How To Make Pizza Sauce From Scratch


Part of cooking from scratch is knowing just how “from scratch” it needs to be to feel good about what you’re making. The other part is knowing where to buy the parts you’re not going to make for yourself. This time it was getting a pizza crust from Alesci’s and doing the sauce from scratch.


28 ounces (one large can) crushed tomatoes
1 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons basil pesto
2 tablespoons dried oregano (3 tablespoons fresh)
1 clove garlic (two if they’re small)
2 teaspoons kosher salt


Start out by dicing the onion

… and mincing the garlic.

Heat some fat in a pan over medium heat — butter, olive oil, or like I did, rendered bacon fat.

Sauté the onion until it just starts to turn clear …

… then add the garlic and keep stirring until the garlic starts to get darker, but not brown.

Add the tomatoes …

… and the pesto and oregano.

Simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce is warmed through.

Remove the pan from heat and blend with an immersion blender (AKA stick blender) until the sauce is smooth.

If you used a large pot, like I did, you’ll need to tip it up to keep the end of the blender submerged. Otherwise you’ll spray tomato sauce all over the stove … the wall next to the stove … the front of your shirt … If you’ve read any of my other posts there’s a good chance you’ve seen the phrase, “Don’t ask how I know this.”

Once it’s smooth, put one large ladle full on the crust …

… and have your daughters spread it around.

Wait, hold on, back up. Doesn’t that title up top say “How To Make Pizza Sauce From Scratch”? And I don’t see any “pizza crust” in the ingredients list. What’s up with that?

Yeah, well, a picture of a bowl of tomato sauce would be pretty boring. So I helped the girls make the pizza and included the rest of the steps here. (If you came here via the “gluten free” tag, this is where it stops being gluten free. You’re on your own for gluten-free pizza crust.)

So … have the girls spread about a half-pound of shredded mozzarella and provolone cheese (Alesci’s sells a 50/50 mix).

Make sure the cheese goes right up to the edge, but not over. You don’t want it melting and dripping over into the inside of the oven.

Have the girls add whatever toppings they want. In this case, pepperoni on half, the other half plain cheese.

Think about how you’re going to cut it — six cut, eight cut, etc. — and make sure the toppings are evenly distributed.

Bake at 450° for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and starting to get just a little brown around the edges.

And that’s it.


  1. Stephanie says:

    This is a great-looking recipe – I’ll definitely have to try it. And how sad is it that I’ve made TONS of homemade pizza, and never thought to distribute the toppings according to how it will be sliced! That is a brilliant idea!

  2. Yeah, well, when you’re as smart as I am … [cough] uh huh, right. When you order pizza from someplace that does it that way, like I do, after about the third or fourth time you realize, “Hey, that’s a pretty good idea.”

  3. This looks great! I would have never thought to use rendered bacon fat to saute the onions and garlic for the sauce, but I imagine it gives it a nice meat flavor.

  4. “Everything’s better with bacon.”™

    Bacon fat is my first choice for all frying/sautéing. The only time I’ll use olive oil or butter instead is with really lightly flavored foods, like flounder.

    Actually I was just talking to someone yesterday about the sauce she makes that has beef bones cooking in the sauce for eight hours. I’m drooling again just thinking about it.

    If I’m going to do an eight-hour sauce, though, it’s going to be a huge batch, so I’m holding off on that until this fall when I start canning.

  5. Yes! Finally a recipe for pizza sauce even I can make :-p Thanks for sharing.

  6. Hi Drew, you stopped by to visit my cooking blog, so I just had to come and say hello. I just love your posts and everything looks so yummy! Blessings, Kathleen

  7. Cerwydwyn says:

    I love your blog. Partly because I feel so smart when I read it. It’s kind of sad that folks don’t know how to cook like this anymore…well, except for me, and my kids. I learned from my Grandma! Thanks for doing such a great public service :-)

  8. Very good post there as usual! My basic tomato sauce is roughly the same as this – although I don’t think onions go so well in a pizza sauce. And I cannot resist putting chillies in everything usually too.

  9. @Ben, something tells me you’ve got a perfectly fine recipe for pizza. It just isn’t the “traditional” version we get here in the U.S. Would I win that bet?

    @Kathleen, thanks for the visit. Count on seeing me at yours to steal some more recipes.

    @Cerwydwyn, you reminded me of something I heard years ago. “Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune both make you feel stupid. Jeopardy because you don’t know anything. Wheel because you’re watching it.” :-)

    @Ryan, I didn’t used to put the onion in, but way more garlic. (Like four or five cloves, yumm.) My wife wouldn’t eat it because, while it tasted great, she didn’t like smelling like garlic for the rest of the night. So this was a compromise, but I still like it.

  10. Kitchen Scrapbook says:

    Just came over here from your comment on my blog. Thanks for the salad recipe! That’s a good-lookin’ pizza! I’ll have to try that pizza sauce. And what a great idea to distribute the toppings according to how it’ll be sliced!

  11. Trance104 says:

    I sort of used this recipee, except i didnt use a can of tomatoe paste… thats not cooking from scratch! anyway i blended about 5 sliced tomatoes then put them in a pot with some garlic and onions and seasonings of course! Then I just boiled it to get most of the water out while stirring, and i had this amazing sauce! i also did NOT add any salt and it was great! All organic as well.

    thanks for the inspiration!

  12. Trance, I don’t care that people follow my recipes exactly. I’m just happy when someone sees one and decides to go make something similar.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I threw away the pizza and the dinner was ruined!

  14. I’m sorry it didn’t work for you. My first thought is that the tomatoes you got already had salt in them. I’ve noticed a lot of variation in how much is in canned tomatoes. Next time I’d recommend checking the flavor of the sauce before assembling and baking the pizza.

    If there’s still too much salt, slice a potato in quarters lengthwise and simmer it in the sauce for about 20 minutes. It will absorb lots of the salt.

  15. Yo Drew! You da man!
    I used your recipe and even made the pesto too (though I don’t have a stick blender, so my counter top blender wrestled with it quite a bit). I also added about 1 fat Tablespoon of authentic Hungarian paprika my mom-in-law sent over from Budapest. Additionally, 1 small can of tomato paste thickened up the sauce quite nicely. Tomorrow, I’m making the dough for the crust then throwing the whole shebang onto a pizza stone inside my bbq grill…thinking about adding some mesquite smoking chips to the fire for a bit of a Southwest twist to pizza. Will probably not do that though, cuz the smoke will permeate my zah stone and I’ll be forever making mesquite flavored zah. Glad I posted this blog, so I could think with my fingers for a change. Thanks for a great recipe here. Appreciate the pics added to the instructions! Take good care.

  16. Jim, I never thought about the stone absorbing flavors. How serious a problem is that?

  17. Hey Drew,
    From everything I’ve read about pizza stones, they are like sponges…that’s why you don’t use soap on them, cuz the soap taste soaks into the microscopic spaces between the stones grains.
    Now I’m in a real dilemma…tried the pizza stone in the bbq. Heated bbq with stone to about 450F. Put the first pizza on parchment paper instead of corn meal. Results: completely charred pizza dough on the bottom all the way through to the toppings. Had to toss out that pie and extinguish the burning parchment paper.
    second attempt: no parchment, but cornmeal on the stone. Results: same as the parchment…charred pie. Scraped off the toppings from the charred crust and ate them.
    Now I have a completely charred pizza stone that I’ll end up tossing out in the garbage. I’m not sure why the crust charred so much. I only had the first pizza on the stone for 10 minutes; I let the stone cool to 350F for the second pizza and it sat on the stone for only 5 minutes. It looked great on top, but the bottom was completely black, up to about 1/8 inch thick.
    So I’m not sure that I’ll use a stone on the bbq again, unless I find a different stone. the one I used without success was by Genius BBQ products…won’t go back to them again.
    Good luck with your pizza travels.
    Take good care.

  18. Damn Jim, that really sucks. I’ve never heard of using a pizza stone in the BBQ, so I have no idea what to expect there. If yours is made by a BBQ company, I would think it should be able to handle the heat like that.

  19. Drew:
    Fantastic recipe, I’m bookmarking this to try on the next pizza I make!

    And hello from right outside Cleveland!

  20. Matt, where outside Cleveland?

  21. Way to go Drew! (And me too!) I was fortunate enough to have everything in this recipe growing right outside my back door, (except for the salt) I used Roma tomatoes, fresh basil and oregano and garlic! Yummy, I thought this would be a difficult task, finding a good recipe, but when I put in pizza sauce from scratch in the google box, there you were! My first stop and WooHoo!!!

  22. Holy cow, Cheryl, where do you live that you’ve already got all that ready to harvest?

  23. Martyna. says:

    hey thanks for taking the time to post this recipe. helped me out alot. im 16 and i dont really have anyone to teach me about cooking.
    so i just wanna say thanks. =]

  24. Martyna, I think that's great that you're already interested in cooking. I really wish I had started earlier, instead of living on Ramen and Pop-Tarts all through college.

  25. Haha I think this is so funny… "from scratch" ?! You used tinned tomatoes and a ready made base!? Sad really how people think this is "from scratch"…

  26. Thanks for the feedback, James. While I would, of course, prefer to use fresh, I live in Cleveland where the growing season doesn't support year-round fresh tomatoes. So the ones available fresh in the grocery store are imported, meaning they were picked hard and green and "ripened" using ethylene gas.

    The canned tomatoes that I used listed two ingredients: tomatoes, and salt. In other words, exactly the same ingredients that would be in them if I canned them myself. Canned tomatoes are not only less expensive than the same volume of fresh, they are higher quality, since they are picked ripe and canned. In fact they're one of the best, least-processed foods you can buy.

    As for the other ingredients, the pesto was made from basil I grew myself — plus olive oil and garlic. The garlic and onion were fresh. And the bacon fat was rendered and filtered by … well, me again.

    Sad really how some people think this is not "from scratch".

  27. Hey Drew, great recipe as always. :)

    I wanted to ask you, can you keep this in the freezer? And, if yes, for how long? I was thinking of doing something like a triple dose which will be used during the week.

  28. Thanos, I prefer canning, but yes you can freeze it. As long as you can get most of the air out, it will freeze quite a long time. I've gone several months without any noticable loss in quality.

    I actually like freezer bags, since you can squeeze pretty much all the air out. And after closing it up, lay it flat so the sauce freezes in a thin pack, so it will thaw faster when you pull it.

  29. D-Man!

    I've got killer tomatoes from our organic CSA and I'm going to make your pizza sauce recipe from total scratch! Thanks for the info.
    Let's eat!!!!


  30. David, unless you've got the meatiest tomatoes in the world, you'll probably need to cook it down until it thickens a little bit. Good luck with it.

    Oh, and why does everyone with a killer garden, or a CSA membership, need to rub it in my face every time they're picking up some fresh veg? Man, I have got to find one that delivers locally.

  31. Sara Paschal says:

    I am bookmarking this one suounds delightful. Our garden stinks this year we have 25 tomato plants out there lots of green plant and small green tomatoes…it has been a very cold SD summer so I have no problem going with the canned. Any clues as to how we can ripen these inside if they don't turn before frost?

  32. Sarah, here are two great pages for that. First, is a trick to get the plants to hurry up with the ripening:

    Next is what to do with them once you pull the plants:

    I expect to be doing several of these techniques, as all mine are still totally green.

  33. Sara Paschal says:

    Thaks for posting these links the site was very helpful;)

  34. shyt lookin gud son

  35. sara varela says:

    So glad to come across this site…I have no problem with canned tomatoes in fact I use them to make a great salsa which involves one large can of crushed tomatoes, half an onion, one batch of cilantro and half a tablespoon of salt. Mix in a blender an enjoy….can’t wait to make this sauce with my kids. Great post..

  36. Hey Drew, a little comment all the way from Holland.

    I came across your site and see how you make use of the simplicity of homecooking.
    I love it!!

    One tip though:

    When mincing garlic, the cellstructures break and all those little chemicals in the garlic will react with the oxygen in the air surrounding it.
    The result will be a bit of a bitter taste and smell…
    When using seesalt while mincing, those little chemicals will go out and have some fun with the salt, instead of the oxygen, resulting in a much better taste!!
    And since the salt will bond with the garlic, the taste won’t be (much) saltier.
    Offcource you could compensate by using less “overall-salt”.

    Greetz Raymond

  37. Raymond, I actually made my own garlic salt a while back. I hadn’t thought about how the salt would preserve the garlic flavor, but you’re absolutely right.

  38. Question. About how much FRESH tomatoes would equal a 28 ou. of canned crushed tomatoes?

  39. That’s 3-and-a-half cups. You can check What’s Cooking America for a list of tomato conversions.

  40. THIS is NOT from ‘SCRATCH’…is is from a can of tomatoes!

  41. If you can tell me where to find fresh tomatoes in Cleveland in April I’d love to hear it.

    Or I could just point out that the can of tomatoes had two ingredients listed: tomatoes and salt. They were exactly the same as they’d have been if I had canned them myself the previous fall. Except my tomatoes failed. (I’m not much of a gardener yet.)

  42. julzandgems says:

    Just had to tell you how much I enjoy reading this ! You have the right attitude about cooking – Don’t be afraid just keep trying until you get it right. About 30 + years ago my husband and I were just married and really didn’t have much money so we decided we could make a great pizza better than the local chains. After all this time my kids still want my pizza and whine if we order take out. If you want I can send you my pizza dough recipe ? It’s easy and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to get it right. Thanks for taking this task on – Best Wishes from julzandgems in PA

  43. Not that I don’t want your recipe, but I don’t think the recipe is what makes the difference in pizza dough. Or breads in general. It’s doing it enough times that you get a feel for how wet or dry it needs to be, how much to knead, when it’s risen enough and how much to punch it down. In other words, practice.

  44. I love that you included – at the begining of the post, no less, “Part of cooking from scratch is knowing just how “from scratch” it needs to be to feel good about what you’re making.” And then people judged you on canned tomatoes. I just wrote about how exhausting it is cooking everything from scratch, and how I’ve decided that it’s not worth it to me on everything.

    I totally agree that it’s about making a decision about what “from scratch” means to you, and then cooking that way. I definitely admire folks that are able to grow everything they eat, and I would love to have a greater ability to produce our own food. At the same time, making bread already takes enough time. I don’t need to grind the flour in order to feel good about what I’m making! I think it’s all about finding the balance that works for you.

  45. Unintent’l, I did my bruschetta pizza recipe a local morning show. When I poured out the can of diced tomatoes the host asked, “Right out of a can, you’re not using fresh?”

    I asked her, “In Cleveland? In April?”

    Yeah, I use canned tomatoes.

  46. Wow, you’ve helped us all the way in Kenya! 😀
    Your recipes are amazing albeit my grand mother never even ate any of this! 😛

  47. Tanisha, I wish I’d thought to keep track of where people said they were commenting from. I’m pretty sure this is the first one from Kenya. :-)

  48. What a great recipe! I’m actually making pizza right now out of leftover bread that we don’t want to go to waste. It’s more like a bruschetta caprese, but I really needed to know how to make the sauce. Thanks for the recipe! Unfortunately I don’t have basil though so I hope it will taste fine without it =/.

  49. I guess I can’t make this ’cause I don’t have two daughters. . . .

  50. Danielle says:

    thanks for shari ng this great recipe!! i about ripped out my har trying to find one thats fresh and organic! im pregnant so i dont want no harsh chemiclas haha thanks again!! :)

  51. Hi Drew,

    Just wanted to say thanks for the recipe and for the great how to steps! It was really helpful for my first time mincing garlic! I posted about my experience making my first homemade pizza using your sauce recipe at the link below. I did link to your site and to this recipe a couple times, so I hope it’s okay that I blogged about it. If not, or if I need to change something please let me know.


  52. Drew, I’m in Cleveland, near west side. I’d also like to extend an invitation to you to join my group on Facebook. The Recipe Xchange is for real people who cook, want to learn to cook or better yet just love to eat. I’m a retired chef, 35 plus years in the kitchen. May I post this pizza sauce on my Xchange page? I’ll give you the by-line. Yhanks in advance. Chef Bob

  53. This recipe was super easy and literally saved my pizza! Thank you!

  54. Thanks for posting this! I will be making it this week.

    Former Clevelander living in San Jose who only want to get back to Cleveland!

  55. This was a fabulous pizza sauce. We made it this evening to go on a thin crust ham, fresh pineapple, and crimini mushroom pizza and it was stinking fabulous. I was reading through all the comments, and I really admire your patience with people who are kinda douchy.

  56. Hi Drew, i read almost all the comments you’ve gotten (kenya, wow) And i just felt compelled to leave one for you too.

    Thanks for the recipe, i’ll be using it soon.

    You seem really cool. (i mean like, genuine, not like the Fonz cool cause he was cool but he was also kind of a jerk)

    From Nyc
    – Karen

  57. Hi,
    Thank you for this recipe, I tried it on my kids and they loved it so no more takeaway pizzas for us :-)
    I don’t suppose you have any recipes for a pizza base
    Many thanks from Adrian in the UK

  58. Hi Drew
    Just found your site! and like your web page.
    Would have like to see a Video with it. Going to see if I can make it here in Guatemala but with fresh plum tomato’s and see if comes out good?? Plus making my own Pesto.
    Going to have my son help me make it since he loves to see me cook.
    Feel free to send me any more of your cooking on any of your web pages again ty :)

  59. i use teh same first ingredients but i put in diced tomatoes dont make a thick sauce cook until the liquid from teh tomatoes lessens and jus tput on pizza love t hat chunky taste

  60. i use teh same first ingredients but i put in diced tomatoes dont make a thick sauce cook until the liquid from teh tomatoes lessens and jus tput on pizza love t hat chunky taste dont forget to add ur basil and whatever other u want

    • Maryirene, I’ve only had chunky-style sauce on pizza a couple of times and didn’t care for it. I don’t recall whether it was the flavor or the texture that turned me off, though.

  61. Really helpful recipe thanks DREW…

  62. G’day from Brisbane, Australia!
    Really like the sounds of this recipe and I can’t wait to give it a try.
    I spent a bit of time reading all the posts too, it’s amazing how many posts you collect over a few years and where they all come from. As for all those people who whinge about it not being ‘from scratch’ because you used canned tomatoes must’ve missed the bit at the start about “what ‘from scratch’ means to you” and really have only succeeded in making themselves look quite foolish.
    I am yet to check out the rest of the website as I was directed here from my google search ‘pizza sauce from scratch’ but by the looks of what I’ve seen here I can’t wait to check out the rest.
    I’ve no idea what Cleveland is like, being from Australia, the only bloke I know from Cleveland is drew Carey and he looks(well he used to anyway) like he eats quite well heh.
    Looking forward to a few awesome pizzas tonight!
    Cheers mate, keep up the good work

  63. Bill Evans says:

    Sir — I honestly don’t remember how I found your BLOG, but I’m sure that I will find out how to get there soon. I have never been much of a cook, although I did enjoy helping my wonderful mother in the kitchen, or wherever we were working around the house. Actually, I can turn out a very few Hungarian recipes, thanks to my mother who was born in a small town near Budapest. I am a retired Navy Fighter Pilot, and you have inspired me to try to follow in your footsteps, I am presently 78 years young and I hope I can “hang in there” with you. I agree with the person who complimented you for your patience with those poor folks who couldn’t resist criticizing you for calling this pizza recipe “From Scratch” but, without shame, stating that being from Cleveland didn’t lend itself to “growing” your tomatoes year around, and that, by the way, the stuff that comes out of that can of tomatoes that you use is equivalent to what you would produce in your own home, with fresh ingredients. I’ll pray for them — and for your too sir, that your patience remains — I don’t think that there is any possibility of your patience changing one iota!!! I look forward to receiving the data you produce!
    Your new follower, Bill Evans


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