Feb 262008

Every cook needs a good marinara recipe in her or his repertoire. Why not? It’s simple to prepare, goes with tons of things, and is easily modified into a multitude of other sauces. It’s infinitely superior to what attempts to pass for jarred spaghetti sauces, and again, it’s so easily made and even more easily customized that it’s really not worth buying it off the shelf.

I recently made a batch from a recipe recommended by raving reviews from my Mom and I fell in love. It’s sweet but not overly so with plenty of warm garlic flavor without any of the raw garlic punishment. I used it for three separate applications: saucing ravioli served with fresh mozzarella and torn basil (pictured below), pizza Margherita, take due, and spaghetti with calamari (utterly divine, but so modified on the fly due to utterly poor recipe testing that I wasn’t keeping track of things like quantities and time, so I’ll have to re-make it in order to post the recipe). Needless to say, the sauce is all gone. Well, that is, until I make another batch…

(For guidance on preparing this for a backpacking meal, see the “Variations” section at the end of the recipe.)

Marinara sauce

Marinara sauce
From the September 2007 issue of Food & Wine
Makes 4 1/2 cups (enough to sauce 1 1/2 pounds of pasta or top several large pizzas)

You will need:

  • 3-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Two 28-ounce cans of whole peeled tomatoes with juices, crushed by hand, or a can of crushed tomatoes and a can of diced tomatoes, or any combination thereof
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3 large basil sprigs or a tablespoon of dried Italian herbs
  • Freshly ground pepper

To prepare:

  1. In a large saucepan or saute pan, heat the oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes carefully (I recommend wearing an apron, holding the bowl of tomatoes at arm’s length, and pouring them in as quickly as possible). Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the sugar and the basil, season with pepper and bring to a boil.
  2. Simmer the sauce over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it thickens and is reduced to 4 1/2 cups, about 30 minutes. Season again. Discard the basil, but leave the garlic cloves behind — they’re delicious!


  • The folks who developed this recipe were kind enough to provide three variations: All’Amatriciana sauce, puttanesca sauce, and vodka sauce.
  • To prepare this so it’s suitable for backpacking: reduce the olive oil to the bare minimum needed to brown the garlic cloves. Proceed as directed. Once the sauce is cooked and cooled, remove the basil sprigs. Puree the sauce very well until it is completely smooth and there are no more chunks of tomato or garlic. On a lined dehydrator tray, spread the marinara out in a layer about 1/8th-1/4th-inch thick and dry on the same setting you use for fruit leather (yes, you are essentially making marinara leather). Store in a dry, cool place (or your freezer) until your next adventure.

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