Making Pasta Sauce with Cans of Tomato Sauce

There are many Italian (and not-so-Italian) recipes for making a simple Italian pasta sauce (some of which are on this site), but today I am using cans of tomato sauce as the base for making the sauce.

pasta sauce from tomato cans

This particular version is similar to my meatless marinara sauce recipe, meaning no meat or special veggies to add in (except onions and garlic).  I’m using this pasta sauce recipe for a very specific purpose which is to use in a lasagna which I’m making from scratch for my in-laws for Christmas day.

Of course you can use it for anything, but I wanted a sauce that wasn’t like a fresh tomato sauce, where it is super light and thin.  It will be a great consistency for spreading on top of the wide noodles and mixing with the ricotta cheese when I layer up lasagna.

Using Canned Tomatoes for Pasta Sauce?

For this post, I made reference to the tomato sauce cans because I’ve always been curious when at the grocery store what kind of tomato product to use for sauce.  Maybe you have too.  Crushed tomatoes? Tomato sauce?  Tomato paste? (Yes, you can make a marinara from tomato paste and a homemade spaghetti sauce with tomato sauce).  Canned whole tomatoes?   Diced tomatoes?

While different people will have different opinions, it comes down to two things:  quality ingredients which impacts flavor, and desired consistency.   I’ve made sauce with all variations and all turned out great.

pasta sauce from tomato sauce

But with canned tomato sauce, you typically get a “sauce” already in the making.  Meaning tomatoes aren’t the only ingredient and they’ve given you a head start.

For example, here’s the ingredients list on the cans I used which I got at Aldis.

canned tomato sauce image

It includes sugar and red peppers as additional ingredients.

Most likely the added sugar and peppers are to add the needed sweetness for the sauce.   If you’ve ever made a sauce using tomato paste you have to add sugar otherwise it tastes bitter and unpleasant. This is what I recommend with our classic pizza sauce recipe.   So with the tomato sauce that’s all taken care of you.

But it’s not a pasta sauce…. yet.   

To learn more about canned tomatoes check out these two articles.

What Recipes to use this Pasta Sauce with

This pasta sauce is very versatile. You can use it on spaghetti and other long pasta types, or use with shapes like tortellini. You can also use it for stuffed shells with spinach and ricotta, a simple lasagna, or eggplant parmesan. Add some oregano and use it for making homemade pizza sauce for topping your own simple pizza dough.

If you want to be real daring, you can use it to top meats such as tripe, veal, or meatballs. Check out my post on what is tripe if you’ve never heard of it.

So without further adieu, let’s get started.   Here’s the recipe and ingredients below.  Enjoy!!!

pasta sauce from canned tomatoes

Easy Pasta Sauce using Cans of Tomato Sauce

Here's my recipe for an easy Italian pasta sauce using canned tomato sauce as your base. When I need a red sauce but don't have cans of crushed tomatoes, I use this instead!   Makes about 6-8 cups.
5 from 1 vote
Print Rate
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes


  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp crushed garlic
  • 1 diced onion
  • 32 oz canned tomato sauce
  • 16 oz canned diced tomatoes
  • 8 oz tomato paste
  • 16 oz water
  • 1 whole carrot
  • 2 bay leaves


  • Heat olive oil in pot over medium heat
  • Add in diced onion and cook until translucent making sure not to burn by stirring frequently  (about 10 minutes)
  • Add in crushed garlic and keep stirring until very fragrant making sure not to burn the garlic at all! (about 2-3 minutes)
  • Add in the cans of tomato of sauce and stir 
  • Take the diced tomatoes, put in a blender and pulse twice.  This creates a crushed texture.    You can also use a can of crushed tomatoes if you have one.
  • Add the tomato paste and stir until fully dissolved 
  • Add the water, bay leaf and carrot and give a stir
  • Turn to a medium-low or simmer depending on time contraints.  If you have a good chunk of hours then put it on simmer and let it simmer for 2-3 hours.  
  • Stir occasionally over the next hour to make sure it doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pot 
  • Give a taste test and if it’s evaporated down too much for your liking, add a little more water and continue cooking.    Since I’m using this for a lasagna, I don’t want it thin in consistency.   Add more tomato paste if it is too thin.  
  • Remove and toss carrot when done.   The carrot absorbs extra acidity so we don’t want to keep it in the sauce.


  1. I’ve made this sauce in an hour by cooking it at a higher temp, however the best is always a low simmer for a longer time to really concentrate the flavor. 
  2. Carrots will absorb some of the acidity from tomatoes while cooking.  Don’t leave the carrot in there when the sauce is complete.  I did that once and I think it released the acid back into the sauce and it tasted awful.   
  3. If you don’t have a carrot use 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of baking soda.  Have your kids add it in because it’s cool to see it bubble up like a science project.   
  4. Remove the bay leaves before using with a lasagna where it might be hidden and accidentally eaten.  Bay leaves don’t soften when in the sauce and it’s best to remove them if not serving by itself in a serving bowl with ladle. 
  5. Use a can of crushed tomatoes instead of diced but be careful of extra unwanted spices/herbs which can impact the dish you are making.  I opt for plain and add the herbs I want when I make a sauce.  
  6. This makes about 64oz of sauce, about 8 cups.  Freeze for later what you won’t use now.   

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If you enjoy this recipe, you may also enjoy these other Italian recipes and posts.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this recipe for making pasta sauce from cans of tomato sauce.

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Making Pasta Sauce with Cans of Tomato SauceMaking Pasta Sauce with Cans of Tomato SauceMaking Pasta Sauce with Cans of Tomato Sauce


  1. We just enjoyed this sauce for dinner with meatballs and fettuccine. I didn’t think my husband would enjoy it because he has been eating the same sauce for 37 years. I have been trying some new recipes and yours was a big hit! I used passata instead of tomato sauce but I think they are similar. And I used my own canned tomatoes. Very yummy. Thank you.

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