Quick Tomato Basil Sauce

In my grandparents’ kitchen, this sauce was called 10-minute sauce, in reference to the cooking time. It was a staple in their kitchen, as it is in my mother’s, brother’s, aunt’s, uncle’s, cousins’, mine, and the list goes on and on. Not once was it called a marinara, even though… it is. In fact, the word sauce was often removed from its title, and it became 10-minute. Pasta and 10-minute would often be served with grilled, hot Italian sausage (my favorite), but 10-minute is also great used in an eggplant parmesan or over chicken cutlets that are then topped with grated Romano, fresh mozzarella and baked.

As with my rigatoni and meat sauce recipe, it’s extremely important to use quality ingredients! I cannot stress this enough. You have 5 ingredients for this recipe (not including salt and pepper). If bland, unsweet tomatoes are used, that’s what your sauce will taste like. One of these days I will write about my blind, canned tomato taste test. Until then, take my advise and try either Muire Glen, organic whole peeled tomatoes or RedPack whole peeled tomatoes. And, no, they don’t pay me, they were the consistent favorites of the blind taste test. These brands are sweet with a ripe tomato flavor. There will be no need for sugar in your sauce if you start with a sweet tomato. On the subject of canned tomatoes, you may be wondering why you should purchase whole peeled instead of crushed or pureed since the whole tomatoes are blended or crushed for this recipe. Well, to me it’s about quality and control.  When You open up a can of whole tomatoes you can see the quality, who knows what kind of tomatoes were put into the can of pureed tomatoes, just saying.😬  The consistency of your sauce is also within your control when you purchase whole tomatoes. Chunky sauce, smooth sauce, it’s all up to you.


So, chunky or smooth sauce? As a kid, I most often remember watching my grandfather making the 10-minute sauce.  A healthy amount of olive oil would go into a large skillet along with garlic and red pepper flakes. When the garlic had softened, the whole, peeled tomatoes went in with any accumulated juice in the can. He would then crush the tomatoes in the pan with the back of a fork and allow to cook and break down even more. But my grandmother, in her later years, didn’t seem to remember this and purchased…gasp, crushed tomatoes. Wanting to please the boss lady, but not wanting to use pre-crushed tomatoes, I started blending the whole crushed tomatoes until smooth. Honestly, I prefer my sauce this way now too. Either way, the sauce is perfection!

Of course,  as with many of the recipes from our grandparents, there is no formal recipe. And up until the creation of this blog, I never measured anything for this sauce either. I worked on figuring out the measurements and testing and it’s now ready to be recreated in your home! we enjoy this sauce over penne pasta, but it would also be great over ravioli, gnocchi, or rotini.



I made this sauce the other night using the recipe I had tested tons of times and I was questioning my salt content. It tasted like it needed more. Odd. It took me a minute to figure out why, but I did. I always use sea salt in this recipe. The other night I grabbed kosher salt and used it without thinking. kosher salt is less salty, resulting in my sauce not tasting right. So, it’s worth noting, if you use kosher salt, you may need to use a bit more than if using sea salt. As I’ve said before, salt and pepper content is subjective. Add about half the recommended salt, taste, and repeat until you are happy.

Serves: 6 (as an accompaniment to pasta)



  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced paper thin
  • A pinch or two of hot pepper flakes
  • 2 (28 oz.) cans whole plum tomatoes, pureed in a food processor or blender (or crushed with the back of a fork/ hands)
  • 3 teaspoons sea salt (may require more if using kosher)
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Large handful of fresh basil, roughly torn



Heat a large, 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in olive oil and add sliced garlic. Sautee until softened (1-2 minutes), but do not brown. Add a pinch or two of hot pepper flakes and tomatoes that have been processed or crushed by fork/hand.  Allow to cook over medium heat for 10-20 minutes (no more). Remove from heat, Finish with salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper. At this point, you could allow the sauce to sit until you are ready for it or serve immediately, adding freshly torn basil to the sauce right before you serve.






2 thoughts on “Quick Tomato Basil Sauce

  1. Yes!!!! I’ve been waiting since 1989 for this recipe.

    1. It’s all yours now! Enjoy!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close