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This spicy tomato sauce develops layers of flavor from roasting in the oven. It only takes 15 minutes to put together before sliding it into the oven, and can be used for many recipes.
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4.38 from 8 votes

Smoky Spicy Roasted Tomato Sauce

This spicy tomato sauce develops layers of flavor from roasting in the oven. It only takes 15 minutes to put together before sliding it into the oven, and can be used for many recipes.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Spicy Pasta Sauce, Spicy Tomato Sauce
Servings: 8 cups
Author: The Wimpy Vegetarian



  • Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
  • Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed, oven-safe pot. The pot should be able to hold 8 cups, or 1 quart, of sauce comfortably. Add the onions and sauté for 5 - 7 minutes, or until softened.
  • Stir in all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a gentle simmer, about 7 - 8 minutes. Slide the pot, uncovered, into the oven. Place a baking sheet on a rack below the pot, in case it boils over - although I've never yet had this happen.
  • Roast for 1 hour, and remove from the oven. Correct for any seasoning, and cool before ladling into jars.
  • The sauce can keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, and in the freezer for up to 6 months.


Ideas for Making It Your Own Sauce

  • Add chopped celery, carrot and / or mushrooms to make it even heartier. It's plenty thick already after roasting, so add some water or vegetable broth if you take this path.
  • Play with the herbs and swap out basil for oregano - or add 1 tablespoon garlic paste (or 3 large garlic cloves minced).
  • Swap in 2 dried chipotle peppers for the chipotle peppers in adobo to make the sauce less spicy.
    • The smokiness of the chipotle peppers is what gives this sauce its distinctive smoky flavor, but the dried version is significantly milder in heat.
  • Add 1/3 cup dry red wine - Pinot Noir or Zinfandel both work great!
  • Add diced roasted red peppers and halved kalamata olives to add more layers of flavor and texture. (I do this one a LOT.)
    • TIP: If you don't want to take the time to roast your own peppers, buy a jar of them instead. Add 1 - 2 roasted peppers diced into 1/2" - 3/4" pieces to the sauce.

Ways to Further Simplify This (Already Simple) Recipe

  • Using three different kinds of canned tomatoes varies the texture of the finished sauce. If that's not important to you, go with three 28-ounce cans of either diced or crushed tomatoes. Don't forget to add all their juices.
    • This isn't a true simplification, but if that's what you have on hand, it saves you a trip to the market :-). 
  • Eliminate the roasting altogether and just put it into jars immediately.
    • The sauce is perfectly fine, but the roasting takes it to another level. Roasting reduces the sauce, making it thicker and intensifying its flavors. Particularly the smokiness.

Roasting Tomato Sauce v. Stovetop Cooking

  • It doesn't require tending if it's in the oven. Just slide the pot into the oven and walk away for an hour.
    • Stovetop cooking requires a lot of attention. Stirring to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. And keeping an eye on it to ensure it's simmering and not boiling over.
  • Surrounding the pot with 400˚F in the oven, heats the sauce more evenly than on the stove where only one surface receives the heat.
  • The surround heat prevents the sauce from crusting on the bottom and sticking to the pan, making cleanup infinitely easier.

Tips For Making This Smoky Spicy Roasted Tomato Sauce

  • Use a heavy-bottomed pot such as a Le Creuset Dutch oven. They support even heating and are worth every penny.
  • There aren't a lot of ingredients in this sauce, so the quality of each one is important to the overall flavor. I use San Marzano canned tomatoes pretty much exclusively, and I've also used boxed Pomi tomatoes with great success.