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Tomato Sauce Recipe

A homemade tomato sauce that tastes like the sauce you remember from childhood.
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or scroll for handy tips and a little nostalgia.

tomato sauce and handwritten recipe for tomato sauce.

This Tomato Sauce recipe will take you back to a time when the internet, Uber and Insta didn’t exist – but tomato sauce tasted a whole lot better.

Remember what tomato sauce used to taste like?

You will once you cook up a batch of this!

Enjoy your homemade tomato sauce slathered on a meat pie, serve it with hot chips or store it away for your next sausage sizzle.

tomato sauce recipe

An old-fashioned Tomato Sauce recipe

I’m a long-time tomato sauce fanatic.

As a child, I had it with EVERYTHING. I refused to eat many things without it.

I remember Mum having to go to our neighbour’s house one night to borrow a bottle of sauce because we’d run out and I had a meltdown.

I’ve never quite got tired of tomato sauce and still enjoy it, especially with hot chips or on a sausage sandwich.

One of my kids has inherited my tomato-sauce-loving gene, too.

And I always make sure we have a spare bottle of tomato sauce in the pantry.

So I was quite keen to test out this homemade tomato sauce recipe recorded by my great grandmother at least 80 years ago.

With a haul of lovely locally-grown tomatoes from my local farmer’s markets, it seemed the perfect time to cook up a batch of Nana Ling‘s tomato sauce.

UPDATE – I’ve made this sauce many times since, and it’s one of the most popular recipes on the blog!

Ingredients for homemade Tomato Sauce

To make this sauce, you’ll need:

  • tomatoes
  • white wine vinegar
  • salt
  • caster sugar (superfine sugar)
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • cloves
  • allspice
  • peppercorns
  • cayenne pepper.

Some people also like to add an onion to this recipe.

I like to make it exactly as Nana Ling recorded it, without the onion – but each to their own!

tomato sauce ingredients

Cooking up this Australian Tomato Sauce Recipe

Making this tomato sauce is quite simple once you’ve sourced some lovely, ripe tomatoes and checked to make sure you have all the spices and other ingredients on hand.

The other ingredients, vinegar and sugar, you probably already keep in your pantry.

How to make Tomato Sauce

Chop the tomatoes roughly and place into a large saucepan. Then add the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil.

The sauce takes around 2–3 hours of simmering to reduce. Keep a check on it and watch the how-to video to see the consistency of the mixture you’re aiming for.

Given the variability of the tomatoes, it’s difficult to give a precise cooking time. 

Once cooked, there are two options to process the sauce.

Option 1 – Sieving the sauce

Then you just need to run the mixture through a sieve, pressing down with a spoon, to extract the beautifully rich and tasty tomato sauce.

Bottle it straight away in a sterilised bottle or jar and store in the pantry or fridge. 

This is how the sauce is made according to Nana Ling’s instructions and this is how I like to make it.

Option 2 – Blending the sauce

Many readers have commented that they simply blend the sauce in a food processor or chopper once it’s cooked.

Many prefer this method, since it’s much easier.

If you do opt to blend the sauce, just keep in mind that it may have a spicier kick to it given all of the spices are blended into the sauce.

The Tomato Sauce time machine

I hadn’t realised how much tomato sauce had changed over the years until I sampled Nana Ling’s tomato sauce recipe. A recipe she’d jotted down in her beautiful handwriting back in 1941.

One tiny taste and I was immediately transported back to my family’s dinner table in the 1980s.

I could see our old dinner table covered with a seersucker tablecloth. I could also see Mum’s hanging pot plant stand in the corner of the dining room (which fell down on the dinner table one night and saved me from eating a meal I wasn’t particularly enjoying). And on the table was a glass bottle filled with deep red tomato sauce.

These days, tomato sauce seems brighter and thinner.

And it may be in a super convenient squeeze pack now, but the taste just isn’t quite the same. It doesn’t pack a tomato punch the way the good old-fashioned tomato sauce did.

If you want tomato sauce that’s thick, full of tomato flavour and can even take you back in time, keep scrolling for Nana Ling’s Tomato Sauce Recipe.

You can also find other wonderful condiments and conserves from the Cooking with Nana Ling collection here (and if you still have heaps of tomatoes, check out my Tomato Recipes collection).

tomato sauce pin for pinterest.

Recipe FAQs

What are the best tomatoes for Tomato Sauce?

You really can use any type of tomato here, however roma tomatoes and other “paste” tomatoes that have fewer seeds are perfect for making sauce.

I also like to use heirloom tomatoes and have made this recipe up with cherry tomatoes when i had an abundance of those.

How to store Tomato Sauce

“Where do you store tomato sauce?”

It’s a controversial question, indeed!

I store my sauce in the fridge once it’s opened. Others store it in the cupboard. Which way is the right way?

Well, even the experts at Australia’s Choice can’t agree. 

They say that tomato sauce is high enough in sugar and salt to be shelf stable, even after opening. However, bacteria is more of a risk in a warmer environment.

Some are willing to take the risk, saying cold sauce is a crime and impacts the flavour.

So, there seems to be no right and wrong.

If you’re risk-averse and don’t mind cold sauce, continue to store it in the fridge.

If you’re a tomato sauce aficionado who insists on enjoying it at it’s room-temperature best, go ahead.

Just keep in mind that if you are making homemade tomato sauce and are not familiar with how to properly can/preserve sauces, store in the fridge to be safe.

What do you store your sauce in?

Go for an airtight glass container to maximise it’s shelf life.

Once you’ve opened it, you can pour it from there or transfer it to a squeeze bottle – yes, the ones we had in the 80s are still around today if you look hard enough.

Nana Ling’s Tomato Sauce recipe

Keep scrolling for the tested and tweaked version.

tomato sauce recipe by Nana Ling
tomato sauce and handwritten recipe for tomato sauce.

Tomato Sauce Recipe

A homemade tomato sauce that tastes like the sauce you remember from childhood.
4.77 from 130 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Australian
Keyword: ketchup, tomato sauce
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Servings: 20 portions
Calories: 23kcal


  • 1 1/2 kilos tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 2/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1 clove garlic sliced thinly
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger grated (or 1/4 teaspoon ground dried ginger)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves (or 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice (ground)
  • 3 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 onion (optional, I personally don't add it in and it wasn't in the original recipe but some readers prefer this recipe with onion)


  • Place all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring.
  • Simmer for 2-3 hours, partly covered and stirring from time to time.
  • Watch the video above in the post to see the consistency of the tomato sauce once cooked. If the sauce hasn't achieved the desired consistency, continue to simmer uncovered until it reaches the preferred consistency.
  • Strain half of the mixture through a coarse sieve into a bowl, and then the other half. Use a spoon to push sauce through the sieve and extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids.
  • Alternatively, blend the cooked sauce in a food processor or chopper (but keep in mind the sauce will have a spicier kick).
  • Pour hot mixture into a medium-sized sterilised bottle and seal.
  • Store in fridge or a cool and dark place (depending on the process you used to can the sauce). If you are not familiar with how to properly preserve sauces, store in the fridge to be safe.
  • Once opened, store in the fridge.



Makes 400–500 ml. Double, triple or increase quantities in recipe to make a larger batch of sauce.


Calories: 23kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 350mg | Potassium: 12mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 9IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 1mg
Recipe Rating

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Tuesday 28th of November 2023

Hi Libby, in October I commented how great your Nanna's tomato sauce was and asked if it could be made with tin tomatoes. I made a double batch yesterday with 1/2 Napolia chopped and plum,simmered for 1hour covered and 30 minutes uncovered strained through a moulin. Put back in pan to remove more liquid. Let cool put in containers of 250ml to freeze when frozen I wrapped each in backing paper put in a freezer bag to use when needed. I used 8 tins and and got 6 x 250 ml and a half. My husband said it was great ,we had squid strip's for tea he put on Nanna lings sauce 😋. Kindest regards Monica

Libby Hakim

Friday 1st of December 2023

Wonderful! So pleased this worked out for you, Monica. Enjoy your tomato sauce x


Monday 9th of October 2023

I have been making Nanna Ling's tomato sauce many times, my husband said it's the best. I was wondering if it can be made with tin tomato and how many grams would I have to use. Regards Monica.

Libby Hakim

Tuesday 10th of October 2023

Hi Monica. You could certainly give it a go, though I haven't tried it myself. Let me know how you go in the comments if you do try and I'll add the info to the post. I'd use the same weight of tinned tomato. Happy cooking!

Carryn McLean

Sunday 10th of September 2023

I love this recipe. However I don’t strain it as I put into a bolognaise mix. It’s rich and beautiful. I was never a fan of spaghetti bolognaise but using this thick sauce is just delicious. SB has now become a favourite. I will, however, make it as a tomato sauce in future.

Libby Hakim

Sunday 10th of September 2023

Amazing! Love hearing how the recipes are used and adapted. Happy cooking, Carryn.


Thursday 10th of August 2023

Rather than use the sieve, can you use your stick blender? Thanks

Libby Hakim

Thursday 10th of August 2023

Hi Flossie. Yes, you can. I've added that to the recipe instructions as lots of people used this method and have mentioned in the comments. Happy cooking!


Sunday 9th of April 2023

Absolutely delicious. I did add the optional onion, as I love onion in everything. Thanks for a great recipe, I’m about to make another batch as I have a glut of tomatoes from my garden. I probably should add, I didn’t have fresh ginger so used powdered. I didn’t bother straining or discarding solids, the whole lot blitzed to a nice sauce-like consistency in the food processor. I didn’t cover while simmering either:-) Yummy

Libby Hakim

Sunday 9th of April 2023

Amazing!! So glad so many people are enjoying this recipe and it's so good to use up those home grown tomatoes when you have a lot. Happy cooking, Jane!

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