Quick Classic Marinara Sauce

The long-simmered flavor reminiscent of your grandmother's classic marinara sauce can be yours in short order thanks to a brief list of key ingredients and one easy method!

The long-simmered flavor reminiscent of your grandmother’s classic marinara sauce can be yours in short order thanks to a brief list of key ingredients and one easy method!

 

 

A great tasting marinara sauce is often associated with a long simmer on the stovetop. Many sauce recipes also require a lengthy list of ingredients to achieve the desired consistency, texture and depth of flavor.

It is possible, though, to achieve a sauce worthy of an experienced Italian grandmother in short order with few ingredients?

For his 13thbirthday last spring, my friend’s son requested a cooking class. She asked if I could show him how to create something simple yet classic, like a spaghetti dinner.

We decided on my tried-and-true baked meatball recipe and secret ingredient garlic bread. A simple marinara sauce would complete the menu.

The long-simmered flavor reminiscent of your grandmother's classic marinara sauce can be yours in short order thanks to a brief list of key ingredients and one easy method!

Our 2-hour class didn’t afford us the luxury of a long, slow simmer; we needed a relatively quick recipe. Similarly, vine-ripened tomatoes were months away, so proper canned tomatoes were in order.

We often hear that San Marzano tomatoes are the gold standard of sauce tomatoes. So what’s all the buzz about-and is it true?

San Marzanos are a variety of plum tomato that grow in the rich volcanic soil of Italy’s Sarno River valley, near Mount Vesuvius. The resulting taste is stronger, sweeter and less acidic than other tomatoes.

San Marzanos are also meatier than Romas and other plum tomatoes and have fewer seeds, making them especially well suited for sauce. From a visual perspective, they are thinner and more pointed than the typical plum tomato.

The long-simmered flavor reminiscent of your grandmother's classic marinara sauce can be yours in short order thanks to a brief list of key ingredients and one easy method!

 

So can I substitute?

To better answer this question, I made the following speedy yet complex tasting sauce with tomatoes that were labeled as San Marzano-style but were not the real deal. There are quite a few brands that mention San Marzano on the label, so it’s important to look at the ingredient list. (More on that soon.)

Oftentimes, these knockoffs, if you will, are not the same quality and tend to be packed in juice instead of the thicker puree that we need for this recipe. To see how they worked, however, I proceeded with the recipe using the tomatoes with their juices (as opposed to the puree), and the outcome was truly not as good.

“Why,” you may be wondering?

I had purchased a high quality brand, and the contents of the jar included quite a few tomato skins as well as blemishes on many of the tomatoes. Because the tomatoes were packed in juice rather than puree, I had to cook the sauce down much longer and the final texture was still not as velvety.

Additionally, because of the longer time needed to cook the sauce, the yield was just over 20 ounces, or almost a cup less. In the end, I pureed the sauce with my immersion blender because the tomatoes just didn’t break down as well as the true San Marzano tomatoes.

San Marzano tomatoes for Quick Classic Marinara Sauce

As a helpful guide, I took a pictures of the can ⇧⇩ You need not buy this particular brand, although I can vouch for it; this is simply what I find at a nearby Giant. Aside from the San Marzano tomato, the key is to look at the ingredient list and see that the tomatoes are packed in puree, not water or juice. A good quality tomato that is not a San Marzano but is packed in puree would be my second choice.

The right canned tomatoes allow for incredible sauce in short order any time of year. Chances are good you'll appreciate the convenience and the flavor!

 

Peter and I had fun mixing, rolling and baking a big batch of meatballs, and our sauce cooked down to a velvety perfection. He declared it worthy of a special meal, so we readied the garlic bread and packaged everything for Peter to transport home.

The long-simmered flavor reminiscent of your grandmother's classic marinara sauce can be yours in short order thanks to a brief list of key ingredients and one easy method!

I sent Peter away with a box of spaghetti so that he could serve a hot meal to his mom later than evening. Photos followed soon after, and happily, the meal was declared a complete success!

Fan favorite baked meatballs!

In case you’d like to try the meatballs that Peter and I made, Jen’s Incredible Baked Meatballs have long been a favorite with family, friends and readers. (Hundreds of comments on the recipe post offer glowing reviews and I have my friend, Jen, to thank for the original inspiration!)

If you try, I’d love to know what you think!

The long-simmered flavor reminiscent of your grandmother's classic marinara sauce can be yours in short order thanks to a brief list of key ingredients and one easy method!

The right canned tomatoes allow for incredible sauce in short order any time of year. Chances are good you’ll appreciate the convenience and the flavor!

 

Quick Classic Marinara Sauce 
Yield: approximately 28 ounces (3-1/2 cups)
The long-simmered flavor reminiscent of your grandmother's classic marinara sauce can be yours in short order thanks to a brief list of key ingredients and the following easy method!
Ingredients
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes in puree, certified D.O.P. if possible*
  • ¼ cup (56 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
  • A pinch (1/16 teaspoon) cayenne pepper or 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 level teaspoon kosher salt (use 3/4 teaspoon if using table salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Instructions
  1. Pour the tomatoes into a large bowl and crush with your hands. Pour 1 cup water into the can and slosh it around to get all the tomato juices.  Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil (you may use a deep pot, but the sauce will require 5-10 extra minutes of cooking time).  When the oil is hot, add the garlic.
  3. As soon as garlic is sizzling (don’t let it brown), carefully add the tomatoes (be careful–they may splatter), followed by the reserved tomato water.  Add the cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes, oregano and salt. Stir.
  4. Simmer the sauce, uncovered, until thickened and the oil on the surface is a deep orange, about 15-20 minutes.
Notes

*Good quality whole tomatoes are key for this simple sauce.  I use Cento San Marzano tomatoes.  The primary ingredients should be San Marzano tomatoes from Italy and San Marzano puree (not juice or water), and the salt content should be low.  The pictured can of Cento tomatoes has just 20mg per serving.

If you have fresh basil on hand, you can add one sprig to the sauce as it comes to a simmer.  Then remove and discard it at the end of cooking time.

Tip: The final sauce will be more or less smooth with some texture.  Towards the end of cooking time, you can easily squish any remaining chunks of tomato or garlic against the side of the pan with the back of a wooden spoon.

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

The flavorful spread for Parmesan Garlic Bread can be mixed well in advance and stored in the refrigerator. The crunchy bread offers a delightful side for your favorite pasta dishes as well as a variety of soups and salads or an alternative to a starchy side like rice and potatoes.

Parmesan Garlic Bread-One special ingredient makes for golden brown garlic bread that's destined to become a favorite. Can be used on a variety of breads, too!

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Comments

  1. Brian

    I made the Quick Classic Marinara Sauce and Jen’s Incredible Baked Meatballs as part of a total Italian dinner on Sunday. I started the afternoon making Tiramisu for dessert, then made the main course, and added my own favorite garlic bread recipe (made with fresh basil and parsley in additions to lots of fresh garlic). The only changes I made were to add more garlic to the sauce and meatballs (we love garlic), and I ended up simmering the sauce about 30 minutes to thicken it to my liking. Everything was a big success. Whenever we try a new recipe, my wife and I decide if it’s a “keeper,” and we certainly agreed that both of these are! Thank you for providing them.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Brian, Your total Italian meal sounds fantastic and I’m thrilled that the baked meatballs and this sauce were a successful part of it. Thank you for taking a moment to let me know!

      Reply