A perfectly seasoned, simple tomato sauce is a thing of sheer beauty. The versatility of a perfect marinara means that having a Go-To recipe in your cooking arsenal is a must. You can use marinara as a pizza sauce, as the foundation of a variety of tomato based pasta sauces, or just let it stand on its own with al dente spaghetti. The fantastic thing about this Perfect Marinara recipe is that it makes about 4 cups of sauce, so you can easily freeze some for last minute use in the future.
The recipe is simple. It uses whole ingredients and requires minimal effort. Just as with most stellar pasta sauces, your biggest commitment is the time component. You need at least 1 hour of simmering time, but it is much better to dedicate 3 or 4 hours for the flavor to fully develop. Also, because there aren’t very many ingredients in the sauce, it is extremely important that you use high quality tomatoes and herbs. I stand by the San Marzano tomato variety 1,000%. A type of plum tomato, San Marzanos are similar to the Roma variety; in fact, Roma tomatoes are a cross between San Marzano and 2 other tomato varieties. The San Marzano tomato has a strong tomato-y taste with less acidity than other varieties and a lovely sweetness that sets it apart from others. It is the perfect base for a tomato-forward sauce like a Perfect Marinara.
I was inspired to make this recipe in honor of the Best Picture nominee Brooklyn. There is a charming scene in the movie where the Irish born leading lady is about to have dinner at her Italian boyfriend’s home to meet his family for the first time. Being Irish, she had never had spaghetti before and her roommates teach her how to twirl the pasta using a fork and spoon so that she doesn’t make a mess of the sauce.
Makes approximately 4-5 cups of sauce
- 3 Tablespoons Olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- (2) 28 ounce cans of whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes, undrained
- 1 bouquet garni: 4-6 stalks of Basil, small handful of fresh Thyme (on the sprig), 4-6 stalks of Parsley wrapped together with kitchen twine
- Splash of red wine (optional, but highly recommended)
- 1 – 2 teaspoons sugar, to taste
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 handful of fresh basil, chopped
- Special tools: Immersion blender (or food processor/blender)
Heat a large stockpot over medium high heat and pour in the olive oil. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent and the carrots have softened (about 5 minutes). Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the veggie mix and stir to incorporate.
Using your hands, take each whole tomato from the can and individually crush them over the pot as you add them to the veggie mixture. (Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty!!) If there are basil leaves packed in with the tomatoes, discard them as you come across them – you will add your own later. Add in the liquid from the can once you have crushed all the tomatoes. Pour in a splash of red wine (if using) and add the bouquet garni. Gently stir and submerge the herb bundle. Heat over medium high until the sauce begins to boil, then cover and turn the heat to low. Simmer for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours, stirring occasionally. (The longer you let the sauce simmer, the more flavor you will develop.) Taste throughout the simmering process and add salt, pepper, and/or sugar as needed.
Once you have finished simmering, carefully remove the bouquet garni with tongs and discard. Using an immersion blender, pulse on low so that you break up most of the tomato pieces, but still leave some texture in the sauce. If you don’t have an immersion blender, process the sauce in batches in a blender or food processor and return the processed sauce to the stock pot.
Add in the chopped fresh basil and return to a simmer for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and use in your favorite recipes that call for tomato sauce (like the spaghetti pictured throughout the post!).