Gjelina's Pomodoro Sauce


I am often mesmerized by minimalist recipes. The dishes don't usually seem like much on paper, but then the magic of food science transforms them into something special. (This probably explains my fixation on naturally leavened bread.) Though it only has 5 ingredients, Gjelina's Pomodoro Sauce is absolutely delicious and perfect to have on hand for a quick weeknight meal or something more involved like homemade pizza. The sauce develops a wonderful sweetness while it reduces and the fruity olive oil rounds out the flavor and mouthfeel.

I've added a few steps and tips that weren't in the Gjelina cookbook, but overall the process is easy and most of the cooking time is passive. Similar to homemade mayo, store-bought pasta sauce doesn't hold a candle to what can made with your own two hands.

Recipe Tips


The sauce should coat a spoon but not thicken to the point that it's gloopy. There's always the option to reduce it further when cooking your pasta. To shorten the cooking, you can opt to "make" some Tomato Water.

Sweet Stuff

Adjusting the acidity of pasta sauce goes from just right to overdone quickly so add sugar (if needed) in small amounts. That said, I don't generally add sugar to peak season tomatoes.


Add the basil to the sauce at the very end so that the herbs maintain their brightness.


The flavor of this pomodoro sauce benefits from a night in the refrigerator so that the flavors can marry up.

Original vs. Adapted

Tomato Skins

The cookbook doesn't specify if the tomatoes should be peeled. Even if you purée the sauce with an immersion blender or food processor, the little bits of skin aren't desirable from a texture standpoint. The recipe below includes a step that involves running the tomatoes through a food mill. If you don't have a food mill, blanch and peel the tomatoes before starting your sauce. Instructions for blanching and peeling are in this post.

If you're interested in making use of the discarded skins, my Tomato Salt recipe is worth a look.


The original recipe calls for about 1 1/8 teaspoons of salt per pound of tomatoes so I round down to 1. Additionally, I withhold about 1/4 of the salt until the sauce nears the end of the simmering process. The flavors become quite concentrated as the sauce reduces so this extra step affords a little more control over how salty the flavor is.

Cooking Time & Temperature

The Gjelina recipe uses all Early Girl tomatoes which are quite juicy. This results in a longer cooking time and less sauce. I recommend mixing Early Girls with a good sauce tomato such as San Marzano or Roman to get the best of all worlds.

Striped Roman tomatoes from Milliken Family Farm - Santa Monica Farmers Market

Farmers | Artisans

I make an effort to source my food from local California artisans with a special focus on the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Below is a list of the talented folks who contributed to this dish.


Ingredients (Adapted from the Gjelina cookbook)

One of the many great things about Gjelina's pomodoro sauce is that the 1:1 ratio makes it easy to scale for whatever quantity of tomatoes you have. I'm including the original recipe as well as the scalable version below.

Broken Down 1:1

  • 1 lb ripe tomatoes Note: I've had great results mixing the Early Girls with sauce tomatoes such as Striped Roman or San Marzano.
  • 1 teaspoon flake-style salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon basil leaves (about 2 grams)
  • Optional 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, more as desired
  • Optional (see Recipe Tips) 1/8-1/4 teaspoon sugar

For 8 pounds of Tomatoes

  • 8 lbs ripe tomatoes Note: As mentioned above, go with a blend of tomatoes. Sauce tomatoes such as Striped Roman or San Marzano work well with juicier Early Girl tomatoes.
  • 2 tablespoons + 1-2 teaspoons flake-style salt
  • 1/2 cup quality olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons - about 16 grams) basil leaves
  • Optional 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, more as desired
  • Optional (see Recipe Tips) 1-2 teaspoons sugar
Instructions (for 8 pounds of tomatoes)
  • Cut the tomatoes into quarters for medium-size tomatoes.
  • Add the tomato wedges, 2 tablespoons (6 teaspoons) of flake-style salt, and 1/2 cup of olive oil to the pot, then stir. Note: I start with 2 tablespoons (6 teaspoons) of salt for 8 pounds of tomatoes, holding back the last 2 teaspoons until the end. See Recipe Tips above.
  • Over medium-high heat, bring the tomatoes to a simmer. Continuing on the low end of medium-high, cook for 15-20 minutes (covered), stirring once or twice. At the end of the cooking time, the tomatoes will be submerged in liquid.

If you want to make Tomato Water, this is where you want to jump over to that recipe. It takes less than 10 minutes.

  • Run the tomatoes through the food mill and discard any skins (or use them for Tomato Salt). Be sure to scrape the tomato pulp that collects underneath the mill back into the bowl.
  • Return the processed tomatoes to the pot, bring to a simmer, and cook uncovered over a medium flame until thickened and slightly sweet. The cooking time varies widely depending on how juicy your tomatoes are. Sometimes I only simmer for 15 minutes.
  • When the sauce is finished reducing, adjust the flavor with the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt (to your liking - be generous). Add the fresh lemon juice and adjust to your preference. The lemon should not be noticeable, it just punches up the sweetness of the tomatoes.
  • Add sugar if using.
  • Cut the basil into a chiffonade, add to the sauce, and stir to combine.
  • Cool, then refrigerate in an airtight container.

Tomato Upcycling

Here are a few recipes that will help you use up all the tomato bits.


I keep pasta sauce in the refrigerator for 2-3 days and then freeze anything that's left over. I've used the sauce several months after freezing without any texture or flavor issues.


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