Stop buying marinara sauce at the store!
Sorry to be so drastic (aka demanding) but it is seriously one of the easiest things to make and it is worlds better than any store bought version. Did I also mention you need about three items? You can always add more depending on your taste but a basic sauce needs just three things – tomatoes, basil and garlic. I add a little red pepper flake into mine but you could seriously skip it.
So why make it at home instead of easily picking up a jar at the store? Depending on the brand, store bought sauce can have a lot of sugar in it. This makes it gloppy and heavy. When you make sauce at home, even when you used canned tomatoes instead of fresh, you get a flavor that is richer and more balanced than any store bought version.
I also prefer the texture of homemade sauce. Store bought can be over pureed and homogenous. I like the chunks of tomatoes and to have the color of fresh basil dotted throughout.
Depending on what I’m making the sauce for I may throw it in the food processor for a second or two (like for a marinara dipping sauce). But if I’m using it for spaghetti or lasagna I will just use it as is because as the sauce cooks, the tomatoes will break down in to the perfect texture and consistency.
Preparing the sauce is as easy as cooking garlic in a little olive oil and adding tomatoes. When those tomatoes break down I finish with some salt, pepper and basil. That’s it! When I make my sauce I buy two big cans of peeled, whole San Marzano tomatoes and I grab a pair of kitchen shears and stick them right in the can and give the tomatoes a rough chop. This makes it easier for the tomatoes to break down while cooking.
But don’t underestimate the time it takes for this sauce to cook. It takes about 45 minutes once the tomatoes are added to the pan for them to begin to break down. If you stop this process too early you’ll have a watery sauce.
Two tablespoons olive oil
Four medium cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 (28-ounce) cans whole plum tomatoes, chopped (see note)
6 large basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the garlic is golden-brown, about 3 minutes.
Discard the garlic.
Add the tomatoes and simmer gently, uncovered, adjusting the heat as need, until the tomatoes begin to break down. This will take about 45 minutes.
Stir in the basil.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.