Neapolitan Tomato Sauce

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes about

    8 cups

Appears in

This is the sauce most often associated with Italian pasta dishes—deep, dark, red, and rich. This particular version has been passed down in my wife’s family ever since her great-great-grandmother arrived from Naples in 1884. It’s surely gone through all kinds of permutations, but it now uses the canned tomato products familiar to all home cooks. When Gogo made this, she would brown her sausage in the pan first and use the rendered sausage fat to start the sauce (adding the sausage and also meatballs back at the end). A good practice!


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 cups/480 milliliters dry red wine
  • 4 (6-ounce/170-gram) cans tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce/794-gram) can tomato puree
  • 1 (28-ounce/794-gram) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar


In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When it is hot, sauté the onion and garlic until soft and translucent, salting aggressively as they cook. Add a few grinds of black pepper, the red pepper flakes, and the parsley. Add the wine and deglaze the pan. Add the tomato paste, stirring as you add. Add the tomato puree, diced tomatoes with their juices, and sugar and stir to combine.

Simmer, uncovered, for 3½ to 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Using one of the empty cans to capture any remaining tomato juice, add water as needed if the sauce looks too thick.