Today, I write to you with an extra twinge 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 over 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. However, it was also simple, straight forward, and accessible. In the restaurant, we made it 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 oar.
I’ve scaled this recipe down a whole lot for you to make a perfect 2 quarts…enough for dinner, lunch tomorrow, and a little for the freezer for next time.
The trick here is to give the onions a lot of love. You want to build excellent flavor without scorching your ingredients.
First, heat about 1 tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat and add onions, 1 tsp. salt, and Italian seasoning.
Once everything starts sizzling, keep your heat at 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 burn. You don’t want that in your sauce. Not only will it taste off, it will make your sauce have huge black flecks throughout it.
Once your onions are nice and soft, add garlic, sugar, and bay leaves and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring and turning your ingredients. Onion and garlic is a flavor combination that is wildly intoxicating to me. I just love it. Are you hovering over your pot right now, too?
By now you have a very flavorful, sweet, oniony base. Awesome sauce! (Well, it will be). Turn up your heat to medium-high and once the pan is hot, pour in your red wine, deglazing all the seared, flavorful bits form the bottom of your pan. Vegetable stock can be substituted for wine, if needed.
Add your tomatoes, remaining salt, pepper, and garlic powder next.
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, richer, and sweeter 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 good!
If you like chunky sauce, simply use your stirring spoon to break up your tomatoes as you stir 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 the 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 away after.
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 and lasagnas.
What do you think?
What will you be using this sauce with tonight?
- 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!