Basic Building Block: Marinara Sauce

basic building block homemade marinara sauce

“Keep stirring the sauce!”  Makes you want to watch Goodfellas, huh?  I suggest you make yourself a big bowl of pasta, light a fire, and go ahead and watch it with a nice glass of red!

The best part about this pasta sauce is you won’t have to be like Henry’s brother from Goodfellas and stir the sauce until 10pm.  I’m telling you, this pasta sauce couldn’t be easier and is the only sauce I use for my family.  Okay, I lied.  I do like the jarred tomato basil sauce by Monte Bene (It is the bomb when it comes to a jar), but at six dollars a jar at Whole Foods, I prefer to make my own for a fraction of the cost.

My husband and I used to get creative with our pasta sauce in years past — lots of red wine, veggies, etc.  However, over the years, I’ve come to appreciate a simple tomato sauce with subtle flavor.  I’m telling you, once you learn how easy it is to make this base for your pasta sauce, those overpriced jars in the grocery store won’t even get a glance from you.  This recipe is a “Basic Building Block” because you can add whatever flavors you like to it.  If you like it plain and simple, make the recipe as is.  If you want a little heat in your sauce, add some crushed red pepper.  If you want a meat sauce, brown up some italian sausage or ground beef, drain, and add it to the sauce.  Veggies in your sauce — go for it!  Just saute up some shredded carrots, diced bell peppers, and let them simmer a while in the tomato base.  I like to make a double batch, simmer some turkey meatballs in it, and freeze half for a quick dinner on week nights.  Maybe you just want to add a chiffonade of fresh basil on top?  The possibilities to tweak this are endless.

What you need to make this delicious sauce too:

1, 28 oz can of Cento crushed tomatoes (or any other brand you like — I just prefer Cento).  If you are a gardener and have canned or frozen tomatoes, feel free to use those instead.  I just used some last week and it was such a pleasant throwback to summer.  Ahhh!

1 clove of garlic, minced fine (If you are a garlic lover, go ahead and add more.  We just like a little.)

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 Tbs of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp of sugar (or more if you want your sauce sweeter) — this just cuts the acidity of the sauce

1 tsp of Italian seasoning (dried herbs like oregano, basil, parsley, and rosemary)


Heat your oil over medium high heat in a 2 qt sauce pan and saute your onions until they are translucent (about 5-7 minutes).  Add your garlic and saute for another minute, then dump your crushed tomatoes into the pan.  Add your sugar, herbs, salt and pepper and simmer for about 30 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally.  If you need to add more salt, sugar, or herbs, do so after about 30 minutes of cook time.

That’s it — seriously!  Are you kicking yourself now?

Don’t do that, just cook up some pasta and toss it with a bit of the sauce.  Add more on top according to your preferences.  A little fresh grated parmesan and you are good to go!

Coming soon — the recipe for those turkey meatballs!

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