Basic Marinara

This is a ridiculously easy recipe that the basis of my go weeknight dinners. I haven't bought pasta sauce in a jar since I mastered this one.


  • 1 28oz. can of crushed or whole plum tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 large shallot or half a small yellow onion
  • 1 TBspn dried 3 TBspn of fresh basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tspn crushed red pepper flakes (add more if you like it spicy)
  • 1/2 Tspn sugar
  • salt to taste


  1. Peel and finely chop the garlic and onion/shallot.
  2. If you are using whole plum tomatoes, drain and roughly chop them into chunks. You can even just crush them with your hands, it’s more fun.
  3. Heat 2-3 TBspns of olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium-high heat. After a couple of minutes, when the oil is hot, add the garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes and sauté for 2-3 minutes, making sure not to let the garlic get brown. This will infuse the oil with a great garlicky, spicy flavor.
  4. Add the tomatoes and sprinkle the sugar over the top. Stir to combine. Note: The sugar isn’t a key ingredient, but it helps to balance out the acidity of the canned tomatoes. You can leave it out if you want.
  5. Add the bay leaf and basil, stirring to combine, and then bring to a simmer.
  6. Ideally you want to let it simmer for 45 minutes to an hour so that all of the flavors really get a chance to combine. But, if you are in a real hurry 20—30 minutes will get the job done. Taste and season with salt if needed, but usually the salt from the canned tomatoes will be plenty.

Serving Tips

This stuff works as a sauce for any kind of pasta, or maybe over some meatballs. Just cook your favorite dried pasta according the box directions, drain and cover with the sauce. Finish it with some fresh grated hard cheese, a simple salad on the side, and glass of good red wine. I sometimes double or triple the recipe and then freeze the leftovers in individual servings to use later