This versatile Instant Pot basic tomato sauce is rich in tomato flavor. It's naturally sweetened with onions, subtly flavored with fresh basil stems, and more delicious than anything you can buy in a jar. We're using the Instant Pot to compress a traditionally hours-long cooking process for a splatter-free sauce that's ready to use or stock your freezer.
why you need this sauce
If you’ve struggled to find tomato sauces with the right herbs and flavor profile to fit multiple purposes, you've found it. And the bonus with this homemade tomato sauce is that it’s also plant-based, oil-free, and without additives if you use quality canned tomatoes. You can even adjust this no-frills recipe if you follow a strict salt-free diet. Winner!
This sauce is intentionally basic, and although it’s delicious on pasta, it's also a sauce that does it all. If you want pizza, it’s covered, hungry for veggie Braim casserole? This is your foundation. And I won’t begin to explain what this sauce does for a quick chili or stew.
In a word, this sauce is ready to roll straight from the bowl, and it’s got potential with just a few tweaks to satisfy all your saucy desires.
Onions – It’s not a misprint – 5 cups of diced onions. That’s about 5 medium or 2 large onions if you're counting. And I promise the sauce will not taste like raw onion. After the onions cook, they melt into the sauce and
The sugars in onions are classified as simple and consist of glucose, fructose and, sucrose. Sugars are released as the onions cook. That's why we start by sauteing them for 5 minutes.
Vegetable broth – Broth is used twice during the cooking process. First, with the onions in place of oil or butter (we don’t use those here). Second, I added another cup of broth along with the tomatoes.
Garlic – You want to use enough garlic to give the sauce a slight flavor, but not overpowering. I settled on 4 cloves; however, you may want to use more or less depending on your preference.
Tomato paste – Tomato paste helps build a more concentrated flavor. I made this recipe with and without it, but you’ll want to use it most definitely. If you like a thick sauce, use 3 tablespoons.
Red wine – Wine is used to deglaze the Instant Pot and to build flavor. If you don’t want to use wine, replace it with broth. Some newer Instant Pots are incredibly sensitive. If there is even a tiny bit of food on the bottom of the pot, it can trigger the dreaded 'food burning' warning. For this reason, you want to clear the bottom of the Instant Pot using a wooden spoon or soft spatula several times.
Red pepper flakes – We found that adding red pepper flakes for a bolder peppery flavor really ramps up this sauce. I’m recommending ½ - 1 teaspoon. You don’t want to disguise the rich tomato flavor with spicy heat, and you don’t need much because the flavor will be more enhanced through the pressure-cooking process.
Basil stems – This recipe is designed for you to eat as is or to add different flavors, so the spices are intentionally minimal. Nevertheless, a few fresh basil stems add a little sweetness and help cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Save the leaves and use them as a garnish if you are serving this sauce right away.
Canned tomatoes – Obviously, a tomato sauce needs tomatoes. The kind you choose will frame the entire recipe, so choose them wisely. Diced or whole tomatoes work brilliantly here. If using whole, then break them up with your hands or a knife before adding them. Be sure to include the juice too.
Canned tomatoes are cooking before canning which gives them a more robust flavor than fresh. Canned tomatoes – what would our pantry be without them? Disturbingly bare, for sure!
Canned tomatoes are the foundation of any good chili and are always up for curry. Like frozen vegetables, canned or tinned tomatoes are processed at the height of ripeness. This ensures that they have maximum nutritional value and are brimming with more lycopene that you get even from fresh. For this reason, you should never feel that you are compromising by using them.
Making tomato sauce in the Instant Pot is easy and far less messy than the stovetop method. Here are the highlights:
Note: This recipe works best in a 6 qt. or bigger Instant Pot.
Start by sauteing the onions along with ½ a cup of vegetable broth and added salt and pepper. Note, you can skip the salt if you are on a low-salt diet. Use a closed-lid, High Saute on the Instant Pot for 5 minutes. Be sure to set the steam release handle to Sealing. This softens the onions so that they can release their natural sugars.
Once the sauteing process is done, use a quick release and remove the lid. The contents will be steaming. There may be liquid left in the bottom. This is to prevent sticking.
Give the onions a hearty stir and turn the pot back to saute. Add the garlic and tomato paste. Allow the tomato paste a minute to cook. Stir frequently. Then use the red wine (or broth) to deglaze the pot. Continue sauteing until the wine dissipates by at least half.
Turn the pot off and add the tomatoes, chili flakes (if using), basil stems, and vegetable broth. Place the lid back on the Instant Pot, place the steam release handle to the Sealing position, and set the Pot to High Saute for 25 minutes.
Once the timer beeps at you, do nothing. That’s right, allow the steam to naturally release for another 15 minutes. After this, remove the lid, stir the sauce. You are just about done unless you decide you want it a little thicker. If so, set the Instant Pot to Saute and let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes, lid off.
Let the sauce cool for a few minutes before you transfer the sauce to a bowl or blender. Use an immersion blender (stick blender) or blender to puree the sauce.
This is a simple tomato sauce, so we aren’t adding additional herbs. However, if you want to add extra dried herbs, consider oregano, basil, or Italian mixed herbs. You can also add chopped fresh parsley or basil as a garnish to the finished sauce.
To freeze this sauce, allow it to cool completely and then transfer it to a freezer container or heavy-duty freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.
The main reason why your Instant Pot gives you the 'food burning' indication is there is not enough liquid, or there is food stuck to the bottom of the Instant Pot. For this reason, it is critically important when sautéing onions and other ingredients that you fully deglaze the Instant Pot. Clear the bottom frequently using a wooden spoon or soft spatula.
more tomato-based recipes
Instant Pot basic tomato sauce
Instant Pot basic tomato sauce is rich with tomato flavor, naturally sweetened with onions, subtly flavored, and better than any jarred sauce.
- Prep Time: 15 min
- Cook Time: 45 min
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 7 1x
- Category: sauces
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Vegan
- 5 cups of diced onions – 5 medium onions
- ½ cup vegetable broth
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. ground pepper
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
- 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
- ½ cup of red wine
- 1 - 28-oz. (800 gm.) can of diced or crushed tomatoes
- ½ - 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 5 basil stems
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- This recipe is best with a 6 qt. or bigger Instant Pot or pressure cooker.
- Add the diced onions, ½ cup of vegetable broth, salt, and pepper into the Instant Pot. Secure the lid and place the steam release handle in the Sealing position.
- Set the Instant Pot to High Saute for 5 minutes. When it is finished sauteing, carefully unseal the steam release handle. Once the steam has released, remove the lid.
- Stir the onions, then set the Instant Pot on Saute, this time with no lid. Add the garlic and tomato paste. Saute the ingredients for 2 – 3 minutes, carefully stirring the bottom of the Instant Pot so that the ingredients don’t stick.
- Pour in the red wine to deglaze the Instant Pot. Again, clear the bottom with a wooden spoon or soft spatula. Allow the wine to evaporate for 1 minute, then cancel the Sauté function.
- Add the tomatoes, red chili flakes, basil stems, and vegetable broth. Stir everything well.
- Place the lid on the Instant Pot, lock it into place, and then set the steam release handle in the Sealing position. Set the Pot to High Pressure for 25 minutes. Be sure to turn off the Warming setting.
- Once the pressure cooking has finished, allow the steam to naturally release for 15 minutes. Then, unseal the steam release handle. When the steam releases, carefully remove the lid.
- Stir the sauce and decide if you want it thicker (you will be pureeing it, which thickens it up). If you want it thicker, saute the sauce for 5-10 minutes with the lid off.
- Let the sauce cool, and then transfer it to a bowl. Use an immersion (stick) blender to puree the sauce. You can also use a blender for this purpose, blending the sauce in batches if necessary.
- Makes 7 cups of sauce.
- Serve this sauce with your favorite pasta, over rice, veggies, pizza, and more.
- You must keep the bottom of the Instant Pot clear from stuck on onions and other ingredients. This is what will trigger the ‘food burning’ signal. The food isn’t burning, but the Instant Pot thinks it is.
- Take the time to sauté the garlic and tomato paste. This is what helps to create the deep tomato flavor. At the same time, keep the bottom of the Instant Pot clear.
- Allow the sauce to cool completely before transferring it to a container for freezing and place it in the freezer itself.
Keywords: Instant Pot basic tomato sauce