The difference between marinara sauce and tomato sauce is this: Marinara is a quick sauce, seasoned only with garlic, pepper, and, if you like, basil or oregano. The pieces of tomato are left chunky and the texture of the finished sauce is fairly loose. Tomato sauce, on the other hand, is a more complex affair, starting with puréed tomatoes and seasoned with onion, carrot, celery, and bay leaf, and left to simmer until thickened and rich in flavor.
Make this sauce with fresh tomatoes only when the juiciest, most flavorful ripe tomatoes are available. (Increase the amount of olive oil a little if you make the sauce with fresh tomatoes.) Otherwise, canned plum tomatoes make a delicious marinara sauce.
- Yield:about 1 quart, enough to dress 6 servings of pasta
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 pounds ripe fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded, or one 35 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), seeded and lightly crushed, with their liquid
- Crushed red pepper
- 10 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
Heat the oil in a 2- to 3-quart nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Whack the garlic with the flat side of a knife, add it to the oil, and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
Carefully slide tomatoes and their liquid into the oil. Bring to a boil, and season lightly with salt and crushed red pepper. Lower the heat so sauce is at a lively simmer, and cook, breaking up tomatoes with a whisk or spoon, until sauce is chunky and thick, about 20 minutes.
Stir in the basil about 5 minutes before sauce is finished. Taste sauce, and season with salt and red pepper if necessary.