Basic Marinara Sauce


Marinara is a very personal and subjective staple.  The recipe someone grows up with, maybe their grandmother’s or their mom’s is a sacred memory.  This is a very basic recipe and I encourage you to personalize it and make it yours.

There are a lot of factors such as what type of tomatoes to use, seasoning, and texture.  The technique, however, is basically the same.

Start with onions, garlic, and Italian seasoning...

Start by sautéing onions, garlic, and seasoning.  You want them soft, but not browned.  Seasoning can include bottled Italian seasoning, herbs such as basil, thyme, oregano, or just salt and pepper.  This is where you begin to make the recipe yours.

Choice of tomatoes is another way to personalize. In my book, canned is just fine.

The choice of tomatoes is primarily one of preference and texture.  Diced tomatoes will yield a chunky texture and crushed tomatoes will yield a more consistent and thicker texture.  The addition of tomato paste will thicken the sauce.

I am a fan of crushed tomatoes, and the pot I use will comfortably accommodate a #10 can from Costco.  Today I used a mixture of diced and crushed because I was serving it with bread and big chunky gnocchi.  For something fine like spaghetti or even a vegetable lasagna, I would opt for a smoother texture.

After sauteeing the onions and garlic, add the tomatoes, season and simmer.

Once the onions and garlic are softened, add the tomatoes and simmer.  Simmering time will vary from 15 minutes to an hour.  What determines this will be the desired thickness of the sauce.  When using diced tomatoes I prefer to add all the juice, and then reduce it through simmering.  This concentrates the flavors.

SUGAR:  Many recipes will call for sugar.  I mentioned above that marinara is a very personal preference but in my opinion, sweet tasting marinara is unforgivable!

That said, some people will saute the onions with a bit of sugar to caramelize it and develop flavor, and others will add a small amount (like a teaspoon) to balance the flavor when the tomatoes are acidic.

Once reduced, let it cool at room temperature, and it can be packaged for the freezer if you will not be using it all.

An hour of reduction lowered the level by about an inch but thickened the sauce and concentrated the flavors.



  1. Thanks Tone! This was very timely as I was just telling my mother-in-law that I was ready to try to make my own “gravy”. I made her Eggplant Parm last week and held my breath as my husband bit into it, but he loved it! If I can make this it will be awesome. Trying it today — standbye for results.

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