Your Own Marinara Sauce

Yep, that is the spaghetti that I made in the fresh pasta post.

You may not like this recipe.

What did he say?  Is he crazy?  Well, maybe a bit.  Let me explain.

There are as many different opinions on food as there are people on the planet.  You only need to go to the grocery store for proof of this.  The store where I shop has at least 20 brands of sauce with every taste variation imaginable.  Some are sweet, some are spicy.  Some have meat or vegetables in them.  The reason they exist is because there is someone who has a preference for every single one of those brands.  This is the way I make marinara, and you may not like it.

So enough of the drama; my goal is not really to provide recipes but to help you create your own.  Marinara is basically just a meatless tomato sauce. It is used as an ingredient in many Italian dishes and as a base for several other sauces.  Making it, at least with this recipe, will only take an hour of your time and I believe the result will be worth it.

I've specified canned crushed tomatoes for this recipe. Crushed tomatoes are what you would end up with if you peeled tomatoes and ran them through a food mill. I think that making that effort is probably a waste of time unless you find yourself with an abundance of fresh tomatoes from the garden or market. You should be sure to buy quality canned tomatoes with as few ingredients as possible. I tend to buy Cento brand tomatoes, but there are several brands that will fit the bill.


  • 4 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced (I just do an entire medium-sized head of garlic)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, or vegetable oil


Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the chopped onions and garlic, and saute them for 5 minutes or so.  You don’t want to brown them, you just want them to give them a head start. 

Now add the rest of the ingredients and give it a good stir.  You’ve just started the party and the flavors are going to start getting to know each other. You should turn down the stove so that the sauce is just simmering and let the party continue for 30 minutes, uncovered.  Make sure that you stir the sauce quite often–burnt tomatoes or garlic are shockingly terrible. 

This is the point where you can start making this sauce your own: go ahead and taste it.  Do you like more garlic?  Add it.  It is not sweet enough?  Add more sugar.  Make your adjustments in very small amounts.  You should do most of the tweaking in the first ten minutes or so.  Just make sure that you add any dried herbs early enough that they have a chance to hydrate and cook into the sauce.  I actually put in more crushed red peppers than this recipe specifies because I like the extra spice.

I prefer to simmer this sauce for at least an hour.  The longer you cook it, the more those ingredients are going to break down and mix together.  The sauce will also thicken up the longer you let it simmer.

Of course this sauce will be delicious if you serve it right away with some good pasta, but you can also let it cool and freeze it.  Having homemade pasta sauce ready to go is awesome, trust me!

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