This delicious Red Sauce Pasta is a classic! A homemade tomato sauce that takes under 30 minutes to make. Packed with flavor this will be your go-to red sauce recipe.
Forget your jar of marinara sauce. This Red Sauce Pasta is one of the BEST quick pasta dinners you can make.
The base for this red sauce is onion, red bell peppers, and garlic. All cooked slowly together in olive oil until they are sweet and soft. These are then pureed with chopped tomatoes, with a few seasonings your sauce then just needs to be simmered for 5-10 minutes. Quick, easy and so delicious!
What is Red Sauce Pasta?
Every Italian household has a red sauce recipe, although for many it is just known as "pasta sauce".
For some, this would be called tomato gravy, or Sunday Italian gravy.
Often Italian gravy has sausage, meatballs and even ribs in it. But at its heart, Italian Red Sauce Pasta is the best kind of pasta supper. Delicious, easy and made with wonderful ingredients.
There are different additions and alterations to Red Sauce Pasta, each passed down through the generations from Italian grandmothers everywhere.
This is mine, passed to me by a friend's mother, Gaia. It has been much loved in my family for years and is so versatile and so delicious that it deserves its own post. Especially as today (25th October) is World Pasta Day!
Making Red Sauce Pasta
Start by sweating off onions and red bell peppers in plenty of olive oil and a good seasoning of salt. They are cooked for 15 minutes until soft and sweet.
These are then pureed in a blender with good quality canned Italian tomatoes. If you can your own tomatoes at the end of summer then this is 100% the time to use them. The better your tomatoes, the better your sauce.
Gaia says she can remember her grandmother, passing the vegetables through a food mill to puree them into a paste, it took time and love, but the smell as the vegetables combined was enough to have everyone running to the table. The invention of blenders means we can get to this point much quicker 😉
You can leave the sauce chunky or puree until completely smooth. We like everything to be well combined and pureed, but not quite at the soup looking stage. Just work your blender on pulse until the sauce is to your liking.
Adaptions and Additions to Red Sauce Pasta
Whilst this pasta is truely wonderful on its own, and we nearly always have it just as red sauce pasta, occasionally I will mix it up a little and add a few ingredients or serve it as a side dish.
- Add red pepper flakes for a hit of spice.
- Add shredded meat from your Sunday roast.
- Leave the sauce chunky.
- Add black olives and artichoke hearts.
- Add fried Italian sausage (we like the sweet one).
- Stir through frozen spinach.
- Add bacon.
- Use this as a sauce for your favorite meatballs!
That is the beauty of a favorite family recipe, you can adapt it to your family and then pass down to the next generation to be loved all over again. Hopefully one day I will make my Grandkids Red Sauce Pasta on a Friday night 😀
For more easy pasta recipes try:
- Creamy Lemon Salmon Pasta
- Creamy Pepper Steak Pasta
- Garlic Chicken Pasta
- Chicken Broth Pasta Soup
- Garlic Bacon Pasta
- Mediterranean Roasted Vegetable Pasta
- Lemon Pepper Chicken Pasta
- See all 60+ Pasta recipes
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Classic Red Sauce Pasta Recipe
- 4 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 large onions (peeled and chopped)
- 2 red bell peppers (chopped)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 garlic cloves (peeled and sliced)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano - see note 1
- 1 can diced tomatoes (28oz/800g can) - see note 2
- 1 teaspoon sugar - see note 3
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 14 oz pasta - see note 4
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Add the olive oil to a large frying pan, skillet or saute pan.
- Add the onions, bell peppers and salt. Cook these for 10-15 minutes over medium heat until soft.
- Add the chopped garlic and oregano, then cook over low heat for a further 5 minutes.
- Tip the contents of the pan into the blender or food processor, add the canned tomatoes, sugar and black pepper, then whizz until the sauce is pureed to your liking.
- Return the sauce to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5-10 minutes.
- Add the extra virgin olive oil to the sauce just before you add it to the pasta.
To cook the pasta (whilst the sauce is simmering)
- Bring a large pan of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of salt and cook the pasta as the packet suggests.
- Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta.
- Return it to the pan and add the red pasta sauce.
- Stir gently over low heat to combine the pasta, add a splash of the cooking water if needed.
- Nonna Gaia uses fresh oregano, but that can be harder to find. If you have fresh oregano, add it to the blender with the tomatoes and use 1 tablespoon.
- Use good quality canned tomatoes, they are the essence of the red sauce, so you want the best you can afford.
- Canned tomatoes can vary in sweetness and acidity, so I like to balance the acidity with some sugar. Feel free to leave it out or use less if your tomatoes are sweet enough.
- Any pasta will work here, penne, rigatoni, ziti fusilli, shells or long pasta like spaghetti or linguine.