This red wine pasta sauce is full of flavor, elegant, and incredibly easy to whip up! Whether you have leftover red wine, or are looking for a pasta sauce that will up the ante, you’re in the right place! 

The key to making the best sauce is to use really good ingredients. Seek out high-quality crushed tomatoes, use fresh oregano (if you can), and use a red wine that you actually enjoy drinking.

Of course you can use cheap wine if you’d like, but the better quality wine you use, the better this sauce will be!

This Sauce Is:

  • Light and flavorful
  • Tangy 
  • Savory 
  • Vegetarian 
  • Versatile 
  • Vegan-optional

What Red Wine is Best for Pasta Sauce?

There’s a two-part answer to this question. First, I recommend using a bold, dry red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Côtes du Rhône or Zinfandel.

A dry red wine will add the most depth of flavor. And in my opinion, if I’m going to cook with wine, I want to be able to taste it!

The second part of my answer is to use what you like! When cooking with wine, it’s best to use one that you would actually enjoy drinking.

Now, I’m not saying you need to use a $45 bottle of wine. No, no. Use what you like, use what’s on hand, and use what’s in budget.

This recipe uses one cup of wine, so you’ll have some leftover to sip on or use in other recipes. I have a few go-to wines that I like to cook with, ones that don’t break the bank, but that I’m also happy to serve alongside dinner. 

side angle of a fork stuck straight up in a bowl full of spaghetti and sauce

How to Make Red Wine Pasta Sauce 

Ahh this recipe is titled “quick” for a reason. I wanted to create a sauce that was bold with flavor and elegance, but didn’t take the time usually associated with those types of sauces.

To get BIG flavor in a small amount of time, I do a few things: 

First, I grate the onion which encourages it to “melt” into the sauce, infusing flavor without adding large chunks of onion.

Second, I cook the garlic a bit longer than most recipes which allows it to turn golden brown (not burnt!). This step adds a toasty, caramelized flavor.

The third thing I did was add a full tablespoon of honey to balance out the acidic tomatoes and wine. Without honey the sauce is sharp and tangy (you can also use maple syrup or white sugar). 

Watch How to Make Red Wine Pasta Sauce

overhead image of canned tomatoes, basil, olive oil, oregano, garlic, onions and red wine on a table

Steps to Making Red Wine Pasta Sauce

  1. Sauté the onion and oregano in oil until softened and starting to turn golden brown.
  2. Add the garlic and cook until golden brown.
  3. Stir in half of a cup of wine and let it evaporate down almost completely. Add remaining half cup of wine and simmer until reduce by at least half.
  4. Stir in tomato and honey; bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.
  5. Off heat, stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Grid of step images of making the sauce. cooking the onions, adding the wine, adding tomatoes and adding honey

My favorite non-stick (and non-toxic) sauté pan.

How to Use Red Wine Pasta Sauce 

  • Toss with spaghetti or penne.
  • Toss with zucchini noodles as a veggie pasta dish.
  • Reduce down a couple of cups and use as marinara sauce on pizza or in lasagna
  • Use sauce to make baked eggs in tomato sauce (eggs in purgatory or shakshuka).
  • Simmer white beans in some tomato sauce, top with olive oil and serve with crusty bread for a simple dinner.
  • Steam mussels in tomato sauce, serve with crusty bread.
  • Use as a dip for grilled cheese. 
  • Make lasagna roll ups or lasagna spaghetti squash
side angle of spaghetti and red sauce in a white bowl on a table with wine and cheese

7 Ways to Use Leftover Red Wine

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side angle of spaghetti and red sauce in a white bowl on a table with wine and cheese

Make sure to tag me @ZESTFULKITCHEN ON INSTAGRAM or comment below if you make this red wine pasta sauce!

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Quick Red Wine Pasta Sauce

4.82 from 44 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Yield 7 cups (enough for 2 pounds pasta)
Category Sauce
Cuisine Italian
Author Lauren


Bold in flavor, savory and slightly tangy, this homemade red wine sauce makes an easy elegant dinner!


  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ cup grated onion*
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup dry red wine, such as cotes du rhone, cabernet sauvignon or zinfandel
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil, plus more to taste
  • 1 –2 pounds whole-wheat pasta, such as spaghetti or penne


  • Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, oregano, and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and lightly browned, 5–7 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until lightly golden brown, 1–2 minutes. 
  • Stir in ½ cup red wine and cook until nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add remaining ½ cup and cook until reduce by at least half and a trail is left when a spatula is pulled through it, about 6 minutes. 
  • Stir in tomatoes and honey, bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Off heat stir in remaining 1 tablespoon oil and basil; season with additional basil, salt and pepper to taste.



  • * Use a large-hole box grater.
  • Store sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Store in resealable zipper-lock bags in the freezer for up to 4 months. 
  • Serving 4 people: cook 1 pound pasta and refrigerate or freeze any leftover sauce.
  • Serving 6–8: cook 1½ to 2 pounds pasta.


Serving: 1/2 cup sauceCalories: 113kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 2gFat: 3gSodium: 371mgFiber: 2gSugar: 5g
Like this? Leave a comment below!I love hearing from you and I want to hear how it went with this recipe! Leave a comment and rating below, then share on social media @zestfulkitchen and #zestfulkitchen!
overhead image of spaghetti and red sauce in a white bowl set on a table with wine and parmesan

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine,,, and more.

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  1. 5 stars
    Mmm we loved this! Came together easily, and quickly. It was just slightly tangy and we loved that. Cooked up some mushrooms and sausage and threw that over the pasta too. This one is a regular in our house now!

        1. Hi Mirna, great question, the recipe card is confusing—I’ll fix that.

          The sauce makes enough for 2 pounds of pasta. For 4 servings I would cook up 1 pound of pasta and either refrigerate or freeze any leftover sauce.

    1. Hi Kristen, thanks for mentioning that! I have updated the notes section to include the note which specifies to use a large-hole box grater.

    1. I would us the same amount! And to get that loose texture, I would give them a quick blitz in a food processor or blender before using. I hope that helps, fresh sounds delicious!

  2. 5 stars
    A good recipe is so much more than a list of ingredients and basic steps – it’s all about the technique and this recipe totally delivered! The grating of the onion, and reduction of wine in two steps… this was the best tasting tomato sauce yet! Thanks Lauren.

    1. Thanks Carla! I completely agree about recipes being more than just ingredient lists. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one! 🙂