There are six ingredients in this sauce (including salt and olive oil), and you only need one pan.
I discovered this super simple marinara sauce the summer before my senior year in college. I was house sitting all summer and started reading through the cookbooks in my adopted kitchen (in between waging a war against the roaches).
This is our go-to pasta sauce and has replaced jarred tomato sauce in our house (although I have a soft-spot for Prego or Ragu, jarred sauces usually contain lots of salt and sugar, which is a bummer).
I stay away from long-simmer sauces at this point in my life–I’ll probably end up remembering it’s still cooking while we are at the zoo. I prefer a fresh, bright-tasting marinara, anyhow. Some people are devotees of the longer-cooking gravy that is deep red and cooked down for days with your nonna’s love. But I’m not Italian so I have no such prejudices. I just like taste-that-packs-a-punch and simple ingredients.
If tomatoes are not in season, I like to use two cans of Trader Joe’s canned, no-salt, roma tomatoes.
You will need
- Olive oil, about 1/4 cup
- Tomatoes, about 8 medium or large (I use whichever variety looks the most flavorful and isn’t too expensive)
- Basil, about a cup
- Garlic, a lot
- Salt, about a teaspoon
- Chili flakes, about a half teaspoon
Measurements are estimates because I generally use what’s on hand and throw it all into a pot. I used to use more chili flake (we LOVE it when this sauce bites you back), but the kids prefer it a little mellower.
Now do this
- Slice tomatoes into eighths (no need to seed or peel for this recipe).
- Heat about 1/4 cup olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
- When oil is shimmery and hot, add tomatoes. They will pop and sizzle. Stir occasionally for about 4-5 minutes.
- Add basil to the pot.
- Turn heat down to medium-low.
- Finely chop garlic, and add it–along with salt and chili flake–to the pot. (You’re stirring all this stuff in, right? Good job!)
- Let simmer for about 30 minutes. stirring occasionally.
If you happen to be cooking some bacon on the next burner over, ladle in a little bacon fat. Or if you’re drinking a nice red wine that’s also inexpensive, pour some of that in. This sauce is flexible.
I blend my sauce in a blender because I like things smooth. You can also use an emulsion blender (aka hand or stick blender) if you’re okay with a little chunkier sauce (you’ll also need to stop occasionally to pull basil chunks out of the blades). If you prefer your sauce chunky (or even if you’re going to use the emulsion blender), I would chop the basil pretty small before throwing it into the pot.
Here’s the finished product with meatballs and penne.
Thanks to my friend Sara for dropping off the amazing home-grown tomatoes that were used in this batch!