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Crushed Tomato Pizza Sauce

Written By Peter Reinhart
Friday, 07 January 2011 Written Recipes

Now that we’ve posted two easy to make pizza dough recipes, let’s continue to build our repertoire of fundamental pizza components. During the next few months we’ll post not only these really basic recipes, the essential culinary tool box, so to speak, but also more elaborate recipes and finished dishes, as well as videos with techniques for mixing and shaping dough and such. But for now, let’s focus on a great, all purpose red pizza sauce–part of the holy trinity of pizza (you know–dough, sauce, and cheese).

This one is my favorite, go-to sauce when making pizzas at home regardless of the type of dough. I published it originally in American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza, and it has served me well for at least the past ten years. I prefer using crushed or ground tomatoes instead of tomato puree or tomato sauce because I like the texture of the tomato particulates and solids. However, the sauce can also be made with smooth tomato sauce or puree.

As for which brand, well this is very controversial discussion and one that I tread very carefully. Many people absolutely insist on using tomatoes only from San Marzano–not just San Marzano tomatoes,which are a particular type of plum tomato that can be grown anywhere, but tomatoes

actually grown in San Marzano, Italy, just outside of Naples in the volcanic soil below Mt. Vesuvius. I love these tomatoes, who wouldn’t? They’re light and bright and simply wonderful. But there are some equally awesome plum tomatoes grown in the USA, mostly in the Central Valley of California (on the other hand, Jersey Tomatoes, which are legendary in their own right, are mainly best used as an eating tomato, not for sauce; and other tomatoes, such as heirloom types, are especially good as a sliced topping ingredient but are too juicy and thin to use for sauce). So, in answer to this eternal question I can only give the eternal, diplomatic answer: use the brand you love (and if you can’t use the brand you love, love the brand you use). One caveat though: some brands are more salty than others, so adjust the added salt according to your taste. By the way, you can use already crushed or ground tomatoes or buy canned whole tomatoes and “ground” them into a nice, pebbly sauce in a food processor–I do it all the time.



Makes Enough for 4 to 6 Pizzas
1 can (28 ounces) crushed or ground tomatoes (see comments above)
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste, start with ½ teaspoon and then adjust as needed)
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil (optional) (or 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (optional) (or 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano)
1 tablespoon granulated garlic powder (sandy, not the fine powder)
(or 5 cloves of fresh garlic, minced or crushed)
1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or lemon juice, or a combination of both (optional–some brands are more acidic than others, but I find that most benefit from at least 1 tablespoon)

Stir all the ingredients together, adding the salt gradually, to taste. (The basil and oregano are optional. I use both because I find most of my friends associate the flavors with childhood memories, but in an authentic Napoletana marinara pizza, made with true San Marzano sauce, you would use only oregano, and not in the sauce but as a garnish after the bake. The flavors of the herbs and garlic will intensify when the pizza is baked, so resist the urge to increase the amount). Do not cook this sauce–the tomatoes are already cooked when they go in the can and they will cook again on the pizza (of course, if using this over spaghetti or other pasta, in other words, if it won’t be cooked again in the oven, then you can heat it up in a pan). This sauce will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator.


Stephen Mani

Why not use fresh tomatoes, much better flavour and no nasty addditives also if there is too much liquid allow mixture to cook off, reduce and naturally thicken, the flavour will also intensify
Keep it simple
All the best


After more research than I can possibly tell you, I now use 6-In-One All Purpose Ground Tomatoes (California Grown) by Escalon. They are available on line From Escalon. I understand that many top pizza people swear by them. I can tell you that they are the best I have ever used. I order them (I’m in Maryland) and use them exclusively for my pizza making. I hope you will try them, if you have not, and weigh in with your views. All the best!

Matt Rutledge

Cant wait to try this sauce. I am making pizzas this weekend with the pizza dough from the Bread Bakers Apprentice book. Since seeing the webisode of the BelGioioso I am also going to go find some curd and pull my own mozzarella too. You have inspired me to make great things Peter!

Phoebe Leider

is this the best sauce for pasta that you have? If not, send me the recipe please. Thank you


Hi Peter!

Some time ago you inspired me to become an artisan baker and I’m proud that I’ve not bought a single loaf of bread in the past 18 months. All thanks to you!

I wonder if I could turn you on to try a different herb in this sauce. I’m originally Bulgarian and there’s a special type of savory that is not sold in the USA but of which I have plentiful supply straight from my parents’ organic garden in Bulgaria. It has a very aromatic smoky quality about it that I find is irresistible in anything that involves tomatoes. Recently I had a big party pizza for which I made ten pizzas (sequentially, not all at once 🙂 using your Neo-Neapolitan pizza dough and made the sauce using canned fire-roasted tomatoes instead of regular, and Bulgarian savory instead of oregano. I must say it was a huge success!
Let me know if you wish for me to send you a sample of it. I’m not selling it, just wanted to offer you a personal gift.

Cheers to you!

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Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.

Peter’s Books

American Pie
Artisan Breads Every Day
The Bread Bakers Apprentice
Brother Junipers Bread Book
Crust and Crumb
Whole Grain Breads

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