Why buy a jar of marina when you can make your own fresh, delicious, organic (if you want), and personalized-to-your-own-palate marinara sauce for much cheaper? Alright, so this recipe isn’t exactly fresh when it comes to the tomatoes, that’s why I’m calling it “Lazy” Homemade Marinara. You can use fresh tomatoes. I normally do. But this is my canned-tomatoes-only version of the recipe.
This is one of my kid’s favorites, so I make a bunch of it. But feel free to make a smaller batch. It is also VERY forgiving and adaptable. Just like how you can find various flavors of marinara at the store, you can also season this recipe however you want. Sometimes I add a lot more garlic, even fresh and powdered garlic together in the same batch. Sometimes I add onion powder. I’ve added a bit of a roasted red bell pepper before, and it completely changed the flavor. I wasn’t a huge fan of it, so I never did it again. I don’t like mushroom marinara, but if you do, feel free to sauté some mushrooms on the side and add them in at the end!
Basil is the only thing you have to be careful with. When I first looked up homemade marinara recipes, they all warned against using dry basil. Use only fresh basil and at the end, several recommended. So I’ve just always left it out.
Dice one medium sized red onion. Sauté in olive oil over medium heat until translucent with the 20-25 petite carrots. I use petite or baby carrots because I’m lazy and don’t want to peel and chop a full size carrot. If you do end up slicing a carrot, keep the chunks big. You need to be able to pull them out at the end to puree with the tomatoes. If you are out of carrots or don’t want to use them, despite their added nutrients (I swear you can’t taste them), you can throw in a tablespoon or so of agave nectar or sugar at the end. Adding sweetener needs to be done after the sauce is pureed, in my opinion, so you don’t over do it. The goal isn’t to make a sweet sauce, it’s simply to counteract the bitterness of the tomatoes. Taste tests are necessary.
Once the onions are translucent, add the minced garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the spices. Add the cans of tomatoes.
Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for an hour to let the flavors blend, stirring every twenty minutes or so.
I know, I know, the “hour” might be freaking you out a bit right now. Don’t let it. Fill the time by cooking the rest of your meal. I make breaded tofu (which takes forever) and sautéed yellow squash with onions. If you just want your marinara and you want it now, try getting seasoned cans of tomatoes. My mom used to do this when I was a kid, so I know it works. I can’t offer much guidance other than to say add any additional seasonings at the end by taste, and let it simmer for at least ten minutes! If you are incredibly lazy, you can use 2 cans of seasoned tomato chunks (petite or diced) and 1 can of tomato sauce with no pureeing at the end. Trust me, this is not the way to make magical and fantastic, delicious marinara, but it will work. Using fresh tomatoes and letting the sauce simmer for at least an hour is the best way to make marinara, but as a pregnant mother of two toddlers, I know it isn’t always possible. Play with it and find what works best for you 🙂
When the sauce is cooked, use a slotted spoon to separate the whole tomatoes and carrots from the rest of the sauce. Don’t stress about picking up little stuff too. Pureeing some of the onions will only make the sauce taste better. Puree and combine. If you don’t want chunks of tomatoes or onions in your marinara at all, simply puree the whole thing in batches and adjust the type of canned tomatoes you use accordingly (the final consistency might be thicker than you want because of the diced tomatoes).
Serve sauce over pasta of your choice and enjoy!
- Medium red onion, diced (or sweet or yellow onion)
- 20-25 Organic petite baby carrots (or 10-15 baby carrots; or 1-2 large carrots cut into chunks; OR agave nectar or sugar)
- Olive oil for sautéing
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
- One 14.5oz can of petite diced or diced tomatoes
- One 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes (or two 14oz cans)
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon pepper
- Optional: dash of garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, sage, Italian seasoning
- Sauté diced onion and carrots until the onions are translucent
- Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds
- Add seasonings and canned tomatoes
- Stir, bring to boil
- Cover and reduce to simmer
- Simmer for an hour, stirring every twenty minutes or so
- Pull out whole tomato chunks and carrots with a slotted spoon and puree
- Combine sauce and serve!
As a bonus, here is how you use fresh tomatoes:
Blanch fresh tomatoes for 10 seconds (meaning submerge in boiling water), then immediately place in ice water to cool. Use a knife to cut tomatoes in half, from top to bottom, and remove skins. The skins will come right off. If you don’t blanch long enough, they’ll be a little difficult to peel. If you blanch for too long, the outer layers of the tomato will mush off with the skin, creating a mess.
Place peeled tomato halves in a large bowl until ready to use so you don’t lose their liquid. When the onions are translucent, add tomatoes to the pot with one can of petite diced or diced tomatoes if you want tomato chunks in the marinara. Otherwise, feel free to use only fresh tomatoes.
The amount of tomatoes you will need varies depending on the size of your tomatoes. I’ve used roma, ripe on the vine, and beefsteak tomatoes to make marinara before, basically whatever was on hand. Even when I used six average sized tomatoes, I still added one can of petite diced to bring the overall quantity up to par and provide those little chunks at the end (because I’m lazy and don’t want to cut up fresh tomatoes).
With roma tomatoes, 8-10 would probably be needed depending on how big they were. Beefsteak tomatoes, I’d still want 5 I think. Both of those quantities are for if you add a can of diced tomatoes, and I feel like the quantities for all three are still on the low side. You really need a lot of tomatoes to make a fresh batch of marinara.
The point of simmering for an hour is to break down the tomatoes and thicken the sauce. You can cook the tomatoes for longer to up the thickness and amp the flavor. Also, don’t be afraid to add a dash of wine to enhance the complexity. The amount of liquid in your pot will drop noticeably after an hour. So even if it looks like you have way too many tomatoes at the beginning, it might end up being the perfect amount or not enough later.
Trial and error is the best way to go. Fortunately, unless you burn everything or add way too much seasoning, you can’t really mess this recipe up. It’s easy to taste test and make fixes at the end. Using fresh tomatoes provides incredible depth and complexity to marinara. I highly recommend it!
If you want more vegan recipes, check out my Vegan Broccoli Cheese Soup recipe!