While there are some great jarred and canned tomato sauces available, there’s nothing quite like cooking down fresh tomatoes to make your own sauce. Not only does homemade sauce taste delicious, but it allows you to control the ingredients and feels your kitchen with an alluring fragrance.
Some people say that making sauce is a chore, but starting with the right type of tomato can make this just much easier. And it can lead to a delicious sauce!
We’re going to introduce you to some of the best tomatoes for sauce that you can grow at home.
Before we dive into the best sauce tomatoes, let’s cover what makes a tomato good for sauce in the first place. While you can use any type of tomato to make a sauce, some varieties are better suited for this use than others.
To evaluate whether a tomato will lend itself well to sauce, consider the following characteristics.
While adding elements like herbs and spices can bolster the flavor of tomato sauce, nothing will mask a lackluster tomato. Starting with a flavorful tomato is essential if you want to end up with a delicious sauce.
The exact flavor is up to you. If you prefer a sauce that’s on the sweeter end, you can choose a tomato with a higher sugar content. And if you prefer a tarter sauce, choose a tomato that’s a bit more acidic.
Regardless of the exact flavor you prefer, you’ll want to ensure any sauce tomato you choose is bursting with rich tomato flavor.
If you have eaten a handful of different types of tomatoes, you know they vary not only in flavor but also in texture. Some tomatoes burst with juices, others are meaty, and others are downright mealy.
While a nice juicy beefsteak may be the ideal tomato for a BLT, it’s not the best option for sauce. In general, you want to choose sauce tomatoes that are meaty and not super juicy.
Choosing a tomato that’s not super juicy means you won’t have to cook your sauce for a long time in order to thicken it.
A few seeds won’t ruin a tomato sauce. But a sauce filled with seeds isn’t what most people are looking for.
Along with adding unwelcome textures, seeds can also add a bitter flavor to tomato sauce. Therefore it’s best to create a sauce with as few seeds as possible.
If you use a food mill to make your sauce, you won’t have to worry about the seed quantity as much. That’s because the mill removes the seeds and skins and then leaves you with a smooth tomato puree.
However, if you will make sauce without a food mill, you should pay a bit more attention to seeds. Choosing tomato varieties with just a few seeds will help create a smooth sauce.
People often remove tomato skins before turning the fruits into a sauce. While this adds an extra step to the process, it results in an end product that’s smooth and homogenous.
You can remove the skins by dipping the tomatoes in boiling water, placing them in cold water, and then peeling the skin off by hand. Or you can use a tomato mill to help remove the thin tomato skin.
In general, it will be easier to remove the skin from regular-shaped tomatoes. Bumpy shapes create nooks and crannies that can make it difficult to remove all the skin.
If you want to whip up a batch of tomato sauce to enjoy for tonight’s dinner or can for future use, starting with the right type of tomato will make your project easier. This list of the best tomatoes for sauce is a good place to start.
1. San Marzano
If there’s one type of tomato that’s heralded for its ability to make a delicious sauce, it’s the San Marzano. This heirloom plum variety has a more elongated shape than other similar tomatoes and sports a pointed tip.
Even if the name San Marzano doesn’t sound familiar, you’ve probably seen these tomatoes before. While many types of canned tomatoes are simply labeled tomatoes, San Marzano receives its own distinction in the grocery store.
You can find whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes, often grown and canned in Italy, where they originated. In fact, these tomatoes are named after the town where they originated, San Marzano sul Sarno.
If you see a protected designation of origin (or DOP for the Italian Denominazione d’Origine Protteta) seal on the can, that indicates the tomatoes are San Marzanos grown in the agricultural Sarnese Nocerino region of Italy. This region has unique volcanic soil and an agricultural tradition that allows for the production of high-quality San Marzanos.
These Italian-grown tomatoes are an important component of iconic dishes including Neopolitan pizza and ragú.
You can buy canned San Marzano tomatoes that were grown in other areas (such as the United States), but these tomatoes lack the DOP seal. As to whether they taste the same? We’ll leave that up to you to decide.
Regardless of where your San Marzano tomatoes were grown, there’s no denying that the San Marzano is an excellent sauce tomato. So, what exactly makes it so good?
First, it has few seeds and a meaty texture, both of which are excellent for sauce. And it’s taste is supremely tomato-y and on the sweeter side.
If you’d like to grow San Marzano tomatoes at home, go for it! While you can’t replicate the soil found in Italy, you can still end up with delicious tomatoes that are great for making sauce.
These plants are indeterminate, which means they will produce small amounts of tomatoes over multiple months. That means you may want to grow multiple plants if you want enough tomatoes to make large batches of sauce.
Like with most tomatoes, you should start seeds indoors and then transplant them outdoors when the weather has warmed. You can expect to begin harvesting tomatoes about 82 days after you transplant them.
Since these tomatoes are indeterminate, they benefit from staking and/or trellising.
2. Speckled Roman
While many of the best sauce tomatoes have a plum shape and bright red skin, the Striped Roman mixes things up a bit. Although it has an elongated plum shape, its red skin is splattered with bright yellow lines.
Some say these yellow portions resemble specks, hence the name Speckled Roman. However, others say the tomato looks striped and call it the Striped Roman.
Regardless of what you call it, we can all agree this tomato is excellent for sauce. The flesh is meaty with little juice, which means it quickly cooks down into a thick sauce. Plus, the flavor is rich and complex.
This variety is an heirloom that John Swenson of the Seed Savers Exchange first developed. It’s open-pollinated, which means you can save seed year to year and expect similar fruits each year.
The Speckled Roman has an indeterminate growth habit. That means that the plant’s vines continue to grow as long as the weather is warm and they produce fruit over multiple months.
While this means you can expect months of Speckled Roman tomatoes, it also means that you won’t get one large flush of tomatoes to make sauce with. Growing multiple plants will provide you with more tomatoes and allow you to make multiple batches of sauce.
Start the seeds in the early spring and transplant them outdoors after the danger of frost has passed. You can expect to see ripe tomatoes about 85 days after you put the transplants in the ground.
Providing these tomatoes with support via stakes or a trellis will help manage the vines and make harvesting easier.
3. Amish Paste
If you’re looking for larger tomatoes for sauce making, check out the Amish Paste. Although this tomato certainly isn’t as large as beefsteak types like Cherokee Purple and Brandywine, it is larger than many other types of paste and sauce tomatoes.
The 8–12 ounce fruits range in shape from plum-shaped to oxheart-shaped. Although the shapes can vary, all of the tomatoes have a smooth appearance that makes it easy to peel the skin.
Like most paste tomatoes, they have a supremely meaty texture without much juice. That means that won’t create the satisfying feeling of tomato juice dripping out of a BLT, but it does mean that they are great for sauce!
The flavor is rich and on the sweeter side, which creates a delicious sauce. And few seeds means it’s easier to keep them out of the final product.
So, where did this heirloom tomato originate? As the name suggests, these tomatoes were first bred by the Amish community. Some people say the seeds were acquired in Wisconsin, while others say they came from Pennsylvania.
The Amish Paste is an indeterminate variety, so it benefits from trellising. As long as the plants remain healthy, they will continue to produce tomatoes until the first frost arrives.
4. Plum Regal
If you constantly deal with the dreaded late blight, you know how much it can wreak havoc on your plants. Rather than losing plants year after year, you can choose late blight-resistant varieties to give your plants a better chance of thriving.
Plum Regal is a hybrid paste tomato that’s known for its ability to withstand late blight. It also has great resistance to some types of Fusarium wilt, Verticillium wilt, and tomato spotted wilt virus.
Along with the plant’s impressive disease resistance, Plum Regal is also known for producing lots of small plum-shaped tomatoes. These fruits are about four ounces and have smooth skin and few seeds.
Plum Regal is a determinate tomato that begins producing ripe fruit about 75 days after transplant. It will generally produce tomatoes for about three to four weeks, so if you want to make sauce throughout the summer, you should plant more than one round of these plants.
I like to plant one round of determinate tomatoes as soon as the danger of frost has passed and another round about a month later. This allows for an almost continuous supply of paste tomatoes.
Looking for a plum-shaped tomato that’s early to produce? Then check out Pozzano.
This hybrid variety begins producing ripe tomatoes about 72 days after it’s transplanted. Since it’s an indeterminate variety, healthy plants will continue to produce fruits until the first frost arrives.
Pozzano fruits resemble the famous San Marzano tomatoes with an elongated plum shape coupled with a bit of a pointed end. However, they are smaller in size, weighing only 4
If you happen to have access to a greenhouse, high tunnel, or other protected growing structure, tuck the Pozzano tomato inside to watch it shine. However, this variety can also grow well in the open garden, although yields will likely be lower than if you grew it under a cover.
Pozzano is a hybrid variety, which means that if you save seeds, the offspring will not be identical to the parent plant. Therefore, you’ll need to purchase Pozzano seeds each year.
While this may seem like a downside, the hybrid nature of Pozzano means it comes with great disease resistance. It is highly resistant to Fusarium wilt races one and two, Verticillium wilt, and tomato mosaic virus.
6. Northern Ruby
If you’re looking for a small plant for compact spaces or easy management, check out the Northern Ruby. These plants rarely grow over three feet tall, yet they still produce oodles of paste tomatoes.
Talk to people who have grown Northern Ruby and you may hear them say that the plants seem to contain more fruits than they do leaves. And that’s nothing to complain about!
Along with being known for small plants and a prolific nature, Northern Ruby is also known for being an early producer.
It was originally bred in Montana where the growing season is often quite short. Growers spent years selecting short and early-maturing plants, leading to the current iteration of this variety. Its origin means it’s especially well suited for Northern climates.
Northern Ruby begins producing ripe tomatoes about 70 days after transplant. That means if you plant seedlings outdoors in the beginning of May, you can expect to harvest in mid-July.
These plants are determinate, which means they produce a large flush of tomatoes over the course of a few weeks. So if you want to make multiple batches of sauce throughout the summer, you should start a few rounds of seedlings.
Since cherry tomatoes are so small and contain a high ratio of seeds and skin to flesh, they aren’t the best choice for making large amounts of sauce. That said, one of my favorite tomato sauces involves roasting and then blending Sungold cherry tomatoes.
So while cherry tomatoes aren’t the most traditional tomato for sauce, that doesn’t mean you can’t use them to make tomato sauce.
Some types of heirloom tomatoes work great for making sauce, while others are difficult to work with. In general, meaty, plum-shaped heirlooms like San Marzano and Speckled Roman work best for making sauce.
This depends on the volume of sauce you want to make! In general, you’ll need about five pounds of fresh tomatoes in order to make one quart of sauce.
If you are making tomato sauce, you should core and peel the tomatoes. Cutting an X on the tomato skin and then balancing the fruits can make it easy to remove the skin.
Whether you’re looking to whip up a large batch of tomato sauce to can or cooking up a quart of pasta sauce for tonight’s dinner, starting with the right tomatoes will make your job easier. Tomatoes that are meaty, low in moisture, and have few seeds are often the best tomatoes for sauce.
While this list is a good place to start, remember that it’s not comprehensive. If you find that another type of tomato works well for sauce, go for it!