Marinara sauce is one of the first things I learned to make as a kid. My poor family suffered through so many over-salted, bitter tomato sauces, that they probably deserve some sort of commendation for their pain and suffering. I had a basic grasp of what made tomato sauce good, but my understanding stopped at garlic and salt. If it didn’t taste quite right, add more garlic and salt. I suppose if an eight year old makes you pasta in marinara, you smile and eat it. So here’s a big thank you to my family who ingested obscene amounts of salt for the sake of my fragile eight year old ego, and enthusiastically agreed with me when I insisted that it was “the best sauce ever.”
Luckily for you, me, my family, and our collective blood pressure – I’ve gotten immensely better at making tomato sauce. In fact, I would be so bold as to say I’ve mastered it, and humble enough to say that while it may not be “the best sauce of all time” – it is very, very good. It’s a basic recipe that keeps very well and the flavors are simple enough that you can re-purpose it for all of your tomato sauce needing recipes. It’s hearty, healthy, and the ease of preparation make it something that you can prepare with your family. Get the kiddos involved – just keep an eye on the salt shaker, okay?
I like to make this sauce in large batches, and then freeze in 1 and 2 cup portions. 1 cup for a pizza, 2 cups for tomato basil soup, and 2 cups for pasta dishes. Re-heat gently and add additional seasonings to your liking, or simply enjoy on top of fresh whole wheat pasta.
I typically prefer fresh herbs, but almost always use dried in my marinara sauce. Dried herbs impart their flavor quickly and hold up well through freezing and re-heating. I like to finish my dishes with fresh basil, which there is just no substitute for.
- 2 cans good quality whole plum tomatoes, 28 ounce (I prefer San Marzano)
- A healthy slug of olive oil
- 4-6 cloves fresh garlic (finely minced)
- 1 brown onion (diced)
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons thickening agent (tomato paste, cornmeal, breadcrumbs)
- 1/2 cup red wine if you have it
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Open tomatoes, add to a large bowl and squish into pieces with your hands (fun to do with the kiddos)
- Prep onions and garlic
- In a large dutch oven (I’m in love with my new Le Crueset) or heavy bottomed pot, heat a few good slugs of olive oil over medium/low heat
- Add chopped onion, and cook till translucent – stirring often. You don’t want the onion to brown
- Add garlic and cook with oil and onion for 1 additional minute. Again, don’t let garlic brown. Browned garlic will make your sauce bitter.
- Add tomatoes, and all their juice to the pot, along with herbs, sugar, wine, and thickening agent
- Simmer on low for 30 minutes, or up to an hour – as much time as you can spare
- Season with salt and pepper to taste at the end of cooking time. I like to go easy on the salt, so I have room to adjust the flavor profile a bit when I use the sauce
Et voilà! You have a scrumptious, versatile batch of sauce. Portion it out how you see fit, and freeze. You now have the makings for a huge number of Italian style dishes.