Homemade marinara is marvelously easy

Few meals say “homemade” as much as spaghetti slathered in a rich tomato sauce. It’s practically a weekly staple on family dinner tables, and while the pasta portion is indeed usually homemade (i.e.: open box, pour into boiling water, stir), the complementing sauce regularly comes out of a jar.

That’s a shame, because that stuff from a jar won’t hold a candle to what you can make at home, all for less time and money than you think.

Truth is, homemade marinara sauce takes less than an hour to make from scratch, and it’s so ridiculously easy to make that you’ll wonder why you never tried it.

While there are infinite number of variations — from recipes that include wine and vodka to Kalamata olives — the recipe here shines for its simplicity. And, should you choose to experiment with more ingredients further down the road (and I hope you will!), this version of marinara provides a perfect foundation.

So grab a pot, a knife and a wooden spoon: We’re gonna make some marvelous marinara.

Simply Marvelous Mushroom Marinara

(Serves 4-6)

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (that’s EVO for you Rachael Ray fans)
  • 1 cup brown onion, chopped
  • 1 cup white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-2 tablespoons (3-6 cloves)  garlic, minced
  • 1 can, 28.5 ounces, crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can, 14.5 ounces, diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Garnish: Sprig of fresh basil

Step 1: As you can see from that ingredient list, everything here is natural, not to mention easy to find in the store. No high-fructose corn syrup or other junk. And don’t be put off by canned tomatoes: They are often canned at their ripest, and taste better than fresh tomatoes that are out of season. We’ll use two kinds for added texture. Gather the ingredients and then heat a lidded pot (4 quarts or more) over medium heat for a minute, then drizzle with the olive oil.

Step 2: Dump in the onions and mushrooms, sprinkle with a little salt, and cook over medium-low heat for five minutes, stirring often. If you don’t like mushrooms, by all means, leave them out. I like that they add a certain sturdiness to this sauce (not to mention that they and the tomatoes are both natural flavor enhancers).

Step 3: Add the garlic and cook for about a minute, stirring often. Doesn’t this smell great already?

Step 4: Dump in the cans of tomatoes and herbs, salt and pepper, bring to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes, with the lid ajar, stirring every few minutes. The heat on your stove will probably need to be at low to medium-low, and your kitchen will be smelling even better at this point.

Step 5: After 25 minutes, add the sugar, stir well, and cook for another five minutes. Why are we adding sugar, you ask? Because its sweetness will help counter some of the acidity from the tomatoes and balance the flavor. Taste the sauce (careful, it’s hot!) and make any final adjustments, such as adding more salt and pepper or, for some heat, some red-pepper flakes.

Congratulations: You’ve just made your own incredible marinara sauce! Without question, this will be amazing on spaghetti, but don’t limit this sauce just to that. It also pairs well with green beans, fish and chicken, just to name a few.

Did you try this recipe? Write about your experience, ask questions or share advice in the comments area below.

Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/iwanttocook


  1. Jackie Jones said,

    April 8, 2010 @ 11:23 pm

    excited to try this next time with you, krissi, and danny!

  2. erin said,

    April 10, 2010 @ 8:50 pm

    looks great! i am gonna try that soon!

  3. I Want To Cook » Culinary word of the week: Chiffonade said,

    April 11, 2010 @ 9:07 pm

    [...] time you make a pasta dish — perhaps one involving this awesome mushroom marinara sauce — finish the recipe with a chiffonade of basil, and then you can be the one sounding like a [...]

  4. Tweets that mention I Want To Cook » Homemade marinara is marvelously easy -- Topsy.com said,

    April 14, 2010 @ 2:10 am

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Matt Degen. Matt Degen said: If you're looking for a quick and easy meal this week, this mushroom marinara will make your pasta shine! http://tinyurl.com/yebg77v [...]

  5. I Want To Cook » 5 steps to perfect pasta said,

    June 16, 2011 @ 12:18 pm

    [...] eat it very simply dressed, such as above with just olive oil, herbs and grated cheese, or with a homemade marinara sauce. Now, as my Italian mother would say, [...]

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