Marinara Sauce

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

When the tomatoes from your garden or from the market are spectacular, make a double or triple batch of this sauce and freeze it. Then you can have dinner ready in the time it takes to cook a pot of pasta.


I keep canned whole tomatoes in my pantry and use them whenever I can’t get fresh, ripe plum (Roma) tomatoes. I rarely buy canned diced tomatoes because it’s so easy to dice them myself, and I almost never use tomato paste. The one canned tomato product I never buy is tomato puree, which is usually reconstituted tomato paste. If I need tomato puree, I’ll puree the tomatoes in a blender or food mill myself, using canned whole tomatoes in winter, or peeled and seeded plum tomatoes in summer. It takes about 1½ pounds of fresh plum tomatoes to make 2 cups puree. A 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes makes about 3½ cups puree.

I’m a big fan of Muir Glen’s organic canned tomato products. The company packs the tomatoes in an enameled rather than an unlined tin, so you don’t get any off flavors.

Makes2 to 2½ cups. Enough for 1½ pounds pasta.

Cooking Methodsauteeing



Total Timeunder 1 hour

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


Taste and Textureherby, savory, sweet, tangy

Type of Dishpasta sauce, sauces


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 4 cups fresh tomato puree (see Notes)
  • 1 large fresh basil stem with leaves removed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, preferably gray salt
  • Baking soda or sugar, if needed


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large non-reactive pot over moderate heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the parsley and garlic and cook briefly to release their fragrance. Add the tomato puree, basil, and salt. Simmer briskly until reduced to a saucelike consistency, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. The timing will depend on the ripeness and meatiness of your tomatoes and the size of your pot. If the sauce thickens too much before the flavors have developed, add a little water and continue cooking.

  2. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If the sauce tastes too acidic, add a pinch of baking soda and cook for 5 minutes more. If it needs a touch of sweetness, add the sugar and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove the basil stem before serving.


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