5 Tips for a Better Tasting Tomato Sauce

updated May 2, 2019
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Tomato sauce cooking on the stove with a spoon filled with the sauce to show detail

When it comes to making tomato sauce everyone has their own favorite method. It can vary between fresh tomatoes and canned, a sauce that simmers for hours to one that’s ready in 20 minutes, or your Italian great-grandmother’s recipe that strictly forbids oregano.

The point being is that there’s no right or wrong way to make tomato sauce. What’s most important is that your sauce is packed with flavor so amazing you want to spoon it from the pot straight into your mouth. To help you get there, consider any (or all!) of these five tips to pack even more flavor into your next batch of tomato sauce.

1. Use wine.

Both red and white wine work extremely well for adding flavor to tomato sauce. Red wine gives the sauce added richness and robustness, while white wine imparts a fruity flavor. Incorporate the wine early in the cooking process, just after the vegetables have softened. Then, let the wine cook down and reduce almost all the way. The alcohol will cook off, while its wonderful flavors are left behind. (No wine in your kitchen? Try one of these substitutes.)

2. Roast the tomatoes first.

Whether you’re using fresh or canned tomatoes, consider roasting them next time you make sauce. This one simple thing will completely change the dynamic of the sauce. Roasted tomatoes give a robust depth of flavor to an otherwise simple sauce. Heat equals flavor, folks. (Try roasting them super quickly under the broiler.)

3. Add a Parmesan or Romano rind.

The next time you reach the end of a block of hard cheese, like Parmesan or Romano, don’t throw the rind away. Most of us don’t eat this part of the cheese (although it is edible), but it’s actually extremely flavorful. Add the rind to the sauce as it starts to simmer. Some or all of the cheese may dissolve while cooking. If not, make sure to remove what’s left before serving.

4. Stir in a little butter.

Yes, butter. Adding a few tablespoons (or in the case of Marcella Hazan’s Famous Tomato Sauce, about half a stick) of butter will truly elevate your next batch of sauce. Butter has the power to make the sauce velvety, rich, and wonderfully decadent.

5. Try anchovies.

There was a time I would have scrunched up my face and cringed at this idea. But rest assured this won’t add a fishy taste to the sauce. Adding an anchovy — try 1 to 2 fillets — or a dollop of anchovy paste creates a unique and subtle richness, and a delightful umami quality.

Get started with these tomato sauce recipes!

What’s your advice for making a great tasting tomato sauce?