Light Tomato Sauce

Updated February 23, 2016


Beard on Pasta

Published by Running Press

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

I am reprinting this recipe, which was in The New James Beard, because it forms the basis for a nearly limitless number of variations. It also has the advantage of using canned tomatoes, so that you aren’t dependent on the season or the quality of the tomatoes in your market.

3 cups, enough for about 1 pound pasta

Cooking Methodsauteeing



Total Timeunder 30 minutes

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, peanut free, soy free, vegetarian

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Taste and Texturebuttery, herby, light, savory

Type of Dishpasta sauce


  • 28-ounce can Redpack whole tomatoes in purée
  • 2 small onions, sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons butter


Cook the tomatoes, onions, salt, pepper, and basil over medium-high heat for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. If you want a smooth sauce, strain it or puree it in the food processor. I prefer to leave the sauce with lumps, just breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Then add the butter and continue to cook until it melts.


Instead of the basil, substitute 1 teaspoon dried oregano or tarragon or any other herb that you fancy.



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