Learn how to turn a can of tomato sauce into a flavorful classic no-cook pizza sauce in less than 5 minutes. This is my go-to pizza sauce because it's so easy and quick to make.
This simple red sauce for pizza uses canned tomato sauce, fresh garlic, salt, and dried herbs to make enough sauce for 3-4 medium pizzas or one focaccia pizza. No cooking required!
I make homemade pizzas from scratch all the time. They're one of my favorite easy dinners. I make my overnight thin crust pizza dough in advance (it freezes well too), and pizza is such a practical way to use up or repurpose leftovers into a new dinner!
As I've tweaked and adjusted my go-to classic red pizza sauce recipe over the years, my goal has always been to keep it as low-effort as possible without sacrificing flavor. We're going for speed and ease here, people!
Why Make a No-Cook Pizza Sauce
There are dozens if not hundreds of varieties of pizza sauce out there but nothing, imo, is more iconic than a simple and straightforward classic no-cook red sauce.
While I can't claim this is an authentic "New York-style" pizza sauce with any authority, it is, like most New York pizza sauces, a no-cook red sauce.
Because this pizza sauce isn't cooked, it has that nice bright, fresh, and acidic tomato flavor with just the right amount of bite from the garlic.
"Cooking your sauce will make your pizza taste like it was topped with pasta sauce rather pizza sauce. Sauce variants like vodka sauce ought to be cooked, but when it comes to plain pizza sauce, don’t cook it when it comes to New York-style pizza."— Joe Rosenthal, How to Pizza
Pizza sauce vs. marinara sauce, what's the difference? Marinara sauce is cooked! Marinara sauce is what you use for chicken parm, spaghetti sauce, etc. It's usually made from whole canned or crushed tomatoes that are cooked down to soften them. Marinara sauce is thicker than pizza sauce, and will have a cooked tomato flavor, rather than a bright fresh tomato flavor.
Neapolitan Pizza Sauce vs. No-Cook Pizza Sauce
Neapolitan pizza sauce originates in Naples, Italy, where there is are very strict guidelines certifying what qualifies as a "true" Neapolitan pizza.
Traditionally, Neapolitan pizzas are made with a simple no-cook pizza sauce, but the ingredients needed are very specific. That means using ingredients sourced from specific regions and prepared in very specific ways.
For example, tomatoes must come from the Campania region and be crushed by hand, in order to even begin claiming any sort of Neapolitan authenticity. You can read more about the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) regulations on their website.
So while this is a no-cook pizza sauce, and it is very similar in style to a Neapolitan pizza sauce, it is not a true Neapolitan pizza sauce.
Why Use Canned Tomato Sauce
While many no-cook pizza sauce recipes call for whole canned tomatoes, I prefer using canned tomato sauce since it has already been reduced slightly and pureed just the right amount. It's ready-made for pizza sauce.
Whole canned tomatoes still need to be pureed and only come in much larger quantities. I'm not about to get out an immersion blender or food processor out if I don't need to. I also don't need a huge quantity of pizza sauce.
One 6 ounce can of tomato sauce makes just about enough pizza sauce for 3 medium pizzas, so you won't end up with a lot left over. It also freezes nicely, so if you have extra it won't go to waste.
If you're planning on topping your pizza with fresh herbs after it bakes, you may decide you don't need the dried herbs in your pizza sauce. It's really up to you!
Here are the ingredients that you'll need to make this simple no-cook red pizza sauce using canned tomato sauce! See recipe card (at the end of the post) for quantities.
- Tomato Sauce - This recipe uses one 6 oz can of unsalted* tomato sauce. I'm not usually picky about the brand; I look for whatever is cheapest. Make sure you're getting tomato sauce, not tomato paste or puree. There shouldn't be any other ingredients in it but tomato and maybe citric acid or water. If you use a tomato sauce with salt in it, you may want to reduce the amount of salt you add to it!
- Garlic - One medium-to-large garlic clove or two small garlic cloves. I don't recommend using jarred garlic here if you can avoid it only because it's hard to get those pieces small enough to truly blend into the sauce. If you're using jarred garlic, you'll get the best results with a mini food processor!
- Salt - I've written this recipe with a salt measurement that works for both fine sea salt or table salt. In my cooking, I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt which half as salty as other brands, including other brands of kosher salt. So if you also use DCKS, you may need to 2X the amount of salt in the recipe.
- Dried oregano & basil - These add that classic pizza flavor to the sauce. I don't recommend using fresh herbs in the sauce as they tend to wilt and don't cook as nicely as dried herbs do. Save fresh oregano or fresh basil for after baking!
*If you use a tomato sauce that already has salt in it, taste it before you add any salt!
This is another one of those so-simple-it-hardly-needs-a-recipe recipes, so I'll keep it brief, but here's what I think is the simplest way to make this pizza sauce.
(I've included some other methods further down the post in case you don't have a Microplane zester or whisking just isn't your thing.)
Combine all the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Grate the garlic cloves into the bowl using a fine Microplane zester.
Whisk well until completely combined. Taste and adjust as needed — more salt, more herbs, more garlic, etc.!
Turning the garlic into a paste is super important for maximizing that strong garlic flavor. According to America's Test Kitchen, grating the garlic into a paste on a zester "breaks down as many cells as possible, creating sharply-flavored, pungent garlic."
Slicing or rough chopping garlic doesn't quite break the garlic down the same way zesting does.
Since garlic is the only ingredient in this recipe that needs to be broken down this finely, I find it's more practical to grab a zester rather than do it by hand with a knife. If you don't have a zester, you can paste garlic with a knife instead.
Other Ways to Make It
If you don't have a Microplane zester or would rather not whisk the sauce, here are two other options for how to make this no-cook pizza sauce:
- Food Processor or Bullet Blender: Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a mini food processor (like my fave KitchenAid 5 cup cordless food chopper) until smooth, about 60-90 seconds. You may need to scrape down the bowl a few times. Look at the size of the garlic pieces — they should be tiny specks you can barely see, not slivers!
- Garlic Paste with a Knife: Use a knife and a pinch of salt to turn the garlic clove into a paste by alternating smashing, smearing, and mincing it against a cutting board before stirring it into the sauce. (For more visual detail on how to make garlic paste, check out my recipe for ciabatta garlic bread!)
- Garlic Press - Use a rocker-style or hand held garlic press to turn the garlic cloves into a paste. You'll still have to do the shallots and rosemary by hand.
- Jarred Garlic: This works best if you're using a food processor or bullet blender to break the minced garlic pieces down even further. If you don't have one, I recommend spooning the garlic into a plastic baggie and running a rolling pin over it a few times to create a paste. To add it to the sauce, just snip a corner off the baggie and squeeze the paste out like a piping bag).
How to Spread Pizza Sauce
The best way to spread pizza sauce is with the back of a spoon. Pizzerias often use ladles which come in specific measurements to ensure every pizza has the same amount of sauce.
The deep curve at the bottom of the ladle makes it easy to spread the sauce evenly without any sharp edges tearing or catching on the dough.
For home pizza making purposes, a regular old dinner spoon works just fine. Sweep it gently across the surface of the dough taking care not to apply too much pressure — you don't want the dough to stick to the peel!
How Much Pizza Sauce For One Pizza
When you're making a thin crust pizza, you need less sauce than you think. About 3, maybe 4 tablespoons is plenty.
You don't need to be precise, just aim for a thin layer of sauce with some spots where you can still see the dough peeking through.
If you want to be precise, you're aiming for about 1.5-2 ounces of sauce per medium pizza.
The pizza will bubble up and shift in the oven as it cooks and the cheese melts, so don't worry if it looks streaky. It will all even out in the oven.
Spread the sauce fairly close to the edges of the crust — leave only about half an inch of bare crust as a border.
If you've stretched the crust properly, the outer edge of the crust will bubble up in the oven as the pizza shrinks slightly. The sauce helps weigh it down so you don't end up with a huge outer crust and a small surface area of cheese and sauce.
Pizza Sauce Storage Notes
Refrigerate this no-cook pizza sauce for up to 7 days in an airtight container (I use one of these 8 ounce deli containers) or freeze for up to 3 months.
The sauce will thicken and might even separate slightly in the fridge; that's normal. Just give it a stir to use it again.
Substitutions & Variations
This is a great base recipe that you can absolutely tweak and customize to make it your own. Here's some suggestions to get you started:
- Spicy: Add ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes.
- Sweet: Add ¼ teaspoon sugar.
- Garlic Powder: Use ⅛-1/4 teaspoon garlic powder instead of a whole clove of garlic. The flavor won't be quite as fresh, but it works in a pinch!
- Italian Seasoning: Replace the dried oregano and dried basil with the same amount of dried Italian seasoning blend. (If the seasoning blend has salt in it, reduce the amount of salt in the recipe.)
Don't feel beholden to the ingredient measurements here. This is a very simple base recipe and you can absolutely tinker with it to find your own perfect no-cook pizza sauce combination of garlic, herbs, and seasonings!
Some people add sugar to their pizza sauce to cut down on the acidity from the tomatoes. Others add it because they prefer a sweeter pizza sauce. I don't think this recipe needed the added sugar but I also prefer a more acidic, less sweet sauce. If you'd like to add sugar to this recipe, add ¼ teaspoon at a time, tasting as you go.
While you absolutely can use plain canned tomato sauce as pizza sauce, I think it tastes better when you add a bit of additional flavor to it!
I don't recommend it. Tomato paste has been cooked down much longer and is much thicker and more intense in flavor. It's not as easy to spread and won't have that same bright, fresh, tomato flavor you expect from pizza.
5-Minute No Cook Pizza Sauce (Using Canned Tomato Sauce)
- 6 ounces salt-free tomato sauce (1 small can)
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ teaspoon salt (use 2X diamond crystal kosher salt)
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- Combine the canned tomato sauce, salt, dried basil, and dried oregano in a bowl. Use a microplane zester to grate a clove of garlic into the sauce. Whisk well. Adjust seasoning to taste.
- Use immediately or refrigerate for up to a week.
- If using a tomato sauce that has salt in it already, wait to add the salt until after you mix everything together. Taste it before you add any salt!
- Store in the fridge for up to 7 days. Some thickening and separation may occur, simply stir before use.
- This pizza sauce can be frozen for up to 3 months. It is still safe to eat after that, you may just begin to notice the texture and flavor aren't as vibrant and smooth.