Pizza Quest Globe

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.



My personal preference is to use nothing but the tomatoes from the can – lightly crushed or blended, then reduced for 20 minutes. To me, this, together with the pizza dough is the “canvass” on which I produce my final pizza product. To add salt or other spices presupposes that all toppings have the same dimensions in terms of flavour. This is clearly not correct (e.g. anchovy and artichoke) and so the creativity comes in knowing what to add, such as salt and herbs that compliments both the base and the topping of the pizza. To “tart up” the sauce to me is like buying a pre-made “pizza sauce” that you find in the tomato paste aisle at the supermarket. It reduces your ability to be creative.


Rossco makes a great point. The suggested herbs in my recipe are for a standard sauce and cheese pizza but you always want to leave room for what’s appropriate for they type of pizzas you are making. The Bulgarian savory, for instance, sounds fabulous and, while I’d love to try some I’ll have to pass for now simply because I don’t want to start a precedent for having things sent to me at home. As for Phoebe’s question, yes, this pizza sauce recipe is great on pasta, the only difference being that you have to heat it up first in a pot or sauce pan. Otherwise, it’s a great marinara sauce for many uses other than pizza. I even turn it into cream of tomato soup by adding some cream, half and half, or even low fat milk. I also use it as a base for gazpacho by adding cucumbers and other fresh vegetables and pulsing it all up in a food processor. And, as Rosco points out, there is no need to add herbs or to “tart it up” other than to create the flavor profile you want. That’s probably why everyone loves pizza–because you can do it your way.


Hellow peter i from Ecuador but right now im stay in Canada i have one question in this recipe for pizza sauce i can put sugar?please help me,,,tnx



first of all thanks for the site and also for the inspiring recipes, thoughts and comments.

I’m particularly interested to find out more about the use of tomato powder in the sauce. It’s mentioned in some earlier posts. How much is used? Is it added when preparing the sauce or is sprinkled much like salt over the ingredients? Any info here would be greatly appreciated.

Rick in Atlanta

My sauce is very simple, thanks to Peter. I use Cento certified San Marzano tomatoes, a bit of salt, oregano and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (the lemon juice really makes the sauce pop). I seed the tomatoes, put in a blender and add just enough of the liquid to get the consistency of sauce I like. It is amazingly good and so simple.

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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

...and other books by Peter Reinhart, available on