The Simplest Pizza Sauce Ever

Neapolitan pizza-makers don’t even call this “sauce.” It’s just “tomato” on their menus, in their speech, their literature. And it’s easy to see why. There’s nothing more to this recipe than crushed tomatoes and salt.

This “sauce” works equally well for traditional Neapolitan pizza* and for so-called New York–Neapolitan (aka Neapolitan-American aka “New York elite”) pizza. What the heck is that?! The latter are all names that different factions of pizza nerds use to describe New York’s venerable coal-oven pizzerias—Patsy’s East Harlem, Totonno’s, John’s of Bleecker, Grimaldi’s, Juliana’s, etc.

All those aforementioned places (well, except Patsy’s, kinda**) use fresh mozzarella on their pizza. For a twist, I love using this sauce with a low-moisture mozzarella blend, whose slightly saltier, slightly tangier flavor provides a nice contrast to a bright, fresh-tasting sauce.

* I don’t even try to make Neapolitan at home. You really need a wood-fired oven for it.

** Patsy’s East Harlem is unique in that it’s the only coal-oven pizzeria I know of that offers guests the choice of fresh mozzarella or “regular” mozzarella. (“Regular” being, you know, the regular stuff you find in grocery stores.) I prefer Patsy’s with regular mozz. Other people prefer it with fresh, but they’re wrong.

Neapolitan/New York-Neapolitan Pizza Sauce

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • 1 28-ounce can whole or crushed San Marzano–style tomatoes


If whole tomatoes:

  • Dump tomatoes into a large non-reactive bowl, keeping a little of the juice they were packed in (but not too much). 
  • Crush with your hands until tomatoes are pulpy strands not that much more coarse than, say, a Slurpee.  (If you have a food mill, run the tomatoes through it using the large disk.)
  • Add salt to taste, about 1/4 teaspoon.

If crushed:

  • Open can, dump tomatoes into a large non-reactive bowl. Stirring, add salt to taste, about 1/4 teaspoon.


My favorite canned tomato to use at home is Sclafani’s crushed tomato product. I find its straight-out-of-the-can consistency to be perfect for most of the pizzas I make at home. It has a great flavor, too—obviously, or I wouldn’t use it.
The thing about tomatoes, though, is that you should use what you prefer. I’ve learned after many years and talking to many pizza-makers that there is no single best tomato. Everyone seems to have their preference. So try different products from time to time and make a not on what you like.
A note about whole vs. crushed tomatoes: Many sauce recipes will tell you to avoid crushed. And… they’re not wrong. Whole tomatoes are whole. There’s not much room to interpret that. But “crushed” leaves a lot of room for variations in consistency. Some are chunky, some are smooth, some have (I stopped buying whole and crushing them myself when I found Sclafani.)
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.