Sugo (Authentic Italian Tomato Sauce)

Sugo Sauce in a dutch oven with a wooden spoon and fresh basil.

Sugo, a quintessential Italian tomato sauce, is a rich and aromatic sauce make with just a few simple ingredients such as whole tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Commonly referred to as Sunday Sauce, this recipe for sugo sauce is simmered low and slow to concentrate the tomato flavor and seasonings.

Italian pasta sauce in a cream dutch oven.

Why You’ll Love Simple Italian Sauce

  • Easy Sauce Recipe- This simple Italian sauce recipe requires only 10 minutes of hands on time. It’s as easy to make as Penne Pomodoro.
  • Budget Friendly – The majority of ingredients are inexpensive and pantry staples, so you’re bound to have most of the ingredients in your pantry.
  • Versatility – Whether drizzled over pasta, used as a dip, or incorporated into a baked creation, its versatility is unmatched.

Recipe For Sugo Sauce

What is sugo? Sugo, meaning “sauce” in Italian, is a simple Italian red sauce made with minimal ingredients to highlight the tomato flavor. Authentic recipes vary from family to family, each adding their own twist. I keep mine simple, but check out the “variations” paragraph below for ideas to bulk it up.

If you’re a garlic bread lover make sure to make a batch to serve it with!

Labeled photo showing ingredients needed to make sugo.

Ingredients

When selecting your ingredients, please keep in mind it’s ideal to use high-quality goods as each is front and center due to the limited number of ingredients.

  • Fresh or Authentic San Marzano Tomatoes
  • Yellow Onion
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Basil Leaves
  • Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • Oregano – not authentic but does add flavor

How to Make Sugo

Only a few steps are needed to make this tomato-based Italian pasta sauce:

Saute the Aromatics – Pre-heat a dutch oven with olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and sauté to soften. Add the basil to release the flavor.

Onions and garlic being sauteed in a dutch oven.

Add the tomatoes – Add the tomatoes, oregano (if using) and black pepper to the sautéed aromatics and stir until blended. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45-60 minutes, until thickened.

Whole tomatoes and salt and pepper in a dutch oven to make sugo sauce.

Season and Serve – Add the salt and sugar (if needed) to taste. The thick sauce is ready to use.

Tips From The Cook

  • Salt – I recommend adding salt after reducing the sauce as if reduced too much, it will be too salty.
  • Sugar – If you find your tomatoes are too acidic or metallic tasting, add a bit of sugar to neutralize.
  • Red Wine – If you enjoy red wine in your Italian sauces, add a splash or two before reducing.
  • Like Heat? Throw in some red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper after reducing.
  • Leftovers – Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

Variations

There are a few popular meat options to bulk up your sauce. Here are a few options to consider to make an Italian Meat Sauce:

Pork Sugo – To make a pork based meat sauce, grab a pork shoulder and checkout the pork version.

Lamb Sugo – To make a lamb based meat sauce, grab a lamb shoulder and checkout the lamb version.

pasta penne in a white bowl

Serving Ideas

This creamy and thick tomato sauce is highly versatile and can be used in any recipe calling for marinara sauce or even spaghetti sauce. I’ve personally used it to make:

Frequently Asked Questions

Is sugo the same as marinara sauce?

While similar, are not the same Italian sauce. Sugo is all about the simplicity and flavor of the tomatoes, while marinara sauce includes spices like oregano, basil, and thyme. It also tends to be thinner than sugo.

What is the difference between sugo and ragu?

Sugo is thick but creamy sauce with tomatoes being the focus of flavor. On the other hand, ragu is thick but chunky due to the addition of vegetables. Ragu isn’t as tomato-forward thanks to the inclusion of a litany of other ingredients.

Is sugo the same as passata sauce?

Tomato Passata is 100% pureed and strained tomatoes that is sold in tall glass bottles. No other ingredients or additives are added. Passata is often used to make sugo in place of whole tomatoes.

Sugo Sauce in a dutch oven with a wooden spoon and fresh basil.

Sugo (Authentic Italian Tomato Sauce)

Sugo, a quintessential Italian tomato sauce, is a rich and aromatic sauce make with just a few simple ingredients such as whole tomatoes, garlic, and basil. This recipe for sugo sauce is simmered over low heat to concentrate the tomato flavor and seasonings.
5 from 35 votes
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 3 cups
Calories: 102kcal
Author: Darcey Olson
Cost: $7.00

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup diced onion (small dice) ((*Note 2))
  • ¼ cup hand-torn fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 28 oz can San Marzano whole tomatoes ((*Note 1))
  • 7 cups water
  • tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt, + more to taste ((*Note 3))

OPTIONAL INGREDIENTS

  • ½ tsp sugar ((*Note 4))
  • ½ tsp dried oregano ((*Note 5))

Instructions

  • Add the olive oil to a dutch oven and pre-heat over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the basil and sauté for 1 minute. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
    2 tbsp olive oil, ½ cup diced onion (small dice), ¼ cup hand-torn fresh basil leaves, 1 tsp minced garlic
  • Add the tomatoes, water, black pepper and oregano (if using) and bring to a light boil. Partially cover with the lid and reduce heat to a low simmer. Stir occasionally and use a wooden spoon to help break down the whole tomatoes.
    28 oz can San Marzano whole tomatoes, 7 cups water, ⅛ tsp black pepper, ½ tsp dried oregano
  • Simmer for 45-60 minutes, until reduced. Taste and add salt and sugar, to taste.
    ¼ tsp kosher salt, + more to taste, ½ tsp sugar

Notes

Note 1 – Make sure to use a very small dice so the onion texture and flavor blend with the sauce and remains un-chunky.
Note 2 – Make sure to use authentic San Marzano whole tomatoes to keep the authentic flavor of the sugo sauce.
Note 3 – Wait until the sauce is reduced to add any salt to avoid over-salting.
Note 4 – Add sugar if your tomatoes are too acidic or have a mineral flavor from the can.
Note 5 – Not mandatory to make authentic Sugo, but it does add some extra flavor.

Nutrition

Calories: 102kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Sodium: 235mg | Potassium: 82mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 132IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 37mg | Iron: 0.4mg
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