Creatively Transforming Food

Classic Marinara Sauce

Classic Marinara Sauce is a quick trip to Italy in your own kitchen without the airfare cost! A sweet friend of ours and her husband were over for dinner this weekend. She indicated that she struggled with making some marinara sauce last week so I thought I  would take the challenge to possibly offer her some help in creating this tasty wonder. My time to experiment is growing short as the school year begins in 3 days for me. I have SO much to do ! But I always have time o help a friend in her quest for a great sauce!

I looked up some recipes and found a Bon Appetit article on common mistakes to avoid when making homemade marinara sauce. (homemade marinara sauce mistakes).  A quick rundown would be like the following but make sure you read the abundance of details included in the linked article! These details helped me tremendously as I determined how to create this classic marinara. Did I follow all of them? Probably not, but it gave me the basics to create a great sauce!

1) Use canned whole, peeled tomatoes. Since they are the least-processed, that makes them the ideal choice for sauces.

2) It’s not necessary to load it up with veggies.

3) The most important step is sweating the tomatoes.

4) Make it your choice for it to be chunky or smooth in texture.

5) If you are using dried herbs, add them to the onions: fresh herbs are added last.

6) Add pasta to sauce and mix it around to coat.

I also perused an article/recipe  from the NYT ( Classic Marinara Sauce) .The recipe indicated  using certified whole San Marzano  tomatoes. I found those but why them? They are a plum tomato with a sweet flavor and low acidity. They are  famous for their firm pulp, deep red color and a low seed count compared to other tomatoes which have more seed pockets. According to the can of Cento brand I had, they are grown in the Starnes Nocerino area of Italy which is known for its fruitful soil due to its proximity to Mount Vesuvius. I can’t say I was disappointed with my end result using these, but nor could I say other types of tomatoes would be  any better in this sauce.  I know what works, I’ll have to stick with them!

To begin, sauté the veggies for about 15 minutes. If fresh herbs are not available, replace them here with 1 t. of each of dried basil and oregano. At this point, I sprinkled a pinch or two of sugar as recommended and cooked about 5 more minutes.


Add the Chianti  or Merlot ..(drink some)…

Add the crushed tomatoes…..or as seen in this updated version, .add the tomatoes and crush them using a potato masher or a similar utensil.


Add 1 T. each of chopped fresh basil and oregano at this point, along with the salt and chili pepper or flakes. These came from my patio herb garden…. If fresh herbs are not available, add 1 t. each of dried basil and oregano with onions in the first step.

DSCN4106I used a food processor and pulsed to my desired consistency then returned it to the skillet and added the pasta water.

In take 2 of making the sauce , you can see a different texture compared to the one above. I prefer this version, but either way, it does not change the taste. I could just eat this by then spoonful! In fact, I did just that! Sorry. Not sorry…

You can either pour all sauce over the cooked and drained pasta and toss to distribute evenly or ladle  your desired amount  over your serving of pasta. Garnish with chiffonaded basil( basil leaves rolled and sliced thinly), parmesan cheese and a slice of some rustic bread.


This could easily have been doubled. Remove half of the sauce  and freeze or give away to a close friend.

Classic Marinara Sauce

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

  • 1-28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes,certified
  • ⅓ c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped (3/4 - 1 cup)
  • ½ c. shredded carrots (that I use on salads), finely chopped
  • ¼ c. finely chopped celery
  • 8 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced
  • ½ c. Chianti (You can substitute Merlot.)
  • Small dried whole chili or pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • Basil sprigs
  • Oregano sprigs
  • 1 pound of pasta, your choice
  • ½ c. reserved pasta water
  1. Sauté garlic, onions, carrot and celery in olive oil for approximately 20 minutes over medium heat until softened. A pinch of sugar my be added to bring out the sweetness of the onion. If you need to add dried herbs, add with the onions.
  2. Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and crush them using your hands.
  3. Once the veggies have cooked down, add the Chianti. the tomatoes, which have been crushed, and their juices.
  4. With the lid partially removed, allow for a little reduction in the liquid... 10 minutes...
  5. Add fresh herbs, salt and chili pepper(or flakes) at the last moment. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. I left the herbs in to be processed with the sauce in the next step. Some recipes say to remove them.
  6. Using and immersion blender or a food processor, blend to your desired consistency, chunky or smooth. If using a food processor, pulse, do not purée.
  7. Cook pasta and drain(reserve ½ cup of the pasta water) until just before it obtains al dente stage.
  8. Add pasta water to sauce and blend; this starchy water helps to thicken the sauce so it will easily stick to pasta.
  9. Add sauce to pasta stirring to evenly distribute.
  10. Serve with chiffonaded basil, freshly grated parmesan cheese and a rustic loaf of bread.
  11. Enjoy!


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