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Wine in MArinara Sauce

I'm trying to make marinara sauce for the 1st time and everytime I google it the best ones have wine in them.

I don't want to put wine, would leaving that out have a big impact?

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  1. no it just adds some dimension - replace liquid with some stock and add a bit of sugar to make up for the sugar you are loosing.

    IMO wine makes most things better but it is not necessary for sauce.

    1. Well, the alcohol brings out some of the flavor elements in the tomato, but leaving it out won't have that much of an effect, since you won't know the difference. A splash of vodka could be used in place of the wine, if not having wine around is the issue. If the issue is alcohol itself, just leave it out. You may need a bit of lime or lemon juice if you do leave the wine out. Your taste will tell you.

      1. Leaving out the wine won't make it worse. Different, but not worse. In fact, I generally only add wine if I'm making a meat sauce. For a marinara, I probably wouldn't add wine.

        I don't know what kind of a recipe you're following, but if you're sauteeing any onions, garlic or other vegetables before adding the tomatoes, I'd add some tomato paste to the pot at the end of the sautee time. Caramelize it a little bit to add depth of flavor, mix it into the other saute ingredients, then add your tomatoes. A little bit of anchovy added at that time (before the tomatoes are added) is good, too. You'll never taste anchovy, but it adds that "umami" quality.

        1. Not sure what you consider the "best" recipes but many people (and not just hacks like me) routinely omit wine from marinara. You need the soffrito, yes, and good tomatoes but not wine.

          1. I don't add wine to my marinara at all. I only add wine when I am making a sauce with sausages or a ragu.

            1 Reply
            1. I always add some wine. Never made it without so not sure what impact it has. . .

              I never add sugar. Maybe a little tomato paste instead.

              1. I just skimmed about a half dozen online recipes and only one used wine.

                1. To me Marinara Sauce is Garlic, Olive Oil, Tomato, Herbs, Dried Chili(opt.), S&P and Sugar if needed and that's it. It is one of the simplest cooked Tomato Sauces, Versatile and Delicious.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: chefj

                    Exactly. Marinara is a simple sauce and tomatoes are the star.

                    1. re: chefj

                      Totally agree, but I'd skip the sugar.

                      1. re: chefj

                        What about onions? I love the aroma of onions and garlic being sauteed in olive oil. I'm not sure what they add to a marinara sauce, or how their absence would change the sauce, but I almost always use some. And I never add sugar. Tomato paste, yes, and that adds sweetness, but I've never thought of adding sugar.

                        1. re: CindyJ

                          I don't know but for me the onions add more sweetness than the tomatoes, sometimes it needs a little bit of sugar and sometimes it doesn't, to balance out the acidity not to make it sweet.
                          I'm in the marinara not needing wine camp as well.

                      2. i never add wine
                        i NEVER add sugar

                        1. You can leave wine out.

                          If you do, you might consider adding some lemon (or lime) juice in your sauce.

                          1. You could add a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar instead of the wine.

                            1 Reply
                            1. No, the "best" recipes for marinara sauce do not contain wine. Indeed, if you look at classic recipes for marinara sauce, you'll have search hard for one that contains wine. If you are looking online for a good recipe for classic marinara sauce, I'd recommend skipping over any that contains wine...it's neither traditional, nor likely better than one without.

                                1. re: treb

                                  Have never heard of anyone putting chicken stock into marinara sauce! NO!

                                  1. re: josephnl

                                    Really. Nothing is needed. Marinara is a very simple sauce. And why water it down with stock?

                                2. Alcohol is very often used in tomato-based sauces. For two basic reasons: to release the tomato's flavor components and to add flavor.

                                  Here's Shirley Corriher on the subject of alcohol and tomatoes:


                                  The popularity of Bloody Marys indicates that alcohol and tomatoes have some affinity. From a flavor perspective, for hundreds of years chefs have used wine to deglaze pans. Some flavor components dissolve in water, some in fat and some in alcohol. If the sauce in a dish is fat-free, there is nothing to dissolve the fat-soluble flavors and they remain locked in the food. This is why a fat-free dish may taste completely bland, while a dish with even a tiny bit of fat to dissolve and carry flavors may be quite flavorful.

                                  Alcohol has the great advantage that it dissolves fat and water and some flavor components that neither fat nor water can dissolve. Cooks know that a small amount of alcohol can make a huge flavor difference. Cookbook author Patricia Wells once asked me why a little vodka made such a difference in the taste of tomato sauces.

                                  Vodka itself does not have a lot of taste and the sauce is frequently boiled 10 minutes or more after the vodka is added. There are flavor components in tomatoes that dissolve in alcohol. Once the alcohol has dissolved and released the flavors into the sauce, it doesn't matter what happens to it. It has done its job. That teaspoon or tablespoon of sherry added to the soup can mean a lot flavorwise."

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                    Agreed. I generally add a splash of white wine to any plain tomato sauce I make, a bit of red if said sauce includes meat. Unless you add a ton, you don't taste it, but it does unlock those alcohol-soluble flavors.

                                    1. re: C. Hamster

                                      that's a nice write up - explains things quite simply, Why "free" foods are always so awful.

                                      1. I don't know who or what you are googling, but there is no wine in traditional marinara sauce. According to the Italian cooking teachers I know it's basically tomatoes cooked down. No garlic, either.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: ChefJune

                                          Herbs? Salt?
                                          So basically a warm tomato salsa sans anything but tomatoes?

                                          Circa 1650 italian books have it documented as more of a warm tomato "salsa" than sauce so that makes sense per what I have read.

                                          In the end, it's history and true roots have many fingers so to say, and several tales give conflicting information about its true origin.

                                          Then you get into pure Italian vs. Italian-American roots and changes to that recipe to confound things.

                                          The OP asked re: wine, not about the true source and history of the original recipe nor trying to recreate a 15th century version. Or that was my take.

                                          Can you leave wine out? Sure.
                                          Will you loose flavor as a reslut? Likely yes unless you choose to sub in a similarly acting ingredient, the reasons listed above.

                                          The sauce will be fine wthout wine and please report back your resulting dish along with findings along with those from your co-diners and what cooking waypath you used be it recipe, wing-it or devine intervention.

                                          I'm quite curious indeed.