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Fast and Easy Tomato Sauce

Fast and Easy Tomato Sauce 4.000

Jennifer Heffner for The Washington Post; food styling Nicola Justine Davis for The Washington Post

Dinner in Minutes Nov 22, 2022

If you want to make a quick, versatile tomato sauce any time of year, grab a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes and a tin of anchovies. “You’d think this full-bodied sauce had been simmering for hours, not just 20 minutes,” Odette Williams writes in her cookbook, “Simple Pasta.” Williams, who calls the sauce pomodoro because she makes it with canned Italian tomatoes, explains that the recipe was given to her by an Italian American friend, who credits cookbook author Marcella Hazan, famous for her simple, delicious sauces (see related recipe). Put your favorite pasta on to cook while the sauce simmers and you'll have dinner in about 25 minutes; and check out her suggested variations for nights when you have a bit more time.

Total time: 25 mins

Storage Notes: Refrigerate the sauce for up to 4 days; freeze for up to 3 months.

4 - 6

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4-6 servings

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 to 6 anchovy fillets, packed in oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
  • One (28-ounce) can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
  • Fine salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 pound spaghetti or your favorite pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • Grated parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
  • Fresh basil leaves, for serving (optional)

Related Recipes


In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil for about 1 minute. Add the anchovies and cook them slowly, mashing with a wooden spoon until they melt into the oil, about 5 minutes. (Adjust the heat as needed, without letting the oil get too hot, so the anchovies disintegrate rather than fry.)

Add the garlic and oregano and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer the sauce until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and add more salt or pepper, as needed.

Serve over your favorite pasta and with parmesan cheese and fresh basil, if using.

VARIATIONS: To make an amatriciana sauce: Omit the anchovies and add 8 ounces diced pancetta, smoked bacon or guanciale (skin removed); saute in the oil until crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Omit the garlic and oregano and add 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes. Add the tomatoes and season with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. If you’d like the sauce a touch sweeter, stir in 1 teaspoon light brown sugar.

To make arrabbiata: Omit the anchovies and double the number of garlic cloves. Add 1 or 2 small seeded and finely chopped fresh red chiles and saute with the garlic. Add 1 teaspoon light brown sugar and an additional 1/2 teaspoon of salt and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

To make puttanesca: Prepare the sauce as directed, but before adding the tomatoes, add 3/4 cup chopped olives (black oil-cured, kalamata or green). Then add the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons of capers and 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Recipe Source

Adapted from “Simple Pasta” by Odette Williams (Ten Speed Press, 2022).

Tested by Ann Maloney.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (1/2 cup plain sauce, 1 1/3 cups pasta, 1 tablespoon parmesan): 435

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 12g 18%

Saturated Fat: 2g 10%

Cholesterol: 7mg 2%

Sodium: 354mg 15%

Total Carbohydrates: 68g 23%

Dietary Fiber: 5g 20%

Sugar: 8g

Protein: 15g

Calories per serving (1/2 cup plain sauce): 131

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 10g 15%

Saturated Fat: 1g 5%

Cholesterol: 2mg 1%

Sodium: 273mg 11%

Total Carbohydrates: 11g 4%

Dietary Fiber: 3g 12%

Sugar: 6g

Protein: 3g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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