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Simple Marinara Sauce

Updated on December 10, 2012

Growng up in an Italian family I always remember sauce cooking on the stove. This goes way back to my grandmother and her house, but of course my mother and my aunts carried on the tradition of their mother, and that was cooking the sauce for a couple of hours. The feeling was that the longer it simmered, the better it was.

These days we find that this is not necessarily so, and it does not take long at all to make a deliciously scrumptious tomato sauce that can be used many ways. Below is my take on a "simple marinara sauce". Marinara, simply being tomatoes, onion, garlic, herbs - oregano, basil or both - sometimes adding seafood of your choice.


The Tomatoes

Now of course you can make your sauce from scratch by using fresh tomatoes, plumb tomatoes usually being the tomato of choice for a nice rich sauce. Or of course these days it is much simpler to purchase a can of tomatoes from your local grocery store. These usually come in different varieties - whole tomatoes with juice, diced tomatoes or pureed tomatoes. For some reason I prefer to purchase the whole tomatoes with juice - maybe that's the way my mother did it and I like to keep with "some kind of tradition". But these days I do have a favourite brand of tomatoes and that is "Pastene" packed in Italy and usually available through a distributor in your own country - in my case Montreal. I like this particular brand because the tomato is very meaty and therefore you do not even need tomato paste to thicken it up. Also of note is the fact that no matter the brand, the tomatoes from San Marzano are the best to buy.


  • One 796 ml / 26 oz tin San Marzano Tomatoes, Pastene
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 small garlic cloves, crushed
  • a few twists cracked black pepper
  • pinches of sea salt
  • 1/4 cup red or white wine
  • pinches crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • splashes of olive oil, extra virgin
  • small tin of chopped baby clams, optional
  • about 1 tsp white sugar

Using Red Wine

Generally I add about a 1/4 of a cup of red wine if I am serving a pasta "without seafood" - i.e. Spaghetti, Linguini, Penne, Fusilli or Tortellini. Also this is when I add a couple of pinches of crushed red pepper flakes, depending on how much spice you want in your sauce. If you do not like spice, then leave it out.

My favourite red wines to use are a Gabbiano or Bonacchi Chianti. Also delicious of course to have a glass along with your meal.

Tortellini with Marinara Sauce - and Parmesan Cheese


Using White Wine

If making a seafood pasta sauce then you can use a white wine - my preference always being a good Pinot Grigio. It is my opinion that you can also use a red wine, but it is a matter of preference when it comes to this choice. Along with the wine I add the small bottle of drained chopped baby clams. This is easy to do, but if you are more adventurous then you can add fresh clams during the last few minutes of simmering your sauce. Another option would be to use mussels.

There are of course other varieties of fish that you can add to this sauce if it is your wish. In the Italian tradition Christmas Eve always included a pasta with seafood in the sauce, including a white fish such as tuna, scallops, and calamari (baby squid) to name a few.


  1. Bring a stainless steel pot to a medium heat with splashes of olive oil to coat the bottom
  2. Toss in your diced onion and crushed garlic (I prefer crushed as it seems to release more flavour) - and saute until onion is translucent.
  3. Meanwhile empty the tin of tomatoes into your Cusinart and process until well crushed.
  4. Add tomatoes to your sauteed onions and garlic
  5. Bring to a boil. amd when a bit of foam appears on the surface sprinkle a bit of white sugar to take the acidity out of the tomatoes. Lower the heat to a nice simmer
  6. While it gently simmers, add cracked black pepper, sea salt
  7. Add your red or white wine
  8. Add your herbs - oregano, basil - or both. I prefer basil, and simmer for about twenty minutes to infuse all the flavours together.
5 stars from 2 ratings of Marinara Sauce

Cook Time

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 20 min
Ready in: 40 min
Yields: 5 - 6 cups

Freezing This Sauce

Now that I am on my own, when I make this sauce I store it in the freezer in about 5 different single servings so I can always grab one out of the freezer for myself when I have not planned something else.

Bon Appetite!!


See How Simple This Is

I could not resist adding this, and have to admit that for today this was the inspiration for this Hub. When looking through my "favourite collection of personal recipes", at the back of the book I found a treasure. A few years back my husband asked me to tell him how to make this Marinara Sauce so he could do it too - and maybe surprise me with it some day on my return from an afternoon outing. Indeed he did - many times - and I love the fact that this is the way he wrote it - his interpretation - as I said it.


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    • craiglyn profile image

      Lynda 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You are so welcome wetnosedogs. Hope you will enjoy it when you make it. Cheers, Lynda

    • wetnosedogs profile image

      wetnosedogs 3 years ago from Alabama

      I love Italian food. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    • craiglyn profile image

      Lynda 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      LOL - Anne - I am sure each country has it's own "best tomatoes". I love your description "orgasmico". I'd go for that. And I knew you would appreciate the scribbles. My heart swelled when I looked through my book and found Craig's rendition of this sauce in his own hand. Thanks for reading and commenting. : )

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 5 years ago from Spain

      Hi Lynda. This is also a popular sauce in Spain, and yes, here too the older generation leave it to bubble away on the stove for hours. Hmmm I have never tried San Marzano tomatoes but they would have to be good to beat Valenciano Tomaotoes which are actually " Orgasmico " LOL. So nice that you found Craigs hand written recipe, I have little scribbles from my hearty too. Treasures !!

    • craiglyn profile image

      Lynda 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks whonu. It is so easy and so fast. And tasty. I think made better by the brand of tomatoes. My opinion for what it's worth. : )

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 5 years ago from United States

      This sauce sounds delicious and well worth trying out, my friend. Thanks for sharing it. whonu