I've received enough e-mails over the years from readers asking why I don't have a marinara sauce recipe on the blog that I've finally done it. It's such a simple little thing to throw together, I really didn't think much of it but I do have a couple little tips that you may find helpful.
There are so many ways to make marinara sauce and everyone has their personal preferences. Marinara sauce can be whipped up fresh pretty quickly - it's not like a sauce which has meat in it that you want to simmer for hours. I guess the biggest question is what kind of tomatoes to use. I definitely prefer canned San Marzano tomatoes or Cento Passata in glass jars, which is San Marzano tomatoes that are already pureed. Unless you have really exceptional fresh tomatoes, these two choices will be your best bet. These tomatoes are picked at their peak in the Campania region of Italy, where they grow in the volcanic soil. They are a low acid, meaty tomato and make an excellent tomato sauce. Most grocery stores carry the canned San Marzanos now. If you can't find them or don't want to use them, I think the next best canned whole tomatoes are from Muir Glen. You can usually find these in most stores, also.
If you use tomatoes that you feel are a little acidic, the trick is to add just a little sugar to the sauce. My mom used to do this all the time. (So did Anna Tasca Lanza.) It softens that acidity. Adding a little grated carrot does the same thing.
My best tip for making a marinara sauce, though, is to puree it. Some people think it's bad to puree the sauce, but I think that's just wrong. If you are using canned whole tomatoes, there is something about pureeing the sauce that deepens the flavor. I don't know if it's because you grind up the seeds or something else, but I have found this to be true also when I make my homemade tomato soup. It makes a big difference. An immersion blender is the handiest thing to have for this. If you don't have one, get one - you will love it. It can be very messy to transfer hot soup or sauce to a blender.
The herbs you add are just totally up to you. I like oregano and thyme but sometimes I add fresh basil.
The sauce freezes very well. I like doing that instead of canning it, just because it's so much easier. I just pour the sauce in a ziplock and throw it in the freezer.
Just for fun, when I was in the grocery store the other day I took a photo of a marinara sauce label on a gourmet jar that was selling for $9.99! Here are the ingredients. Nothing magical and nothing that you can't make on your own:
Homemade Marinara Sauce
for a printable recipe click here
you can add a little red hot chili pepper to this sauce if you want a little zip in it.
makes 2 cups
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 1/8 cup grated carrot
- 1 28-ounce can San Marzano Tomatoes
- 1 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoons dried thyme
- a few fresh basil leaves (optional)
- 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
adding some grated carrot can help soften the acidity of the tomatoes
In a large heavy pot, gently heat olive oil, onions, sea salt and a little freshly ground pepper (and the chili pepper, if using) and saute over low heat until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add carrots and saute another 5 minutes. Add the San Marzano tomatoes and their liquid and break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon (or just crush them with your hands, like I do). Add the herbs and sugar, if you are using it. Simmer gently, uncovered, for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
Puree the tomato sauce either with an immersion blender right in the pot, or transfer the sauce to a blender and puree until smooth.
If you want to make a double batch, the sauce freezes very well.