Summer tomato sauce with sweet onions and fresh herbs

Tomato sauce with sweet onions and fresh herbs

A wonderful alternative to the classic tomato sauce with basil

I love to make this sauce at the peak of summer, when my herbs are thriving – chopped together and sautéed before the tomatoes are added, they infuse the sauce with their magical aromas. The sweet onions bring depth to the dish while accentuating the tomatoes’ natural sweetness.

A spaghetti sauce that moonlights as a side vegetable

You can serve this sauce with pasta, of course… but it’s also delicious with polenta, as a side vegetable served with grilled fish or chicken, on top of pizza or in this mouth-watering Provençal gratin.

I think it’s time to make sauce!

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Summer tomato sauce with sweet onions & fresh herbs


2 1/2 cups

Prep time

40 minutes

Cooking time

1 hour


  • 2 oz (55 g) fresh herbs (a mixture of parsley, thyme, winter savory, rosemary and oregano)

  • 3 lbs (1.4 kg) very ripe, meaty tomatoes (beefsteak or heirloom) – peeled, seeded (seeds strained and juices reserved)

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 large Vidalia or sweet onion – peeled and cut in 1/4″ pieces

  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes

  • 4 large garlic cloves – skinned and finely chopped

  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon fine sea salt to taste


  • Remove the leaves of the herbs from their stems and place on a cutting board. Hold the leaves in a tight bundle and finely slice. Then coarsely chop the herbs. You should have 1/2 cup of chopped fresh herbs.
  • Place the tomatoes in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. For a more textured sauce, crush the tomatoes by hand. Transfer to a bowl. Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, onions and chili pepper flakes. Stir well and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes until the onions are golden-brown, stirring only from time to time. Add the garlic and herbs and continue sautéing for about 1 to 2 minutes until the garlic releases its flavor and the herbs have wilted, stirring continuously. (Make sure not to brown the garlic, or it will become bitter.) Add the chopped tomatoes and reserved tomato juice and bring to a boil. As soon as the sauce reaches boiling point, reduce heat to medium/medium-low. Slow-simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes to 1 hour (depending on how watery your heirlooms are) until the sauce has thickened and the juices have evaporated, stirring from time to time. Add the salt, stir well and either transfer the sauce to a bowl to cool or proceed with your recipe of choice.
  • Cook’s note: Refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.
Heirloom tomatoes

Viviane’s Tip

If making several batches of the recipe, decrease the total olive oil by a third and increase the cooking time by at least 30 minutes for each additional portion. Example: If you multiply the recipe 3 times, use 9 lbs tomatoes (4.1 kg), 2/3 cup oil and simmer the sauce for 1 hour and 40 minutes to 2 hours. All other ingredients in the recipe can be multiplied exactly 3 times. Last, but not least, you’ll need to increase the heat as it’ll take more heat to keep a good simmer going with this much sauce. I do not recommend making more than 3 batches at a time, though, as the tomatoes will cook for too long and lose their flavor.

Tomato sauce with sweet onions and fresh herbs


  1. Utterly gorgeous! So pure tasting!

  2. Your recipe arrived with perfect timing! I’m hoping to get a bounty of tomatoes at a local u-pick this weekend and I have an abundance of herbs in my own garden. The savory recipe is a welcome change to the usual basil and tomato sauce!

    • Viviane Bauquet Farre

      Thank you, Deb! I’m so glad this recipe inspired you to use your own herbs… Happy sauce making!

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  6. I love to use homemade tomato sauce to make chili 🙂 This is a wonderful recipe to use homegrown tomatoes.

  7. This looks delicious! Perfect for the summer!

  8. how lovely!!! Love the sweet onions and fresh herbs you used in this tomato sauce-I’m sure it tastes wonderful!

  9. Beautiful sauce for summer, do like the sweet notes with the sweet onion and all the herbs.

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