Everyday Eats & Sweets / Recipes

Spicy Minty Tomato Sauce Infused With Tomato Leaves

Spicy minty tomato sauce infused with tomato leaves

Every summer it feels like I’m waiting allll yeeeaaar for my tomatoes to ripen, and then one day — after I go out of town for the weekend — I’ll come home to a garden that’s suddenly bursting at the seams with sweet, smoky, plump and juicy tomatoes.

Vine-ripened cherry tomatoes

They don’t last very long on the vine, so for the next week it’s all things tomato in the kitchen. And this is one of my favorite things to do with them: tomato sauce!

It’s quick, it’s easy, and it doesn’t involve skinning or seeding tomatoes. I always make a few jars of this sauce every summer and freeze them to enjoy through the winter. If you like the spice of arrabiata sauce, this is a bold take on it that you’ll love. A handful of fresh parsley and mint amps up the flavor into something so special, you don’t need much more than a bowl of penne to go with it. (Well, penne and a glass of wine, that is.)

Besides pasta, it also makes the perfect base for homemade pizza, or a savory dip for garlic bread or zucchini sticks. If you want to dress up your frittatas or potatoes, a dollop of my spicy minty tomato sauce does the trick.

I’ve made this sauce many times in the past but it was only recently that I started adding a secret ingredient: tomato leaves.

After learning about tomato leaves and experimenting with them in my recipes, I’ve found that the leaves add another dimension to the sauce — making it richer, more fragrant, and more tomato-y.

I have always loved the distinctly summery smell of fresh tomato vines when I brush against them in the garden, and infusing them in a puree of fresh tomatoes really brings out that burst of flavor. It’s an idea well loved by former Chez Panisse chef Paul Bertolli, who’s known for infusing his tomato sauce with tomato leaves (and even shares a recipe for such in his cookbook Cooking by Hand).

My recipe below calls for 1/3 cup tomato leaves, but I leave them on large sprigs so I can remove them from the sauce more easily. Just eyeball the amount and use the freshest, lushest leaves from your plant.

Spicy Minty Tomato Sauce Infused With Tomato Leaves

Makes 1 quart


2 pounds tomatoes
1/2 cup packed fresh parsley
1/3 cup packed fresh mint
4 to 5 large cloves garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup packed fresh tomato leaves
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes


Ingredients from the garden

If needed, chop your tomatoes into smaller chunks to fit your blender. Puree the tomatoes, parsley, mint, garlic, and olive oil as smooth (or as chunky) as you like your sauce to be. Puree in batches if necessary.

Add tomatoes, parsley, mint, garlic, and olive oil to a blender

Puree tomatoes, parsley, mint, garlic, and olive oil in a blender

Combine the puree and tomato leaves in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil.

Steep tomato leaves in sauce

Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes to infuse and thicken the sauce. Stir in the ground black pepper (don’t be afraid, put it all in!) and red pepper flakes.

Add ground black pepper

When done, discard the tomato leaves and use the sauce right away in your favorite recipe, or decant into a jar and refrigerate. The sauce should last one to two weeks in the fridge, but can also be frozen.

Spicy minty tomato sauce infused with tomato leaves

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »


  • Gene @The California Table
    June 11, 2022 at 8:42 am

    looking forward to trying this minty spicy tomato sauce! wonder whether you have any culinary advice for those of us who have to rely on canned tomatoes for our sauces? in my garden, the tomatoes are tall and covered in flowers and fruit beginning in May BUT ripening won’t happen until July.
    what’s the best way to get full tomato flavor from canned tomatoes? And, it would be wonderful if you had a tomato SOUP recipe that also incorporated tomato leaves.

    • Linda Ly
      June 16, 2022 at 9:05 am

      Getting the best flavor from canned tomatoes will mostly come from getting the best brand. I personally like Cento San Marzano and Bianco DiNapoli. If those aren’t easy to find, my next choices would be the Whole Foods house brand or Muir Glen Organics. If you want to deepen the flavor of tomato soup, just steep a few sprigs of tomato leaves in it. 🙂

  • Jenny Julies
    January 14, 2021 at 2:10 am

    I feel like I can run up to you to give you a hug for the information contained in your posts.

    Like this one, you refer to the use of tomato leaves!

    I’d LOVE to use as much of my vegetable and herb plants especially the leaves instead of composting, for instance.

    Do you have a type of Cheat Sheet for how and which sections of vegetables and herbs can be used for eating?

    Thanks a mill

  • shoshana
    May 21, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    Sounds delicious!!

  • Nina Khosla
    September 18, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Tried this tonight. It was amazing!!

    • Linda Ly of Garden Betty
      October 15, 2016 at 12:26 am

      So glad you liked it! It’s my favorite tomato sauce recipe!

  • Jeremy Heyl
    August 25, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I have a surplus of tomatoes- and mint- Can I process this in a water bath and store in the pantry? Going to try this with a hot pepper while they are ripe in the garden. I think I’m going to try it with a fish pepper.

    • Linda Ly
      August 25, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      You’ll have to raise the acidity level by adding 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice per quart. And you’ll have to check what the recommended processing time is for your altitude. Sea level is generally 40 minutes for a standard tomato sauce.

  • Aparna
    August 22, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Sounds so yummy! Now the wait for fresh tomatoes is going to feel SO much longer!

    • Linda Ly
      August 23, 2013 at 1:07 pm

      I take it you live on the other side of the world? 🙂

      • Aparna
        August 24, 2013 at 9:59 am

        Yes :/

  • Robyn MacLarty
    August 22, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Yum, so simply, but I love the mint twist. (Wish it were summer here in SA.) Btw, I LOVE your blog. Such a delightful discovery… I made your kimchi over the weekend (only ingredient I substituted were dried chilli flakes)… But I don’t know if it’s working. It’s been five days now… it doesn’t taste very strong/fermented! Maybe I made a mistake somewhere. It DOES look very pretty sitting in jars on my fridge though.

    • Linda Ly
      August 23, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      Thank you!

      As for the kimchi, if your kitchen is cooler than mine, it could take a couple of weeks to ferment. It really just depends on your ambient room temperature. (In the middle of summer my ferments take 1 week or less, but in the middle of winter they take 2 weeks or more. I live in a very mild climate though.)


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