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Easy Homemade Marinara

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Rao's is our go-to store-bought marinara sauce, but when we have time, we much prefer to make our own. Here's what's most important to remember:

Use whole tomatoes. 

We like using (canned) whole tomatoes, and breaking them as they cook, for a chunkier marinara. If you prefer a smoother sauce, use a can of crushed tomatoes instead. This tastes amazing over a bowl of pasta, but it's also great for shakshukalasagna, and chicken parm.

Use San Marzano tomatoes. 

Trust, us. It actually makes a difference. We taste tested a bunch of popular super market brands and found out that San Marzano were sweeter and had a cleaner tomato taste. Luckily for you, they're easy to find at most grocery stores these days.

Simmering the sauce for forever is unnecessary.  

It doesn't need to simmer for hours and hours because it shouldn't taste super rich and complex. People love marinara sauce for its bright flavor.

Add some water.

If you just used the tomatoes from the can, your sauce will bubble and splash aggressively. Fill up your tomato can with a bit of water, swirl it around (to catch any clinging leftover tomato bits and juices), then add it to your skillet. This will loosen the tomato mixture to be more sauce-like. 

You don't need sugar.

Some pasta sauces tell you to add a bit of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. But when you build the flavors (with EVOO, onion, garlic, basil, and red pepper flakes) and give it time to simmer (20 minutes) we don't think it's necessary. 

Flavor it with basil.

Basil is a fragrant herb that is made for marinara. Instead of waiting to garnish your pasta with it, use it while the sauce is simmering. It'll infuse a ton of fresh flavor. 

Can I add meat?

Absolutely! You can sear off some ground beef, lamb or pork to create a meat sauce! Or you can follow this recipe to make a show stopping pappardelle bolognese.

What can I do with leftovers?

Left overs will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days and up 3 months in the freezer. Just make sure you use an airtight container.

But what if it's tomato season?

While we love canned tomatoes because they are available all year wrong and make a consistently delicious and rich sauce, we do know that you sometimes score a bunch of amazing tomatoes while in season. In that case we recommend you follow our recipe for fresh tomato sauce.

Tried making this sauce? Let us know how it came out in the comments below!

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Cal/Serv: 124
Yields: 3 cups
Prep Time: 0 hours 5 mins
Total Time: 0 hours 35 mins
1/4 c.

extra-virgin olive oil


medium onion, minced


cloves garlic, thinly sliced


(28-oz.) can whole tomatoes

1 tsp.

dried oregano

Pinch red pepper flakes

Kosher salt 

Freshly ground black pepper


large sprigs fresh basil

  1. In a large, deep skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion and cook until soft, 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more. 
  2. Pour in tomatoes and use a wooden spoon to break tomatoes into chunks. Fill tomato can almost halfway with water and swirl to catch any remaining sauce, then add to skillet. Season with oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and stir in basil. Bring mixture to simmer. 
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer until liquid has reduced slightly, about 20 minutes. Discard basil before serving.

Nutrition (per serving): 125 calories, 1 g protein, 8 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 10 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 290 mg sodium

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Parker Feierbach

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