two pizzas cooking in a wood-fire oven from side view.
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Authentic Italian Pizza Sauce Recipe – Straight From Italy!

Last updated on June 28th, 2024

Want to impress your girlfriend with homemade pizza?

Trying to re-create that pizza meravigliosa (or pinsa) you ate in Rome?

If so, put down that jar of Prego and use this recipe to make authentic Italian pizza sauce!

It’s actually simple to make – but there are a few thing to keep in mind. I’ll walk you through all of them below and you’ll be on your way to 100% pizza italiana in no time!

Don’t Feel Bad: Before moving to Italy I was 100% guilty of believing that pizza sauce was a cooked sauce, similar to pasta sauce made with onion, garlic and plenty of herbs. I would actually make a tomato sauce and have spaghetti one night and pizza the next, using the same sauce in both. I couldn’t have been more wrong! 

top image up close of bright red pizza sauce with specs of oregano and oil drops

Italian Pizza Sauce – Pronunciation

In Italian, pizza sauce is called salsa di pomodoro (Pronounced sahl-SAH dee pohm-oh-doh-ROH in Italian). 

Authentic Italian Pizza Sauce – What is It?  

spoon holding tomato sauce up close with tomato sauce in big while bowl in background

Authentic Italian pizza sauce is raw, uncooked, simple and so easy to prepare. It’s made from the very best tomatoes, olive oil, salt and either basil or dried oregano

The original recipe comes from Naples, from where, of course, pizza originated.

Since the recipe is so simple and basic, it is importantissimo (very important) to use top-quality ingredients. If you are using fresh tomatoes, try and buy local. If you are using canned tomatoes, get the very best – San Marzano DOP. And per favore, only use extra virgin olive oil if you can, because it really does make a difference.

Good To Know: If you’re making an authentic Italian pizza sauce, you may want to use Authentic Italian Pizza Toppings.

Authentic Italian Pizza Sauce – What It Isn’t

hand holding a jar of mutti passata tomato over a white bowl on a marble background from top view

Italian pizza sauce is not:

  • cooked
  • made with a soffritto of onions, carrots and celery
  • made with sugar
  • made with garlic salt
  • full of seasoning
  • complicated to make

Good To Know: If you see a recipe or come across a pizza that asks you to cook the sauce, chances are the recipe and method are not coming from a reliable, authentic source. I am not saying it won’t be good, it just isn’t an authentic Italian pizza sauce recipe.

a grocery store shelf filled with canned tomatoes of all different varieties from side view

Ingredients for Authentic Italian Pizza Sauce

Serves 4 people: The number of pizzas you get will depend on what size and shape you make them. Generally this is enough pizza sauce for dough made with about 1lb 2 oz (500 g) flour (more or less).

Canned Tomatoes

close up side view of 6 large cans of tomatoes with a picture of tomatoes on each
Italian canned tomatoes are called pelati

1-14 ounce can good quality tomatoes, fresh or canned. If using canned, try and get the best quality crushed or whole peeled San Marzano variety. DOP is the creme della creme but if you don’t see San Marzano DOP, don’t fret or panic, just go with S.Marzano. In Italy, we will usually use passata, which is peeled, canned tomatoes that have already been pureed for us.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Bottles of Carapelli brand olive oil on grocery store shelf.

Use 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for this authentic Italian pizza sauce. It’s important to use the absolute best possible, even if it’s going to be cooked.

Other Ingredients

marble table with a jar of oregano on side with some of the oregano spilled in a pile in center of table from top view
  • 8-10 basil leaves, lightly torn OR 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¾ teaspoon salt

Authentic Italian Pizza Sauce – Step-By-Step Instructions

Pour the tomatoes into a bowl. If they are whole, either crush them with your hands or you can use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut them up directly in the bowl. This will give you a chunky tomato sauce (which is authentic) but some prefer it completely smooth (also authentic). If this is the case, simply puree the tomatoes using a food processor, blender or immersion blender before adding the rest of the ingredients.

hand holding a can of tomatoes and pouring it into a white bowl on a marble table from top view

If you are able to find passata, the Italian smooth canned tomatoes, use it as is.

hand holding a small dispenser of oregano and pouring it into a white bowl with tomato sauce on a marble table from top view

Gently tear or chiffonade the basil and add. If you are using oregano instead of basil, add that instead. Stir well.

hand holding a small white bowl of olive oil and pouring it into a white bowl of tomato sauce on a marble table from top view

Add the extra virgin olive oil and salt. Combine well and cover until ready to use. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt, if need be.

Authentic Italian Pizza Sauce – Substitutions

white bowl from top view filled with tomato sauce, oregano and olive oil from top view
  • Although not authentic in Italy, try adding red pepper flakes to your pizza sauce for a spicy bite. In Italy, if you order a spicy pizza or pizza diavola, it will come with spicy sausage or salame on it. 
  • Do not even think about adding garlic salt, “Italian seasoning” or sugar to your pizza sauce (that would really offend the Italians, my Italian sister-in-law in particular who is the pizza queen).
  • Do not substitute tomato paste for the tomato puree or canned tomatoes. It won’t come out well.
  • Canned cherry tomatoes will do just fine if you can’t find San Marzano.
  • Try making half the sauce chunky and half the sauce smooth. Compare to see what you prefer!
  • If you don’t have fresh basil, opt for dried oregano instead of dried basil.

Tips for Making the Best Pizza 

top view of a square of pizza on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper on marble board with tomato sauce spread on ready to be baked
  • Give your homemade pizza sauce a quick mix before making your pizzas as the olive oil tends to separate if it sits for any length of time.
  • Don’t overload the pizza dough with sauce. Less is more. You will only need 2-3 Tablespoons for each individual pie.
  • Don’t add too many toppings or your pizza will get soggy and heavy. It should crisp up and it can’t do that with added weight.
  • Get your oven as hot as it will get! Real Italian pizza is cooked at about 700 F but most generic ovens only go up to around 550. Don’t worry, your pizza will be great, but perhaps note quite as crisp.

Now eat your pizza like an Italian! Read How Do Italians Eat Pizza? and Do Italians Eat Pizza With a Fork?

zoomed in angle shot of pizza margherita garnished with fresh basil
two pizzas cooking in a wood-fire oven from side view.

Authentic Italian Pizza Sauce

Louisa
Fresh, Neapolitan-style pizza sauce, straight from Italy.
4.80 from 5 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 14-oz high-quality tomatoes, fresh or canned if canned, use San Marzano
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 8-10 basil leaves, lightly torn, or 1 tsp dried oregano

Instructions
 

  • Pour the tomatoes into a bowl. If they are whole, either crush them with your hands or you can use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut them up directly in the bowl. This will give you a chunky tomato sauce (which is authentic) but some prefer it completely smooth (also authentic). If this is the case, simply puree the tomatoes using a food processor, blender or immersion blender before adding the rest of the ingredients. If you are able to find passata, the Italian smooth canned tomatoes, use it as is.
  • Gently tear or chiffonade the basil and add. If you are using oregano instead of basil, add that instead. Stir well.
  • Add the extra virgin olive oil and salt. Combine well and cover until ready to use. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt, if need be.

Notes

Tomatoes – If using canned, try and get the best quality crushed or whole peeled San Marzano variety. DOP is the creme della creme but if you don’t see San Marzano DOP, don’t fret or panic, just go with S.Marzano.
Substitutions:
  • Although not authentic in Italy, try adding red pepper flakes to your pizza sauce for a spicy bite. In Italy, if you order a spicy pizza or pizza diavola, it will come with spicy sausage or salame on it. 
  • Do not even think about adding garlic salt, “Italian seasoning” or sugar to your pizza sauce (that would really offend the Italians, my Italian sister-in-law in particular who is the pizza queen).
  • Do not substitute tomato paste for the tomato puree or canned tomatoes. It won’t come out well.
  • Canned cherry tomatoes will do just fine if you can’t find San Marzano.
  • Try making half the sauce chunky and half the sauce smooth. Compare to see what you prefer!
Keyword authentic, fresh, pizza, quick, tomato
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Authentic Italian Pizza Sauce Recipe – FAQ

Can I make the sauce beforehand and keep it until I am ready to use it?

Absolutely. Pizza sauce can be kept for up to three days in the fridge before using.

What is the difference between tomato sauce on pizza and tomato sauce on pasta?

The main difference is that tomato sauce is raw while pasta sauce is made by cooking tomatoes with a soffritto – onions, celery and carrot – and plenty of olive oil for several hours. 

Can I freeze my tomato sauce for another day?

Yes, I do it all the time. Sometimes I end up only using half so I pop it in the freezer for the next time.

Is there anything else I can do with this sauce?

Sure, the most common use is to put it into a braise or beef or chicken stew or soup that you plan on making the next day. You can also freeze it in smaller portions to pull out at a moment’s notice to jazz up a recipe that calls for canned tomatoes.
You can also quickly cook it with a couple of cloves of garlic and toss in with spaghetti for a literal 15 minute meal. While the pasta cooks, so does the sauce!

What is the difference between pizza sauce and marinara sauce?

This is a bit of a trick question but marinara sauce is this specific Neapolitan salsa di pomodoro or tomato sauce that I am detailing above. Marinara sauce comes from the pizza marinara which is simply a red pizza, made with just sauce, no cheese or toppings, and thus, is a bit jazzed up with basil, olive oil and/or oregano. The original pizza sauce used on a Neapolitan pizza margherita has no basil or oregano. The marinara sauce has however, been adopted by most while the original sauce made without basil or oregano is less common in Italy. 

4.80 from 5 votes (5 ratings without comment)

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