Marinara Made Easy

Although I’m often mistaken for one, I am not a nice Italian girl.


Well, I am nice…sometimes…and while I might not be of Italian heritage, I might as well make marinara like I am. I have been cooking for years now, but I never attempted to make my own spaghetti sauce until recently. I think I was intimidated by it, assuming you’d have to be of Italian descent to get good “gravy.”

Well, I proved myself wrong because this sauce is legit. It’s a cinch to throw together and it’s so much cheaper than buying the jarred stuff at the store. As with anything else you make yourself, you can control exactly what you’re putting into it. Control freaks of the world, unite!


Like all good recipes, this one starts with a diced onion sauteed in some extra virgin olive oil. The original recipe calls for 6 tablespoons of oil, but I think that’s a bit excessive. I eyeball the oil, but can confidently say it’s somewhere around 2 tablespoons – tops. All you really need is just enough to coat the bottom of your pan.


Remember how I told you that roasted garlic has a way of wiggling into recipes? Well, I wasn’t kidding. You could certainly use a clove or two of raw garlic and simply saute it with the onion, but go ahead and treat yourself to the roasted stuff if you have the time.

Don’t be like me though – make sure you take an “after” picture of your garlic when it comes out of the oven. Or just include a link to a roasted garlic picture from a different post here 🙂

Here are the stars of the show! Get yourself a can of tomato paste – open it up and dump the whole thing into the pot along with a giant can of crushed tomatoes.

PS – am I the only person out there who hates when a recipe calls for, like, a 1/4 teaspoon of tomato paste!? Or am I just a cheapskate because I refuse to buy a tube of tomato paste?


I’ll tell ya where I’d rather spend my money…on big, beautiful leaves of fresh basil. I have no problem using dried herbs with reckless abandon, but basil is so much better when it’s fresh.

Plus, when working with fresh basil, you get to do fancy things like chiffonade! All right…ya got me. Chiffonade only sounds fancy…probably because it’s French. Upon translation, you’ll realize all you’re required to do is stack the leaves, roll ’em up and run your knife through them to get little basil ribbons.

Parlez-vous français?

Yeah, me neither…but I can chiffonade…and you can too.


Besides tasting better, fresh basil brightens everything up. Literally. Even after everything’s cooked, you’ll have little bits of bright green running through your sauce.

Note to self: work on more appetizing ways to describe recipes. “Little green bits” doesn’t quite cut it.


I always add a heaping tablespoon of dark brown sugar to my sauce. I wish I could tell you the exactly where I learned this trick, but I can’t. I can only kinda/sorta definitively tell you it came from one of a bajillion cooking shows I’ve sat through in recent years. Way to retain information, Brie!

Try the brown sugar – it cuts the acidity of the tomatoes and adds a depth of flavor I really enjoy.

Plus, it’s not a party unless brown sugar is invited.


Before we let this beautiful mess of marinara bubble away, we’ve got to add a little chicken broth, which will loosen things up a bit and afford us a little liquid evaporation later on. The original recipe calls for wine, but I never have any on hand since I’m not a big drinker.

I’d rather eat my calories, thank you very much!

Marinara Made Easy

adapted from All Recipes
Yield: 4 cups
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time:
45-60 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small Vidalia onion, diced
1 bulb roasted garlic
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 heaping tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
a handful of fresh basil leaves cut into ribbons (aka chiffonade)
1 tablespoon dark or light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth

In a large skillet over medium heat saute the finely chopped onion in olive oil for 2 minutes. Squeeze roasted garlic from the bulb and stir it around to evenly distribute. Add your tomatoes, herbs and spices and chicken broth. Stir to once again incorporate everything.

Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.Bubble

I could eat this straight from the stove with a really big spoon…and a smile.



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6 thoughts on “Marinara Made Easy

  1. L. Rowan McKnight December 31, 2012 at 5:36 pm Reply

    Whenever I make a red sauce, whether for spaghetti or lasagna ow whatever, I always add just a smidge of cinnamon. Serously, like a half of a quarter teaspoon, it’s easy to overdo. However, it adds a lovely little bit of complexity to the flavor of the sauce. Guess it’s no longer my secret ingredient, eh? hahaha

    • Brie December 31, 2012 at 6:16 pm Reply

      No kidding!! I guess we all have a little something up our sleeve, huh? I’ll have to try your cinnamon trick next time I whip up a batch of this stuff. Thanks so much for sharing – and happy new year!

      • L. Rowan McKnight December 31, 2012 at 6:18 pm

        To you as well! Hope 2013 is everyone’s lucky number 😉

      • Brie December 31, 2012 at 7:07 pm

        Thank you! I’ve got a good feeling about it!!

  2. Becki Smith January 6, 2013 at 2:12 pm Reply

    This recipe looks amazing. Can’t wait to try it. Actually, it inspired a two-hour online culinary tour of Italian cooking and two cookbooks purchases (here’s hoping Ray doesn’t see this post. ha!).

    • Brie January 6, 2013 at 2:21 pm Reply

      Haha – what Ray doesn’t know won’t hurt him! I think if he does find out, he probably won’t mind too much since he’ll only benefit from your web retail therapy anyway 🙂

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