How to Make Sugo, an Authentic Italian Tomato Sauce

Updated: Feb. 01, 2024

Sugo is a simple tomato sauce used in a number of dishes like pasta al pomodoro or as a topping for your favorite parmigiana.

When we think about meals like plates of pasta, pizzas and baked dishes, there are so many types of sauces that can be used. And when it comes to Italian cuisine, it’s challenging to think about a dish that doesn’t include a lush, thick tomato sauce. Pastas, meat dishes and pizza all require a generous helping of a cooked, aromatic tomato sauce. In Italy, this flavor-infused stovetop tomato sauce is called sugo.

What is sugo?

Sugo is the Italian word for sauce. In Italy, it specifically refers to a tomato-pureed sauce. Every Nonna in Italy has a sugo-making method. This recipe has likely been passed down from mother to daughter for generations.

Some might use basil, others only dried herbs, and others use garlic or onion. Some even add carrots for sweetness. Regardless, every family has a cherished recipe, and Sundays are the day Nonna will put a big pot of sugo on the stove to cook. That sauce will be used all week for various dishes.

The best part of sugo is that you can start with this basic recipe and tweak it to your preferences of heat, sweetness and thickness. The longer it cooks, the thicker and more fragrant it gets! So make a big pot of sugo today and enjoy the benefits of many meals.

How to Make Sugo

My sugo recipe yields 2 cups of sauce.


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 basil leaves
  • 2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoon dried oregano


Step 1: Cook the aromatics

How To Make Sugo Step 1TMB Studio

In a small saucepan, heat oil on medium-low. Add garlic clove and basil leaves. Allow the garlic and basil to cook for four to five minutes until the garlic is dark brown.

Step 2: Add the sauce

How To Make Sugo Step 2TMB Studio

Remove the garlic and basil and allow the oil to cool for a minute or so. Then add the sauce, red chili flakes, salt and oregano. Fill one of the tomato cans with water, swish it around and add the water to the pot. Mix to combine all the ingredients.

Reduce heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer for 25 minutes until reduced and thickened.

Tips for Making Sugo

  • Use quality ingredients: To make a sauce that Nonna would approve of, use high-quality olive oil and fresh basil instead of dried.
  • Taste to preference: Always taste for salt to your preference.
  • Store extra sauce: If you love cooking ahead, you’re in luck. Double the recipe and freeze the extra sugo. It can be kept for up to one month in the freezer. When you’re ready to reheat the sauce, place it in a pot and bring it to a simmer to heat through.

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