Sunday, May 3, 2009

Make Your Own: Marinara Sauce

Every once in a while I come across a recipe (or two or three) for something I take for granted. And when I realize how simple it is to make my own (ok, it’s not always simple, but it is in this case), I stop buying ready-made altogether. So this is my homemade Marinara Sauce. It’s FANTASTIC, if I do say so myself. ;)

The Recipe
Makes 3 cups

1 tsp, plus 2 Tbs olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1 28-oz can (or 2 14-oz cans) petite diced tomatoes*
¼ tsp sugar (don’t omit this; it keeps the garlic from tasting sour or overpowering)
3 Tbs chopped fresh basil

In a saucepan, sauté the garlic in 1 tsp of olive oil until golden. Add all the tomatoes, and the juice from the can, along with the sugar. Stir well, cover, and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Uncover and stir again, using your spoon to break up some of the tomato pieces against the side of the pan (this will thicken the sauce a little). Add the basil, stir, and re-cover. Cook over low heat for 10 more minutes. Take the pan off the heat, add the remaining 2 Tbs of olive oil and stir gently to combine.

If you like a spicier sauce, add 1/8 – ¼ tsp red pepper flakes when you add the sugar.
If you’d like a creamier variation, add 1 cup of half and half when you add the olive oil, and heat through.

*If you prefer, you can use canned, peeled, whole tomatoes and crush them in your hands. This will give you a thin sauce with large chunks, whereas petite-diced tomatoes will give you a thicker sauce with more uniform chunks. Either way will work; it’s just a matter of preference. (In the picture below I used whole tomatoes, but only because I couldn’t find petite diced San Marzanos. Normally I use the petite diced ones for convenience.)

Random info: traditional Italian cooking usually involves adding the olive oil at the end of the dish, so that the flavor of the oil isn’t compromised. Also, if you’re serving this with pasta, do NOT rinse the pasta after you’ve drained it, and do NOT add oil to the boiling pasta water. Both of those things prevent starch from clinging to the cooked pasta noodles, and that starchy coating is what will absorb the sauce into the pasta. If you add oil to your pasta pot, or if you rinse the pasta, you wash away that starchiness, and the sauce won’t stick.

Ta-da! That’s it! SO. GOOD.


  1. What if you added less garlic? Then could you skip the sugar?

  2. You know, I tried less garlic, but it wasn't the same. Something about the sugar makes the garlic less strident in a way that just cutting back on the garlic doesn't.

    Honestly, I'd always just used less garlic, but the first time I decided to try it with the sugar and lots of garlic, it was SO MUCH BETTER. I'm not sure why, but it was totally different.


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