The Best Tomatoes for Sauces

The real secret to great sauces starts with the tomatoes. Discover the top varieties, plus get recipe tips for whipping up a sauce that will make Granny jealous.

Photo By: Image courtesy of National Garden Bureau

Photo By: Image courtesy of Burpee

Photo By: Image courtesy of Burpee

Photo By: Image courtesy of National Garden Bureau

Photo By: Image courtesy of Seed Savers Exchange

Photo By: Image courtesy of National Garden Bureau

Photo By: Image courtesy of National Garden Bureau

Photo By: Image courtesy of Burpee

Photo By: Image courtesy of National Garden Bureau

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy of Burpee

Photo By: Image courtesy of Burpee

Photo By: Image courtesy of All-AmericaSelections.org

©2013, Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

Make Your Own Tomato Sauce

Making delicious, hearty tomato sauce is an art form. Though you could use any tomato, Roma and other paste tomatoes—with meaty texture with little to no seeds—are said to develop the best flavor when cooked down into a delicious sauce. Keep clicking to see our top tomato contenders.

'San Marzano'

Italy is home to these deep red, plum-type tomatoes, and 'San Marzanos' grown in the rich soil of the Campania region are said to be among the world’s best paste types. Their sweet flavor, dense pulp, low acidity and low seed count make them ideal for homemade sauces and pizzas. The bright red skins are easy to peel.

'SuperSauce'

We're warning you—these Romas are big. 'SuperSauce' produces 2-pound tomatoes on a 5-foot, bushy plant. The indeterminate variety keeps producing throughout the summer. The tomatoes make a smooth sauce that are great for fresh eating, too.

'Margherita'

Use 'Margherita' tomatoes to make a hearty paste for sauces, stews, pastas, and other dishes. The determinate plants are ready in 70 days and produce a heavy crop of 5-6-inch fruits.

'Amish Paste'

The succulent 'Amish Paste' heirloom tomato features juicy, meaty flesh and, naturally, makes for an excellent sauce.

Tomato 'MiRoma'

Choose this plum tomato, 'MiRoma', for its rich flavor when you're making homemade tomato pastes or sauces. It's a determinate variety that doesn't need staking. Fruits are ready to harvest in about 70 days from sowing.

'Rubia'

'Rubia' paste tomatoes are ready for picking in 69 to 80 days from harvest, so if you live where the growing season is short, look for an early-fruiting variety. These medium-sized, elongated tomatoes have a rich flavor and smooth, red skins.

'Orange Roma'

Dating back to around 1955, these early-yielding orange tomatoes have very few seeds and a sweet, fruity flavor. The thick, meaty flesh cooks down nicely for making pastes and sauces. The indeterminate vines bear prolifically.

'Yaqui' Tomato

'Yaqui' produces large paste tomatoes on vigorous, high-yield plants. It adapts nicely to most growing regions, and because it matures at 10 to 24 inches high, it can fit into containers or small garden spots.

Let's Get Cooking

Now that you've chosen your tomato, don't forget to add other sauce-worthy components to your garden like onions, garlic, herbs and even peppers. Homemade tomato sauces can be canned and stored for months at a time. 

Onions

Onions sets can be planted in early spring in most climates for a mid- to late summer harvest. Large, yellow and white onions are best for cooking; avoid spring and purple varieties, which are better for fresh eating.

Garlic

If you want to plant garlic for your tomato sauce, start early: garlic needs a long growing season and is best planted in the fall, right before the ground freezes. If you forget, don't worry—you can still plant the bulbs in early spring, but fall-planted garlic is typically bigger and more flavorful.

Herbs

Basil is a classic option in tomato sauce. Also try oregano, chives, thyme and parsley. For best results, wait to add fresh herbs to your concoction when it's almost done cooking (dried herbs should be added earlier in the process to help leach out the flavor). Don't forget a pinch of salt and pepper!

Peppers

Peppers can be planted along with tomatoes in the summer garden. From sweet to spicy, there are 100s of varieties to choose from—thick-skinned bell peppers will meld beautifully into a sauce, but choose whichever variety you like best.

Why Should I Put Lemon Juice in My Sauce?

When canning via water bath, it's recommended to add a little lemon juice or citric acid along with tomatoes to kill harmful bacteria, as many modern toms have been bred to be low-acid.