Pilafi me Saltsa Domata (Rice with tomato sauce)


If you’ve ever eaten at a Greek-American diner in your day, you’ve likely seen this sauce. It often comes on top of rice, whether you order a chicken kabob or a gyro. It’s a thin tomato-based sauce that is really simple but strangely addictive. We never made this at home for some reason (at least, not on its own), and I never managed to really get much of a recipe from a family member (nor was/am I interested in attempting to scale down a recipe that serves a restaurant), so I’ve been making this myself and tweaking it here and there. I don’t know what it is about this stuff but I want to eat it all the time.

This is often served with rice that has been cooked in broth or bouillon. I like using brown rice most of the time, and I hate cooking it the “regular” way so what I do when I want brown rice to get some added flavor from broth without straying from my tried and true brown rice method is either to bake it or to boil it in a pot of water for about 15 minutes, and then put the drained rice in a saucepan with broth (at that point, roughly half of what you would have used had you made the rice according to package directions), and cook normally.

You could, of course, make this with fresh tomatoes, but they aren’t really that great here yet (and I made this a few weeks ago, anyway). Canned tomatoes work really well, so don’t fret. You don’t really use much sauce per serving, so this will make quite a few servings, but we just freeze extras in a few small freezer bags to use at another time (which is also why you are seeing two different pictures. :)) My favorite way to have this is over both rice and grilled chicken/kabobs. With feta on the side, obviously.

Pilafi me Saltsa Domata (Rice with tomato sauce)

  • 5 minutes (not including cooking rice)
  • 30 minutes
  • 1.5-2 cups


  • 1.5 Tbsp. butter
  • 1.5 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 1/16 tsp. (a dash) cinnamon
  • a few shakes of ground cloves
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • Hot cooked rice, for serving


  1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, and then stir in the garlic, sauteing until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add the tomatoes (with liquid), cinnamon, cloves, parsley, and a little salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Use an immersion blender or food processor to pulse the liquid  until smooth, and then pour it through a strainer, using a spatula to push through. Pour the strained sauce back into the saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat slightly, letting the sauce simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until reduced and thickened slightly (this is not a thick sauce, you just want it to be thicker than the strained version). Taste and adjust seasonings with salt, pepper, and sugar.
  3. Serve over hot cooked rice and/or proteins.

17 thoughts on “Pilafi me Saltsa Domata (Rice with tomato sauce)

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this at the Greek places we’ve been to. But I’m not much of a rice person in general, so maybe I just didn’t notice?

  2. I’m going to have to ask the.boy if he’s ever had this, though he doesn’t like rice so I’m not sure how helpful he’ll be! I love the flavors in that sauce.

  3. I love this recipe, it’s perfect. I’ve searched all over for this, since I’ve enjoyed it so much over the years at my favorite restaurant. It’s the perfect side to Spinach Pie…

    Thank you for posting it!

  4. Hi!

    Thanks for the recipe 🙂
    I am currently cooking this recipe right now !
    I didn’t have an whole plum tomatoes on hand so I’m using crushed.
    Hopefully this doesnt make too much of a difference.

    1. You should be fine! It’s a thin sauce, and as long as you strain it, it should be the same with pretty much any kind of tomato. Hope you like it!

  5. Oh, you’re wonderful for posting this! I’ve missed this for years, having grown up in Southeast Michigan where you can find plenty of Greek-American diners. I’ll try it out today!

    1. OMG yes, I also live in Michigan and used to eat this at my fav greek restaurant all the time until they closed and I haven’t been able to find it anywhere. I can’t wait to try this.

  6. Elly, THANK YOU for this recipe- it’s awesome! I have been searching for it, because the closest Greek restaurant doesn’t serve it. This is the real deal, and the only recipe for it that was right 🙂

  7. I have been looking for this recipe for so long!!🙏🏼 Thank you for posting.
    In my fav Greek restaurants the sauce has been cooked in with potatoes, have you ever tried it this way. Or is that different type of sauce?

  8. We lived in Massachusetts and we went to a Greek restaurant that served this type of rice. We moved out of state and tomorrow I am cooking a Greek dinner for everyone and they asked for this type of rice. I am so glad that I was able to find a recipe for it.

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