variants into your presumed healthy meal.

    food additives that always contain MSG:

  24. Why not just use the GreatValue Tomato Sauce 8oz? Are your canned tomatoes organic?

  25. I love this! Thank you for the great list of ideas for tomato sauce! I’m going to use your sauce for the mozzarella stuffed meatballs I just made!


  26. This sounds so good! How much sauce do you end up with?

  27. Most canned tomatoes are packed in BPA lined containers. Muirs is the only one I have found that is not.

  28. As I’m just starting out on this journey, I would love answers to the following Qs!!

    How would this work if we use fresh tomatoes? (How many)
    What type of tomato should I use?
    When is the best time of year to buy the fresh tomatoes?

    Thank you from a new subscriber! I would love if you could email a response! Love your blog. 🙂

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