Today, I write to you with extra special love in my heart, as this recipe for my Simply Best Marinara Sauce is one that has a lot of meaning for me.
I learned the base of this recipe 15 years ago now, as I worked in my first professional kitchen. Between slinging dishes and convincing my boss that yes, I could learn to cook Italian food, one of the things I will never forget is learning this sauce.
It was rich, full-bodied, sweet, and absolutely aromatic and divine. In the restaurant, we made sauce in giant TWO HUNDRED quart stock pots…EVERY DAY. It was a labor of love, as we started early in the morning, tenderly simmered the ingredients and stirring with a giant paddle that resembled an emergency kayak paddle.
I’ve scaled this recipe down a whole lot for ya to make a perfect 2 quarts…enough for dinner, lunch tomorrow, and a little for the freezer for whenever you need.
It’s a really simple recipe. The trick is to make sure to give the onions lots of love until the tomatoes go in. You want to build excellent flavor without scorching your ingredients.
First, heat about 1 tbsp. of olive oil over medium-high heat and add your onion, salt, and italian seasoning.
Once everything starts sizzling, lower your heat to medium or even medium-low (depends on how hot your stove gets!) and cook your onions for about 10-15 minutes.
Don’t rush this part! If you cook your onions too fast, they will start caramelizing and turning black. You don’t want that in your sauce. Not only will it taste off, it will make your sauce have black stuff throughout it.
Onion and garlic is a flavor combination that is wildly intoxicating to me. I just love it. Are you hovering over your pot getting a whiff, too?
Once your onions are nice and soft, add your garlic, sugar, and bay leaves and cook for about 5 minutes.
By now you have a very flavorful, sweet, oniony base. Awesome sauce! (Well, it will be). It’s important to note that the dark color in this picture is from the caramelized sugar. Don’t cook your onions to be this dark by themselves!
Turn up your heat to medium-high and once the pan is heated, deglaze with your red wine. If not using wine, you can use vegetable stock.
Your sauce will still turn out perfect without the wine, but wine definitely adds an extra dimension of flavor.
Now, lower your heat back down to a low simmer (medium or medium-low heat) and add your tomatoes, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
This, my foodies, is your sauce. Isn’t it gorgeous? Doesn’t it look so thick and hearty?
Simmer this sauce on your stove for 30 minutes at minimum, up to several hours. The longer you simmer, the thicker and richer your sauce will be. If I have the time, I let it go at least an hour, sometimes two.
When my starving family wants ‘sghetti NOWWWW, I do the 30 minutes and the sauce is so good!
If you like chunky sauce, simply use your stirring spoon, a potato masher, or whatever else to mash up your tomatoes as you stir. Just keep doing this every time you stir during the cooking process, and you will end up with a nice, rustic sauce.
I, however, like my sauce a little smoother and my onions a little more blended. To achieve this texture, just whirr an immersion blending stick around in your sauce for a few seconds until you have the consistency you want.
You can also use a blender, but the sauce will be hot and it can be a little messy.
Whatever you do, BE CAREFUL. This stuff is HOT and can splatter!
This is what the sauce looks like after I used my immersion blender. I did this fairly early on in the cooking time and just let it cook.
You can do this at any point during your final simmering time.
This recipe just begs for a bowl of pasta or crusty bread.
It LOVES vegetables or lasagnas.
What do you think?
Drop a line in the comments below to let us know what you’ll be using this sauce with!
- 2 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes
- 1 medium yellow onion, small diced
- 2-3 fresh garlic cloves, minced
- 2.5 tsp salt, divided
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 c red wine for deglazing (optional)
Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add onion, 1 tsp. salt, and Italian seasoning.
Simmer over medium heat until onion softens but is not caramelized, about 10-15 minutes.
Next, add your garlic, sugar, and bay leaves and cook 5 more minutes.
Turn heat up to medium-high again and deglaze pan if using wine.
If not, add your tomatoes, remaining salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Simmer for at least 30 minutes, up to 2 hours or more.
For a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender at any point in the final cooking time.
Serve and enjoy!