Marinara Sauce

Updated February 23, 2016

At Rao’s, we use our Marinara Sauce on all kinds of pasta, as well as a major component in many other dishes. Each morning, Annie Sausto makes a huge pot of fresh sauce to get us through that night’s service. We never have any left over. The imported tomatoes that we use come flavored with basil (basilico), but we always add additional fresh basil for its pungent aroma and taste. In the early days, our sauce was made from fresh tomatoes in the summer and home-canned in the winter. Today, I think nothing could be better than the canned, imported San Marzano tomatoes we use all year. The most important step is to clean the tomatoes of all skin and to remove the hard part of the core—this is what makes our sauce so smooth.

Take care when adding garlic to hot oil, as it will burn and turn bitter very quickly. If this happens, discard oil and vegetables and start again.

We never have sauce left over; however, if you do, store it, tightly covered and refrigerated, for a day or two or freeze for up to 3 months.

Cooking Methodsauteeing



Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian

Taste and Texturegarlicky, herby, savory

Type of Dishpasta sauce, sauces


  • 2 28-ounce cans imported Italian plum tomatoes with basil (preferably those labeled “San Marzano”)
  • 1?4 cup fine-quality olive oil
  • 2 ounces fatback or salt pork, optional
  • 3 tablespoons minced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • Salt to taste
  • 6 leaves fresh basil, torn, optional
  • Pinch dried oregano
  • Pepper to taste


  1. Remove tomatoes from the can, reserving the juice in which they are packed. Using your hands, crush the tomatoes, gently remove and discard the hard core from the stem end, and remove and discard any skin and tough membrane. Set aside.

  2. Put oil in a large, nonreactive saucepan over medium-low heat. If using fatback, cut it into small pieces and add to the pan. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until all fat has been rendered. Remove and discard fatback.

  3. Then add onion. Sauté for 3 minutes or until translucent and just beginning to brown. Stir in garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or until just softened (see Notes). Stir in tomatoes, reserved juice, and salt. Raise heat, and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook for about 1 hour or until flavors have combined and sauce is slightly thickened. (If you prefer a thicker sauce, cook for an additional 15 minutes.)

  4. Stir in basil, oregano, and pepper, and cook for an additional minute. Remove from heat and serve.



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