How to Make Marinara Sauce
We’re sharing a tutorial today on How to Make Marinara Sauce. Fresh, savory, perfect tomato sauce for pasta, meatballs and dipping.
It’s sweet and perky. It tastes of fresh summer herbs and vegetables. It makes everything it graces so much more appealing.
There are certainly times I’m in a hurry and grab a jar of pre-made marinara sauce at the grocery store. We all do it.
Yet the best marinara is always the potful you craft in your own kitchen. Especially if you remember a few key tips.
How to Make Marinara Sauce:
Less is More. Instead of filling your pot with countless vegetables and herbs in hopes of creating a sauce with depth, focus on fewer well-selected ingredients. I like to stick with good tomatoes, good fat for richness, and just a handful of specific ingredients that offer the biggest bang for the buck. That way, the sauce tastes fresh and pure, not weighty.
Butter is Better. Olive oil is a more traditional choice for sautéing onions and garlic for marinara. Yet I find butter provides a richer, more appealing quality that elevates and softens the tomatoes, instead of overpowering them.
Give Your Onions Some Alone Time. Most stove-top recipes that involve onions ask you to sauté the onions for only 3-5 minutes to soften before moving onto the next step. With marinara, it’s best to sauté the onions for triple the time, to make sure they are extremely silky and sweet, before adding the tomatoes. In fact, it you cook them long enough, they will almost melt into the sauce. Just make sure the heat is low, so they don’t brown and turn bitter.
You Can Use Cans. It might come as a surprise, but I truly believe that canned tomatoes produce a better marinara than fresh tomatoes. First of all, canned tomatoes are stewed and canned at the height of freshness. If you’re making marinara in the winter, grocery store tomatoes are not going to provide the same flavor and sweetness as summer tomatoes at their peak. Second, tomatoes have a much deeper, richer flavor once stewed. The concentrated tangy flavor is the base of a really good marinara. You’d have to simmer fresh tomatoes for hours to create the same kind of flavor.
I like to use crushed “fire roasted” tomatoes for the touch of charred flavor they bring to the mix.
The Right Amount of Sweetness. In the past I have been known to add a little sugar to my marinara if the tomatoes aren’t naturally sweet enough. This isn’t a bad thing. However, adding finely shredded carrots to the marinara often has the same effect, while creating an additional layer of flavor. Start with carrots for sweetness, and only add a touch of sugar at the end if the tomatoes prove to be very acidic.
Dry or Fresh Herbs? I say both! Add a rustic dried herb (like thyme) at the beginning so it has time to mix and mingle into the sauce. Then add a bold fresh herb (like basil) at the end to bump the garden-fresh appeal.
Marinara Make Ahead. Fresh made marinara is fabulous immediately after cooking… But it’s even better the next day! When possible, make your marinara a day ahead. Consider making a double or triple batch to freeze (or can) for additional meals.
If you keep these tips in mind, you can create a vibrant zesty marinara sauce in less than an hour, that puts any store-bought sauce to shame!
How to Make Marinara Sauce
- Place a large sauce pot over medium-low heat. Add the butter. Once melted add the onions and garlic. Then sauté for 12-14 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft, but not dark.
- Add the shredded carrots and dried thyme, then sauté another 5 minutes to soften.
- Finally add the crushed tomatoes and juices, tomato sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper. Raise the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Then cover the pot, leaving a crack for venting, and simmer for 30 minutes. Lift the lid and stir occasionally.
- Stir in the chopped basil and simmer another 2-3 minutes. Taste and season accordingly.