Mario Unclogged: Marinara Sauce Recipe

My take on marinara sauce (actually the sauce of the seafarers) is a basic tomato sauce. In some places it just means garlic oil and parsley, and in others it is as elaborate as tomatoes, peppers, and lots of herbs.

I use it as a building block in lots of dishes as well as just a simple quick pasta sauce that can be transformed in a thousand ways. If you add chile flakes, you have arrabbiata; if you add anchovies, chile flakes, olives, and capers, you have puttanescaboth only for pasta and so on and so forth.

I have seen places in the States serve fish or meat with the preceding two Italian phrases and am embarrassed for the chefs who have not traveled to Italy. Anyway, this is my recipe, and it is as simple as opening a can. The key here is San Marzano tomatoes from Italynot from Chile and not from California.

Basic Tomato Sauce


  • 6 tablespoons virgin olive oil
  • 1 Spanish onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
  • 2 28-ounce cans of tomatoes, crushed by hand and mixed well with their juices
  • Salt, to taste


  1. Place oil into a sauce pan with onions and garlic, and cook over medium heat until translucent but not brown (about 10 minutes). Add the thyme and carrot; cook 5 minutes more. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to just bubbling, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.

  2. Season with salt to taste. Serve immediately or set aside for further use. The sauce may be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 6 months.