My friend Vanessa reached out to me, months and months ago, asking me if I had a marinara sauce that I could share. Unfortunately, I had to respond that marinara sauce is something that has stumped me for years. If you follow the blog, you know that I gave up making red pizzas because I could never get my tomato sauce to come out right. I’ve asked friends for recipes and was given some that people swore by. The only thing I could figure was that I was messing them up, because I still could not get the flavor just right.
To me, a marinara sauce needs to be clean, smooth, fresh, herby, with hints of onion and garlic. In past attempts, I either had too much “herbiness”, or too much onion, or too much garlic. Or the sauce tasted over-stewed. Or it tasted under-cooked and too tomato-forward. I couldn’t seem to find the right balance.
Then I ran into Cookie & Kate’s post on a super simple marinara sauce. The recipe WAS super simple, so I had to try it. Kate had adapted her marinara sauce from another recipe, and when I gave it a shot, I had to adapt her version as well (just slightly). I felt that it was a little too acidic, so I finished it off with a little brown sugar. A single teaspoon was enough to cut the tomato acid without making the sauce sweet, and it topped off the finished product.
I served the sauce in an amazing chicken parm meal that Pops and Steve devoured. Pops took home the leftovers and told me they did not last long at all. At that point, I knew I had a go-to tomato sauce. Score!
So, Vanessa, a little late, but here goes. My new favorite marinara sauce.
Let’s make a simple and Delicious marinara sauce
This is what you need.
Adding red pepper flakes is optional, but I highly recommend it. A simple pinch seems to brighten the other flavors without making the sauce too spicy. Of course, if you like spicy, add more.
Peel and cut a whole onion in half. Then add all the ingredients, including the whole garlic cloves, to a sauce pot. Bring to a boil over medium to medium-high heat, then reduce to low and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. I covered the sauce with a lid during the first 45 minutes of simmer, then cooked it with the lid off in the last 15 minutes.
Stir the sauce during the cooking process, breaking up the tomatoes as you go.
When done simmering, remove the onions. They can be saved and re-purposed for other dishes.
Then find the garlic cloves and smash them. The cloves will be tender and should smash easily. I used a slotted spoon to flatten them, then I pressed them through the spoon slots to break them into smaller pieces.
You can use a potato masher or a blender to break down the remaining tomato chunks. Or you can use an immersion blender like this one.
My late mother-in-law, Rita, enabled my love of cooking by getting me all kinds of neat kitchen gadgets as Christmas presents over the years. She gave me this immersion blender, and I have had it for at least 10 years, if not more. Every time I use it, I think of her. Needless to say, I will baby this thing for as long as I can.
Blend everything together and taste for acidity. This is where I add the brown sugar. The amount will vary by taste and by how acidic the tomatoes were to begin with. For today’s recipe, I used 1 teaspoon of brown sugar. Use more or less, as needed. Same with salt. Adjust as needed.
And then you are done! Can you believe how simple that was?
Like I said, I used my first batch to make an amazing chicken parm. Today, I tossed some al dente spaghetti in the sauce and had a late lunch. Use it as a pizza base, serve over homemade meatballs, or add meat for a nice lasagna…in other words, once you have a good tomato sauce, the possibilities are endless.
Give this simple and delicious marinara sauce a try. I bet you’ll love it too!
Marinara Sauce - Simple & Delicious
- 1 can whole peeled tomatoes 28 ounces, preferably BPA-free
- 1 whole sweet onion peeled and cut in half
- 2 large garlic cloves whole and peeled
- 1 teaspoon dry oregano
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon more or less to taste brown sugar
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes or to taste
- In a sauce pan, combine all the ingredients except the brown sugar. Heat over medium to medium-high heat until boiling, then reduce to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, breaking up the whole tomatoes as you go.
- Remove the lid and continue to simmer uncovered for another 15 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat, lift the onions out of the pot and save to re-purpose in other dishes.
- Smash the garlic cloves back into the sauce, then process the sauce with a potato masher, a blender, or an immersion blender until all the big pieces of tomato have been broken down.
- Taste for acidity and add brown sugar as needed, to taste. Add salt to taste.
- Serve in your favorite Italian recipes.