Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Marinara Sauce

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I come from a large, Italian family, so it's no surprise that growing up we would have Sunday dinners that consisted of some sort of pasta, my mom's marinara sauce, meatballs, sausage and the works. Since my younger brother and I had after school activities almost every night during the week and my older brothers were busy studying or maintaining a social life, it was very important for my parents that we all get together on Sundays and enjoy dinner together. I know when I start a family this is a tradition I plan on keeping!

My mom's marinara sauce is out of this world. I think the fact that she lets it simmer all day and allows the flavors to marry really works miracles. One of our favorite things to do as kids was to cut off a piece of Italian bread and dunk it into the sauce while it was cooking (I'm not going to lie...I may or may not still do it to this day). There's just something about it that makes it very addictive!

Last year my mother so kindly showed me how to make this sauce. Chris could probably live off of this stuff if he could, so knowing that I learned the great family marinara sauce recipe was pretty much a holiday for him. I try to make it pretty often so as not to lose the special touch and I think it gets better every time. I also usually double the batch and freeze the leftovers so that when I want to make pasta, manicotti, lasagna, etc. during the week, I can just take it out of the freezer and be on my happy way!

I've posted the recipe below, but I'll admit it is pretty much a taste as you go sort of thing. Not all tomatoes are canned the same, some may be more bitter or more sweet than others, and in that case you could adjust how much sugar you add. You also may want more or less garlic, depending on your palate. The key is to let it simmer almost the whole day to allow the flavors to blend. It may be time consuming, but you will thank me later! Buon appetito!!

Printable Recipe


  • Olive oil
  • 2 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 5 Johnsonville Italian sausages (optional if you want a meat sauce)
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste + 1 can water
  • 2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes 
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. basil leaves
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Romano cheese rind or handful Parmesan cheese (optional)

Over medium-high heat, heat olive oil in the bottom of large saucepan. Poke holes on both sides of the sausage. Add to the pan and let brown. You can omit the sausage if you want, but they add a lot of flavor to the sauce and are highly recommended.

Once the sausage is brown on all sides, move them to the sides of the pan and add the garlic in the middle of the sausages. Cook until just begin to turn brown. Mix back with sausage. Add tomato paste plus one can of water from sauce can. Let cook about 3 minutes.

Add crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce. Clean out each can with a small amount of water to get all the remaining tomatoes and add to saucepan (do not fill the cans all the way with water--they should only be filled about 1/4 of the way, just enough to rinse out tomatoes).

Add the rest of the seasonings.  Cover and let cook on medium heat.  Once the sauce starts boiling, cover and simmer on low heat.  Stir every 30 minutes until done, usually at least 5 hours (or if using sausage, until it is fully cooked through--they should be soft when pierced with a fork). Taste and add ingredients accordingly.  If one ingredient is overpowering, you can add another can of tomato sauce to even it out. If too garlicy, add some more Parmesan cheese.

If adding meatballs to make a meat sauce, cook them all the way through and add to the sauce 1-2 hours before the sauce is done cooking. Once done, remove bay leaves and cheese rind (if used). Mix with your favorite pasta. Enjoy!


  1. Hey there! I randomly found your Blog, and I love it!! Its exactly how I want mine to be, eventually - I just need a lot more recipes, lol...keep up the great work! :)

  2. My mouth is watering just remembering the hot sauce practically melting the bread. We used to sneak behind my grandmother's back to dunk the bread. With a little sprinkle of parmesan cheese, I know it ruined many meals! This recipe has been passed down from my mom's mom, so I'm SOOO glad my sister is keeping the tradition going!

  3. Excellent! Just like mine!You're a quick learner!!!


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