Sieved Tomato Sauce with Basil

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

In this recipe, plum tomatoes (fresh or canned) are simmered slowly without salt, oil, garlic, or onion, to keep their natural flavor intact. If using fresh tomatoes, they should be very ripe, fleshy, and sweet plum tomatoes. If using canned tomatoes, use imported italian plum tomatoes, which are sweeter and more fleshy than most domestic varieties (Redpack brand is an exception). The skin is left on the tomatoes to impart additional taste and body to the sauce. The carrot is added in place of sugar to compensate for excess acidity in the tomatoes. Extra-virgin olive oil is mixed in after the sauce is cooked so that its raw, fruity flavor comes through clearly. This sauce is enormously versatile on the antipasto table when a tomato sauce is required to add moisture and flavor and a heavier sauce would overwhelm. It is just the right salsa on which to lay cold meatloaf (polpettone) slices, or with which to anoint baked stuffed vegetables. I also like to use it on thin dried pasta such as spaghettini and capellini because its light, sieved texture marries well with such delicate cuts. But it goes well with just about all pasta cuts, as well as with homemade fresh potato gnocchi.



Total Timeunder 1 hour

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, low calorie, low carb, low cholesterol, low saturated fat, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian

Equipmentfood mill

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Taste and Textureherby, light, savory

Type of Dishpasta sauce


  • 2-½ pounds fresh vine-ripened plum tomatoes, cut into quarters, or 1 can (28 ounces) plum tomatoes in purée, cut into quarters
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and quartered
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly milled black pepper
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons finely torn fresh basil


  1. Put the fresh tomatoes or the canned tomatoes in purée and the carrot in a saucepan. Cook, uncovered, over gentle heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 40 minutes. If you see that the tomatoes contain a great deal of water, drain off excess liquid as the tomatoes cook.

  2. Strain the tomatoes through a food mill, pressing to get as much of the pulp as you can through the fine holes. (This really must be done in a food mill in order to restrain the skins and seeds while finely pureéing the tomatoes; avoid puréeing in the food processor because it will not restrain the peels and seeds.) If the sauce is too thin (this will depend on the texture and water content of the tomatoes), return it to the saucepan and simmer for up to 20 minutes longer. Season with salt, pepper to taste, olive oil, and basil.

  3. VARIATION: Fresh mint leaves can be substituted for the basil.


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