The Ultimate Red Sauce for Pizza: A Recipe You’ll Swear By

5 from 1 vote
Pin RecipeJump to Recipe

I can confidently say that anyone who has tried this Red Sauce for Pizza recipe has been hooked. Ever wondered how to make authentic Italian pizza sauce as good as a restaurant’s? Here’s how!

Red sauce for pizza in a skillet with basil.

There’s no fancy technique needed to make amazing pizza sauce at home. Just simple ingredients and straightforward cooking. This red sauce for pizza is a simple, rich pizza sauce made from tomatoes, garlic, and herbs.

It’s perfect for topping your homemade pie and totally foolproof.

Why You’ll Love this Red Pizza Sauce Recipe

Pizza night is leveling up! This recipe creates a rich, tangy sauce that rivals any Italian restaurant.

Here’s what makes it so special:

  • Simple Ingredients: This sauce uses simple ingredients that are easy to find, but when combined, they pack a punch of flavor.
  • A strong flavor foundation: Build rich flavor into your sauce with a generous glug of olive oil (fat is what carries flavor). A good amount of garlic adds punch.
  • Pro technique (that’s also super easy): Let the tomatoes caramelize in the hot oil, then simmer to reduce and concentrate the flavor.
Air fryer pizza on a counter.

What You Need for this Homemade Pizza Sauce Recipe

Getting the right ingredients and tools is the first step in making an awesome Red Sauce for Pizza. Below, we break down what you’ll need into easy-to-follow sections.

Red Sauce for Pizza Ingredients

For a tasty and foolproof red sauce, the ingredients really matter.

  • Tomatoes: The base of the sauce. Use high-quality canned or fresh tomatoes for the best results. I like San Marzano tomatoes the best for canned options. You can use whole, diced or crushed tomatoes. You have the option to puree the sauce later if you like.
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: The oil adds flavor, richness and depth to the sauce so I like to use the good extra virgin stuff.
  • Garlic: Provides the kick and aromatic edge.
  • Oregano: Gives an herby note that complements the tomatoes well.
  • Basil: Adds a touch of sweetness and depth.
  • Kosher Salt: Seasons the sauce. It’s best to use kosher salt for even seasoning.
  • Red Pepper Flakes: Optional, but if you like a little heat, they give the sauce a nice kick.
Pizza Red Sauce ingredients

Variations and Substitutions

Want to get creative or adapt the recipe to what you’ve got? No problem.

  • Tomato Types: You can switch to cherry tomatoes for a sweeter sauce.
  • Spices: Thyme or rosemary can be used in place of or alongside oregano and basil. A little onion powder can add another layer of savory depth. You can alternatively swap in Italian seasoning (they can be hit and miss – that’s a link to the one I like).
  • Heat Level: Adjust the amount of red pepper flakes to your tolerance, or omit them altogether.

Grab these Tools

Having the right tools can make the cooking process much smoother.

  • Large Saucepan: You’ll need this for simmering your sauce.
  • Wooden Spoon: Useful for stirring and crushing the tomatoes.
  • Potato Masher: Makes it easier to break down the tomatoes into smaller pieces.
  • Measuring Spoons: For accurately measuring your spices and salt.
  • Blender: Optional, but great if you prefer a smoother sauce.

Now you’re all set! Time to get cooking and enjoy some homemade Red Sauce for Pizza.

Sauteeing garlic in olive oil.

How to Make Red Sauce for Pizza: An Easy Guide

Making your own red sauce for pizza at home is surprisingly simple. With a handful of ingredients and the right tools, you’ll be slathering this sauce on your pizza dough in no time.

How to Prep the Ingredients:

  • Start by getting your ingredients in order. If you’re using fresh tomatoes, chop them up. If you’re using canned tomatoes, open the can and set it aside.
  • Mince your garlic cloves. Measure out your olive oil, dried oregano, basil, salt, and optional red pepper flakes.

How to Cook the Sauce Base:

  • Place a large saucepan on the stove and set the heat to medium. Add the olive oil to the pan.
  • Stir in the minced garlic, dried oregano, and basil. Cook for about a minute until the garlic smells good.
Adding tomatoes to the pizza sauce.

How to Add Tomatoes and Season:

  • Pour the chopped tomatoes into the pan. Crush them with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Add salt and optional red pepper flakes. Give it a good stir to combine everything.

How to Simmer the Sauce:

  • Lower the heat to low. Let the sauce simmer for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour for more flavor. Stir occasionally.
  • Taste the sauce. Add more seasoning if needed. Remove any fresh basil sprigs you might have used.

How to Blend the Sauce:

  • If you like your sauce smooth, use an immersion blender in the pot to purée tomatoes. Alternatively, you can just mash it up with the spoon or let the sauce cool a bit and then blend it in a regular blender.

How to Make Pizza Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes

If you prefer to use fresh tomatoes, you should ideally remove their skins first.

This can be skipped if you have a professional blender, like a vitamix. Otherwise bits of skin will get stuck in your teeth.

How to remove tomato skins by blanching:

  1. Score the Skin: Cut a small “x” at the bottom of each tomato,
  2. Boil: Immerse tomatoes in boiling water for 30-60 seconds or until the skins start to peel.
  3. Cool and Peel: Quickly cool tomatoes under cold water, peel off the skins, and proceed with the recipe as described.
Peeling fresh tomatoes for sauce.

How to remove tomato skins by freezing:

  1. Freeze Tomatoes: Wash and dry the tomatoes, then place them on a baking sheet and freeze until solid.
  2. Partial Thaw: Remove the tomatoes from the freezer and wait a few minutes until the skin starts to loosen from the flesh.
  3. Peel and Use: Peel the loosened skin off with your hands or a small knife. Your tomatoes are now ready for cooking or storing for later use.

Make Ahead and Storage

Storing this Red Sauce for Pizza is a breeze, and it’s great for making ahead of time.

  • Make Ahead: You can prepare this sauce up to 5 days in advance and store it in the fridge. Just make sure to use an airtight container.
  • Freezing: If you want to keep it longer, you can freeze the sauce for up to 3 months. Again, use an airtight container to prevent freezer burn.
  • Reheating: To use, simply thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat on the stove over low heat until warm, or microwave it on medium power if stored in a microwave-safe container.
  • Shelf Life: Once refrigerated, try to use the sauce within a week for the best taste and texture.
Pizza Recipe with Biscuit Dough.

How to Serve This Red Sauce for Pizza Recipe

This homemade red sauce is versatile and perfect for any pizza night. Simply spread a generous amount of the red sauce over your prepared pizza dough, add your favorite toppings, and bake.

  • Cast Iron Pizza: Use my ultimate easy pizza dough recipe and guide to cook your pizza in a cast iron pan for a perfect crispy crust.
  • Air Fryer Pizza: If you haven’t tried Air Fryer Pizza yet, don’t wait another minute. The high heat concentrates the flavor of the sauce and all the toppings. It tastes incredibly like wood-fired pizza.
  • Naan Pizza Crust: This way is actually my FAVORITE pizza dough ever. Use my viral naan recipe as the dough. It turns out soft and airy with a crisp bottom if you pair it with either the air fryer or cast iron methods above.
  • Biscuit Dough Pizza: I LOVE this method as well. Using easy drop biscuit batter as the crust not only allows you to make homemade pizza from scratch in under 30 minutes, it is crisp, buttery and soooo delicious. If you haven’t tried it, wait no longer.

Pizza Toppings

  • You can go classic with mozzarella and pepperoni, or be creative with toppings like bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms.

Side Dishes for Pizza

  • Consider serving the pizza with a fresh green salad or some garlic bread for a complete meal.

Common Mistakes When Making Red Sauce for Pizza

Here are the most frequent mix-ups to avoid when making Red Sauce for Pizza:

  • Overheating Garlic: Cooking garlic for too long can make it bitter. Sauté just until it’s fragrant, not browned.
  • Rushing the Simmer: Not simmering the sauce long enough will leave you with a less flavorful result.
  • Skipping Seasoning: Forgetting to taste and adjust the seasoning could lead to a bland sauce.
  • Using Low-Quality Tomatoes: The quality of your tomatoes will directly impact the flavor of your sauce.
Adding spices to pizza sauce.

Pizza Sauce FAQ

Just skimming through? Here are some quick answers to the commonly-asked questions.

  • What is the red sauce on pizza?
    The red sauce on pizza is typically a tomato-based sauce seasoned with herbs like oregano and basil, and sometimes garlic and red pepper flakes.
  • What is red sauce vs white sauce pizza?
    Red sauce pizza uses a tomato-based sauce, while white sauce pizza uses a sauce made from cream, milk, or cheese like Alfredo or béchamel.
  • What is red vs white pizza?
    Red pizza refers to pizzas with a tomato-based sauce. White pizza skips the tomato sauce, often using cheese and other toppings like garlic, olive oil, and herbs.
  • Is pizza sauce the same as marinara?
    Pizza sauce and marinara sauce are similar but not identical. Pizza sauce is usually thicker and might be less seasoned, as it’s part of a pizza with many other flavors.
  • How do you turn pizza sauce into marinara sauce?
    To turn pizza sauce into marinara, you can thin it out a bit with water or tomato juice and add more seasoning like garlic, basil, and perhaps a touch of sugar.
  • Can you use pizza sauce for spaghetti sauce?
    Yes, you can use pizza sauce for spaghetti sauce. You may want to adjust the seasonings and possibly add some meat or vegetables.
  • How do you make pizza sauce into spaghetti sauce?
    To make pizza sauce into spaghetti sauce, consider adding ground meat, vegetables like bell peppers or mushrooms, and additional herbs and spices to taste.
  • What’s the difference between tomato sauce and marinara sauce on pizza?
    Tomato sauce is a basic blend of tomatoes and seasonings, while marinara is a type of tomato sauce that is seasoned with specific herbs and spices and often simmered for longer.
  • Is pizza made with tomato or marinara?
    Pizza can be made with either tomato sauce or marinara, depending on personal preference and the specific recipe used.
  • Is pizza sauce just spaghetti sauce?
    While similar, pizza sauce is usually thicker and less seasoned than spaghetti sauce because it’s just one component of a pizza.
  • How long can I store this Red Sauce for Pizza?
    This red sauce can be stored in the fridge for up to one week or frozen for up to three months.
  • Can I use dried herbs instead of fresh?
    Yes, you can use dried herbs. The general rule is to use one-third of the amount of dried herbs as you would use fresh.
  • Is it necessary to simmer the sauce?
    Simmering allows the flavors to meld together, resulting in a more flavorful sauce.
  • Can I use this sauce for dishes other than pizza?
    Absolutely, this sauce can be used for pasta, calzones, or as a dipping sauce for breadsticks.
  • Do I have to use olive oil?
    While olive oil adds a distinctive flavor, you can use other oils like vegetable or canola if you prefer.
  • Can I add meat to this sauce?
    Yes, you can add cooked meat like sausage or ground beef for a heartier sauce. Just make sure to adjust the seasoning accordingly.
Pizza ingredients.

How to Make the Best Pizza Sauce: Final Notes + Science-Based Secrets

Unlock the full potential of your Red Sauce for Pizza with these key takeaways:

  • Herb Infusion: Letting the sauce simmer with fresh basil can elevate its flavor.
  • Heat Level: The optional red pepper flakes can make a difference. They add complexity beyond just heat.
  • Acidity Matters: Tomatoes vary in acidity. Taste and adjust with a pinch of baking soda (like I do in my super popular tomato soup recipe) if the sauce is too acidic.
  • Fresh vs. Canned: If using fresh tomatoes, Roma or San Marzano varieties are less watery and more flavorful.

The sauce is more than just a base; it’s the soul of your pizza. Once you try this homemade red sauce, you’ll never go back to the store-bought kind.

P.S. Looking for a pizza with white sauce? Try my Seafood Pizza with White Sauce!

Other Delicious Italian Recipes to Try:

Save this recipe!
Get this recipe link sent straight to your inbox to make it later!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
5 from 1 vote

Red Sauce for Pizza Recipe

This red sauce for pizza is a simple, rich pizza sauce made from tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. It’s perfect for topping your homemade pie and totally foolproof.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 10


  • 1 28 oz can tomatoes preferably Roma or San Marzano variety (or 1.75 lbs ripe tomatoes – see notes below.)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional, for a little heat
Save this recipe!
Get this recipe link sent straight to your inbox to make it later!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.


  • Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the minced garlic, dried oregano, and fresh or dried basil to the pan. Stir and cook for about a minute, until the garlic is fragrant.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan. Use a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes until they’re in small pieces.
  • Stir in the salt, and optional red pepper flakes.
  • Lower the heat to low and let the sauce simmer. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 30 minutes, up to 1 hour if you have time. The longer it cooks, the more the flavors will meld together.
  • Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Remove fresh basil sprigs, if used.



  • If using fresh tomatoes, you can optionally blanch the tomatoes to remove their skins first (or just leave it on if you don’t mind a bit of texture).
    • Cut a small “x” in the bottom of each tomato. Immerse in boiling water for about 30-60 seconds, or until the skins begin to peel back. Cool them under cold water and peel off the skins. Remove the cores and chop the tomatoes.
  • If you prefer a smoother sauce, you can use an immersion blender to blend it right in the pot, or you can let it cool slightly and then blend it in a regular blender.


Calories: 50kcal | Carbohydrates: 0.5g | Protein: 0.1g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 234mg | Potassium: 8mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 0.03g | Vitamin A: 19IU | Vitamin C: 0.3mg | Calcium: 5mg | Iron: 0.1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Leave a comment!

You’ll Also Love These

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

1 Comment

  1. Jackie says:

    5 stars
    I couldn’t believe how tasty this recipe was for something so simple. I didn’t not expect homemade red sauce to taste so much better than canned pizza sauce. Never going back!!!