Making Marinara Sauce

Anyone who grew up in an Italian family knows how to make sauce. Or at the very least they’ve been in the presence of someone who does, and maybe picked up a step or two via osmosis. In my family, we usually ate some form of pasta at least three times a week, and always, always on Sundays. On that day, it was usually rigatoni or ziti, sometimes gemelli, with a meat sauce that had simmered for hours the day before. Once I started living on my own in my early 20s, I realized that I much preferred a meatless “gravy” as my grandmother called it, so I set about finding a recipe that didn’t require a sauce pack from the supermarket’s meat department. After much trial and error I settled upon this version of a delicious marinara sauce, one that is neither too sweet, nor too garlic-y. I make a big vat of it once a month, divide it into smaller containers and freeze it.  Though my husband didn’t grow up Italian style, he does appreciate a pasta dinner on Sundays. (Really, who doesn’t?) This time while I was making my sauce, I photographed the steps so I could share with you all.

While there are several versions of canned tomatoes on the market, I prefer a combination of Scalafani Crushed Tomatoes and TuttoRosso Peeled Plum Shaped Tomatoes. Scalafani can be hard to find in NYC, but totally worth the extra effort. They’re so flavorful combined with TuttoRosso. I use two cans of each.

The first step is to chop the garlic. I usually use 2-3 cloves, depending on their size. More if they’re tiny. I chopped the garlic with one of my favorite kitchen gadgets, the Pampered Chef Food Chopper. It’s great for onions too!

Once the garlic is chopped, I add it to the pot and let it brown in a few swirls of olive oil.

From there I add the crushed tomatoes, and then the whole ones, squeezing them with my hands so that the sauce has a chunky texture.

Next I add basil and dried oregano. (I used basil that I had frozen from the last bunch I bought. It’s not as good as the fresh stuff, but it’ll do, and I hate wasting herbs).

Finally I add onion (I prefer white, but since I forgot to buy an onion when I was at the store yesterday, I was limited to what the corner deli had. In this case, it was a Spanish onion. It was pretty large, so I only used half).

I’ll let the sauce cook for an hour uncovered, stirring occasionally so that the bottom doesn’t burn, and then I’ll add 3 tsps of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Then I’ll cover it and let it simmer for another hour to hour and a half, stirring intermittently. Later we’ll eat the sauce with fresh rigatoni from Russo’s, an amazing Italian deli in our neighborhood, homemade turkey meatballs (I’ll post my recipe in a bit), bread and salad. Oh and red wine of course. A delightful way to end the weekend!

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8 Comments

  1. Anne said,

    February 28, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Can’t wait to try this. Thanks!

  2. christie said,

    February 28, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    First of all, we agree. Nice recipe! You have made the Panzo women proud with keeping with family tradition. Can’t wait to have Sunday dinner at your house…one of these days! Thanks for sharing your labor of love.
    xoxo, Christie, Betty & Katy

  3. March 7, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    […] Farms Hot Turkey Sausage, and ground turkey meat from Trader Joe’s.) I defrosted some of the marinara sauce that I made last week and went to work. Once the lasagna came out of the oven, I let it sit for […]

  4. July 12, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    […] 12, 2010 at 9:18 pm (Cooking) As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I grew up in an Italian-American family, which meant that Sundays were […]

  5. October 5, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    […] shrimp, cooked the pasta and then mixed everything together in a big bowl before topping it with my sauce and freshly grated Pecorino Romano. A salad, eggplant meatballs and a bottle of red wine rounded out […]

  6. November 24, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    […] shrimp, cooked the pasta and then mixed everything together in a big bowl before topping it with my sauce and freshly grated Pecorino Romano. A salad, eggplant meatballs and a bottle of red wine rounded out […]

  7. November 26, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    […] I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I grew up in an Italian-American family, which meant that Sundays were […]

  8. Lasagna Love said,

    November 26, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    […] Farms Hot Turkey Sausage and ground turkey meat from Trader Joe’s). I defrosted some of the marinara sauce that I made last week and went to work. Once the lasagna came out of the oven, I let it sit for […]


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