I’ve used this (amateur cook level) Marinara sauce for a variety of pasta dishes from your regular Bolognaise to Tomato cream. It’s the one thing I really know how to cook without following a recipe. I do use a jar of Prego Marinara sauce when I’m in a pinch. But even with the ready-made sauce, I would still tweak it further with herbs, salt, pepper, and sugar. I know I add sugar in my sauce to help balance out the tanginess of tomatoes.
I do feel that Marinara sauce has to be tweaked according to the type of dish your making. Some dishes require a more loose sauce while others work better with a thicker sauce. I added my notes on what you could do differently for varying dishes with Marinara sauce.
- 4-5 Fresh Ripe Tomatoes / 1 can of Crushed Tomatoes
- 2 tbsp Tomato Puree
- 3 cloves Garlic, crushed
- 1 medium-sized Onion, diced
- 1-2 Bay Leaves
- ¼ tsp Dried Oregano
- ½ tsp Dried Basil / 4-6 Basil Leaves
- 1 tsp Salt
- 2-3 tsp Sugar
- ¼ tsp Black Pepper
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- ¼ tsp Onion Powder (optional)
- If you’re using fresh tomatoes, you can steam the tomatoes till it’s soft and the skin will come off easily. Or slice them into thick slices and directly add them to the pot.
- In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, add the oil. Cook your onions till soft before you saute the garlic till fragrant.
- Add in the tomato puree and bay leaves. The tomato puree will deepen the flavor and color of the sauce.
- When it’s slightly fragrant, add the chunks of tomato. You’ll notice the juices of the tomatoes start to fill the pot. Once your tomatoes are soft, you can use your wooden spatula to lightly mash it.
- Stir in the basil, and oregano. Let the sauce simmer slightly over low heat.
- When the sauce has thickened, add in salt, sugar, and pepper. You can adjust the salt and sugar levels to your own liking. Don’t be afraid to add in more sugar to counter the tanginess of the tomato flavor.
- Once you’re happy with the taste, use an immersion blender to smoothen the sauce. I prefer to go easy on the blending so I still get chunks of tomato. If you’re using a blender, you can divide your sauce in half to maintain the chunkiness of the sauce.
- Please adjust the amount of salt and sugar to your own liking. I never liked giving salt and sugar proportions because I believe every cook has a different palate.
- For pasta dishes, you could add some ½ – ¼ tsp of red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, and paprika to make it a little spicy, especially for Asian palates. Some even add a touch of Sriracha. You could add also ½ cup of cream to your sauce to make a nice Tomato Cream pasta. If you’re immediately using this for a pasta dish, dial back on the salt and add the salted pasta water.
- For pizza, use an immersion blender to get rid of the tomato chunks and smooth out the sauce. I don’t recommend using a food processor because you won’t get that smoothness you’d really want. Also, you can allow it to bake in the oven for 10-15 mins at 175°C to remove any moisture.
- For lasagna, do not bake the sauce since you’ll be baking your lasagna later on.
- For Mediterranean dishes like mousaka, I recommend using more bay leaves and add in ⅛ – ¼ tsp of cinnamon and allspice. Go easy on the allspice to avoid bitterness.