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In need of a good marinara recipe

I'm a beginning cook and I'm in need of a good homemade marinara recipe. I prefer my tomato sauce not to be sweet. Any ideas?

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  1. Heat olive oil in a pot, add sliced garlic, cook until garlic starts to sizzle. Add two cans of Whole tomatoes 26oz each that you crushed by hand. Add salt & pepper and a pinch of oregano. Bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until it tastes like Marinara sauce.

    If your canned tomatoes are packed in thick tomato puree, you may need to add a little water at the beginning...

    12 Replies
    1. re: Gastronomos

      My recipe is much like yours. When I have time I use whole garlic cloves and then once it is cooked put everything through the food mill. Herb varies with dried oregano in the winter and fresh basil in the summer if I have it.

      1. re: Gastronomos

        about a 1 cup of olive oil in a small pot, add a head of whole, peeled garlic and 2-3 rough chop shallots.
        Cook on low until garlic in tender.
        In a larger pan, add two cans of whole tomatoes that you crushed by hand, bring up to simmer, add garlic/oil/shallot mix, shiffonned fresh basil, coupla pinches of crushed chili, simmer about 20 minutes.
        Add sugar (or splenda) to taste.

        1. re: porker

          No sugar, especially if one doesn't like it sweet. If you want to sweeten, grate a bit of carrot in.

          1. re: coll

            IMO carrot can dull the flavor of a sauce. Sugar does not necessarily make a sweet sauce any more than salt necessarily makes a salty sauce. If your sauce needs a bit of sweetness to balance it out, a pinch of sugar is the most direct way to get there.

            It seems like many people are opposed to seasoning and balancing with sugar on principle alone. I have no idea why.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              James Peterson's book "Sauces" has an interesting suggestion. Improve tomato sauce by adding sugar just until it seems sweet. Then add vinegar just until it seems acidic. Finish the process by adding sugar until the acidity has disappeared. This makes for a more vivid sauce.

              1. re: ChrisOfStumptown

                The add more vinegar and so on...

                1. re: porker

                  I tried this once, and felt that the sauce was vivid enough to begin with. It reminded me of watching technicolor films. Yes the colors are vivid, but that doesn't necessarily make for a better film.

                  Maybe my hand with the seasoning was a little ham fisted. Or perhaps the tomatoes I started out with were in the balance that I liked. If they had been lacking it might have brought them up to an appropriate level.

              2. re: cowboyardee

                I put the tiniest pinch of carrot, less than a spoonful. It's more for good luck from my late MIL than anything noticible. But never would add sugar, just a personal thing perhaps.

          2. re: Gastronomos

            having done hundreds of side-by-side tastings of marinara recipes, i can say that the recipe posted by GASTRONOMOS above, is the best.

            follow his/her recipe exactly.
            do NOT use garlic powder nor onion powder ever.

            the quality of the canned tomatoes you use will affect outcome.

            1. re: Gastronomos

              My marinara is just like yours. Lots of garlic and I love the flavor the oregano imparts.

              1. re: Gastronomos

                That's how my dad did it, except he'd always use a small red onion chopped, too with the garlic.

                1. re: Gastronomos

                  Ditto. LOTS of garlic - I sometimes use a shallot, too. And a chiffonade of fresh basil in the summer. Perfection.

                2. Dice garlic, celery, carrot, bay leaves and onion. Saute in a pot, add a cup of wine, either red or white, reduce, add I can of tomato paste, cook till brown, add tomatoes, prefer whole in juice, salt & pepper, crushed red pepper, simmer I hr. Easy pizzi!

                  1. Saute one large Chopped onion until soft in olive oil, not brown. Add a few smashed cloves of garlic ,saute for a minute, do not brown. Add large can (28 oz.) whole roma tomatoes hand crushed. Add cub of red wine. Season with basil, ital. seasoning, salt and pepper. Simmer ....

                    Amounts may be varied, meat may be added if you wish.

                    1. I really think the snow is getting to me. I know your topic says exactly what you mean it to, but I saw something else. I could have sworn you were asking for a good marijuana recipe. I desperately need some sunshine.

                      4 Replies
                          1. re: rockycat

                            hahaha that's what I thought too! I just said that out loud to my husband before actually clicking on the thread. BTW I like my marinara the best (it's much like the above, with an onion and garlic and 2 big cans of tomatoes to one can of paste, the tiiiiniest pinch of sugar, oregano, basil and red chili flakes, I sautee the paste with the onions and garlic before adding the other tomatoes).

                              1. And another option from chowhound's WFD thread from the Dept. of Redundancy Department. LOLZ.


                                I add some other goodies including a squirt of tomato paste and use fresh tomato puree since I personally do not like chunky marinara, but YMMV.
                                If necssary I stick-blend the mix or the canned romas.
                                Never had a complaint either way.

                                Light, bright and so easy to make.

                                Too much jarred sauce can make you leery of the "sweet", but a touch of balsamic vinegar, sugar, or grated carrots can cut the acid and round the sauce out.

                                BTDT, for well, over 20 years.


                                1. Here is the best secret I was ever told about marinara: When you think it's done, put a spoonful on a white plate and tip it to one side. If water exudes and drips down, it's not ready yet.

                                  1. After you have done all the oil, garlic, tomatoes, etc., as it comes to a boil, add a quarter teaspoon of baking soda and stir. All the acid will rise to the top and you can scoop it off. This will continue as the sauce cooks. This was passed on from my father to me and his Sicilian mother to him before that.

                                    21 Replies
                                    1. re: jcanino

                                      I've heard this trick is more effective in Europe, where the water is full of minerals. But a nice tradition anyway.

                                      1. re: coll

                                        It's got nothing to do with the water, rather the acid that is evident in the tomatoes.

                                        1. re: jcanino

                                          Absolutely, it mellows out the acidity. I agree just be prepared for foaming.

                                      2. re: jcanino

                                        Marinara does not have or need baking soda!

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          I have a feeling that the acid that is present in tomatoes is one of my favorite things about them anyway.

                                          1. re: coll

                                            Acidic sauce is what give me and other indigestion or as Italians call it, agida.

                                            1. re: jcanino

                                              And after 50 years of eating my homemade sauce, I have never experienced any type of agita, nor have my guests as far as I know. Never any complaints in that department.

                                              1. re: coll

                                                I would hope you wouldn't hear complaints. They would be louse guests if they told you that your cooking gave them indigestion. In my 40 years of cooking and serving my homemade sauce to countless numbers of people, they prefer mine to any other homemade sauce they have ever had, sometimes even their own mother's!

                                                1. re: jcanino

                                                  You don't know my husband's family. They look for things to complain about!

                                              2. re: jcanino

                                                Yes, yes, yes. There is no way I could eat a straight marinara without the baking soda. It would kill me.

                                                1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                  Have you been checked for tomato allergies (seriously)?

                                                  1. re: coll

                                                    Nahh. I eat tomatoes all the time. Grew up eating Sunday gravy, grow various types in my garden every summer, ketchup, pizza, etc. It's not an allergy, it only happens with gravy, and only since I've gotten older. I suspect it's from the paste, but I never tried to isolate it. My father always added baking soda and now I do too. If I don't, the acidity is overwhelming to me.

                                                    I get the same feeling from peanut butter. Old age.

                                                    1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                      I know what you mean! My Mom developed a tomato allergy/sensitivity in her "old age" and I hope it doesn't happen to me....peanut butter either. Two of my major favorite foods.

                                                  2. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

                                                    It is only a quarter of a teaspoon. why don't you try it coll and see what happens.

                                                    1. re: jcanino

                                                      Only because I'm not convinced that there's any need in our house, plus of course I have to make it just as my MIL taught me since I know she hovers over me whenever I am in the kitchen ;-) I'm afraid to mess with perfection at this point. Her recipe is written in stone as far as I'm concerned!

                                                      My husband's father was from Sicily too and there are some nods in that direction for sure; his Mom was from Abruzzi so she had a little lighter touch when it came to her sauce. But I will keep it in mind as we grow in years, and if I start hearing complaints then I know what to try first!

                                              3. re: Gio

                                                Don't knock something if you haven't tried it. It is not something that will add to or detract from any flavor or taste.

                                                1. re: jcanino

                                                  We're just wondering if it's necessary at all?

                                                  1. re: jcanino

                                                    Marinara sauce is one thing. Then there are tomato sauces with anything and everything but they are Not Marinara. I'm Italian through and through on both sides back to the 12th century at least.. I know pasta sauces. I've cooked all of them,

                                                    1. re: Gio

                                                      Some things make getting out of bed in the morning worth it. Kittens.....good coffee.....hot fragrant tea....the scent of flowers blooming and knowing marinara is going to be prepared later:) It is in my top ten *can not live without* foods.

                                                      1. re: MamasCooking

                                                        Swap out the kittens for puppies and you have me...

                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                          Agree on the puppies too:) And horses too.

                                              4. I use the Carmine's Marinara sauce recipe all the time. Easy and delicious. http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe...

                                                1. The other's have the recipes covered. I'll add no light colored shirts. As things get nice and thick, the bubbles can have a bit of a "burst" about them.

                                                  1. Try Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce. It can't be any easier or tastier.


                                                    9 Replies
                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                      But I wouldn't call this "marinara sauce". Not in any traditional sense.

                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                        Marcella's tomato sauce is very subtle with a muted flavor profile. Not a marinara. Marinara is robust and bursting with flavors.

                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                          marcella hazan and scott connant aside, butter does not belong in marinara sauce.

                                                          give the sauce a different name.
                                                          maybe call it "butter sauce with some tomatoes"

                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                            It's only called "tomato sauce" as it is, which isn't saying much in my book. Besides the fact that I once made this, and have since resented the time and ingredients I wasted.

                                                            1. re: coll

                                                              I prepared it the week before last on the spur of the moment and to be honest I wound up throwing about two large servings of leftover pasta and sauce out. If I am going to consume that amount of butter then I prefer it to not be *wasted* in a tomato sauce:)

                                                            2. re: westsidegal

                                                              Hazan describes her sauce as being appropriate for gnocchi. I noticed something interesting while reading Guiliano Bugialli's "Fine Art of Italian Cooking." In the introduction to his tomato sauce for gnocchi, he says something approximately like this:

                                                              "This sauce is about the purity of flavor, and it is antithetical to the Florentine sensibility to try to improve it by using one's favorite ingredients like butter and cooked onions"

                                                              I'm paraphrasing, the actual quote is a bit different, but he actually does connect the words antithetical to the butter and onion.

                                                              1. re: ChrisOfStumptown

                                                                the technique of adding butter to all sorts of things is one that i used when i got my first job as a personal chef and I DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO COOK.
                                                                when the inevitable disasters rolled around, i just melted butter or lard on top of them and if you are as lucky as i was and had clients whose palates were not very well developed, you can get away with cooking poorly by relying on this common/easy cheat.

                                                                why one would ruin an easy dish like marinara sauce with butter, though, is still mystifying to me.
                                                                even with mediocre olive oil, and mediocre tomatoes, you can still make a pretty good marinara sauce. if you up the quality of your ingredients, you can easily make a GREAT marinara sauce.

                                                                later on in my career, my much more discerning clients would have fired me on the spot for using the butter cheat. . . .

                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                  While I agree with many aspects of your post, it's not entirely fair to Hazan. Her book does not call it a marinara sauce.

                                                                  But you are right that a good tomato sauce does not need the butter. Coyboyardee asked a very good question a few days ago on this topic: why cook the butter versus whisking it in at the end at lower temp? Wouldn't it have a less greasy character? Nobody could answer that. Maybe on some level people like that.

                                                                  I feel the same way about her sauce as I do about cheez its. I can enjoy them, but if I concentrate on tasting them, then they don't taste right. If I don't think about it, I can eat and enjoy them. But even so I will reach a point where I think "ugh, this does not taste good anymore."

                                                                  Maybe someday I will get the urge to make it again. If so I will follow Coyboyardee's suggestion to whisk in cold butter at the end. I'd like to see how it would come out.

                                                                2. re: ChrisOfStumptown

                                                                  This is the actual quote is from "Sugo di Pomodoro Fresco" - fresh tomato sauce:

                                                                  It is antithetical to the Florentine point of view to "improve" a dish by adding one's favorite herbs, cooked butter or cream, for these additions destroy the classical proportions of the dish and obscure the fundamental combination of flavors, each of which must be tasted.

                                                                  We also feel that this version of fresh tomato sauce brings out the flavor of the tomato better than versions that add onion and/or sugar...

                                                                  This sauce is used with fresh or dried pasta, topini di patate
                                                                  [potato gnocchi], and with rice...

                                                                  To serve, add a little uncooked olive oil or butter, freshly ground pepper, and freshly grated Parmigiano cheese to pasta and sauce. (Notice that olive oil or butter are added uncooked...)

                                                            3. Marinara: extra virgin olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, salt & pepper, oregano OR basil. Period. After garlic has sauted in the olive oil till light golden, add the tomatoes, sea salt, ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, simmer. 20 - 30 minutes is all it needs.

                                                              If you're making macaroni, boil the salted water, when water is at a rolling boil throw whichever pasta you're using in the water. Stir. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta, add to the sauce and gently stir everything together. Cook on Low for about 5 minutes. Serve.

                                                              The sauce is done when your macaroni has been drained.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: Gio

                                                                exactly this. it's simple and quick-cooking. it's not the same as a sunday sauce and doesn't need a mire poix or any kind of vegetable medley in there.

                                                                1. re: Gio

                                                                  20 minutes cooking time works with canned tomatoes that do not have added calcium chloride (which makes tomatoes resist breaking down during cooking/canning).

                                                                  Fresh tomatoes generally need a different method. And canned tomatoes that contain calcium chloride often need a bit longer to fully break down, unless you puree the sauce.

                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                    Organic San Marzano tomatoes w/o any other ingredient. Always. Or the Pomi which are only natural tomatoes and nothing else.

                                                                2. It's all about the quality of the ingredients, especially the canned tomatoes. I try every new brand of canned tomato I see. I'm still looking for a perfect one. Real DOP San Marzano tomatoes are usually very good but expensive. I use a great product Tomato Magic packed by Stanislaus in CA. http://www.stanislaus.com/. It's a ground/crushed product that I buy @ Restaurant Depot in #10 cans. Stanislaus products are very popular in the NYC area Italian restaurant community. I like to get a little color on the chopped onion and garlic sauteed in EVO. I add some dried oregano, tomatoes and what makes a great marinara is fresh basil at the end of cooking.

                                                                  1. I know this is a very old thread, but for those who might pick it up again, I suggest you try Scott Conant's method - and really it's a method rather than a recipe, per se.

                                                                    What makes it unique is that instead of putting garlic and basil directly in the sauce, he heats basil, garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil in a small, separate pan at very, very low heat. After about 20 minutes the oil is infused with that flavor. You strain the olive oil into the sauce near the very end of cooking. Then you can finish the pasta with an additional chiffonade of basil in a separate pan and sauce at the end.

                                                                    I tried it this weekend and it just does something magical.