Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Basic Marinara Sauce | April 25, 2008

I love throwing together a pot of pasta and sauce–it’s filling, it’s tasty, and it’s easy to make when there’s nothing else I feel like cooking. However, while this simple staple certainly gets the job done, it always makes me feel a little bit hollow. After all, tossing boxed pasta into a pot of boiling water certainly isn’t rocket science, and the hardest part about making the sauce is opening the jar.

I’m not ready to make homemade pasta–yet–so I decided last night to tackle the sauce. Again, I adapted a recipe from Cooking Light magazine, and it turned out really well. There’s not a lot to say about it other than that it’s a great base for doing other things–for example, it will work perfectly with my eggplant parmesan, and it would taste even better over pasta with some ground beef or sausage and fresh basil added at the end.

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    3 medium chopped yellow onion
    1 tablespoon sugar
    6 cloves minced garlic
    2 teaspoons salt
    2 teaspoons dried basil
    1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
    2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    2 cups chicken broth
    3 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sugar and next 7 ingredients (through fennel seeds); cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in vinegar; cook 30 seconds. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 55 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.

There’s no photo, since, hey, it’s marinara sauce, and you know what that looks like. Do you make YOUR own pasta sauce? What sets it apart from the pack?



  1. What makes a great tomato sauce is TASTING it. A recipe can serve as a general outline, but telling someone they should add 1 Tbsp sugar to a marinara is CRAZY. You should add however much sugar your tomatoes require. Sweeter tomatoes = less sugar. Same way with the salt.

    What’s your favorite brand of canned tomatoes? I try to use Muir Glen when possible, and I think they add a lot to a pasta sauce.

    I like the fennel seeds in the recipe you posted, though the addition of chicken broth is a bit odd.

    Comment by Barzelay — May 1, 2008 @ 4:49 pm

  2. I agree that blindly following a recipe isn’t the best method. Usually, I’ll start with a recipe, taste it, figure out what (if anything) to add or subtract or change, and then move on from there. I find that this method has actually helped me to be more creative (by exposing me to flavor combinations that I might not have thought of on my own).

    I believe I used Muir Glen tomatoes–I actually started using that brand because it was the only one that carried a fire-roasted canned tomato product (which I needed for a recipe way back when).

    I was skeptical about the fennel seeds, but they added some complexity to the sauce. I feel like the chicken stock (I actually didn’t use broth, as I already had an open package of stock on hand) IS extraneous, but maybe it added a little bit of meaty depth and countered the acidity?

    Comment by bettyjoan — May 1, 2008 @ 5:01 pm

  3. […] is a meaty, hearty sauce with TONS of flavor.  It’s richer and less acidic than my usual marinara sauce, but if you’re in the mood for something really soul-satisfying, it definitely fits the […]

    Pingback by Recipe: Classic Bolognese « Trouble With Toast — March 28, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

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