Make a restaurant worthy homemade marinara sauce in just twenty minutes with passata, tomato paste, onion, garlic and basil.
I’ve been on the hunt for the ultimate homemade marinara sauce recipe forever. I wanted to perfect a homemade version of marinara sauce similar to the way I perfected my recipe for homemade pizza sauce.
For the sake of convenience I’ll use store bought marinara sauce from time to time, but I also wanted a recipe in my back pocket to add to easy pasta recipes.
This recipe has been years in the making and along the way, I’ve learned that there are a couple of important elements to making the perfect marinara sauce.
What ingredients do you need for an easy homemade marinara sauce?
The first secret has to do with the depth of flavour. I use a combination of tomato paste and passata to get a rich tomato flavour for this sauce. The passata and tomato paste are simmered for twenty minutes to give this sauce an intense tomato flavour.
What is passata?
Passata is a tomato puree made of strained tomatoes. It’s typically used in Italian and European cooking. It has a more intense and ‘clean’ tomato flavour.
It also comes in tall glass jars which avoids that “tinny” aftertaste often found in canned tomato products.
The next secret to the perfect homemade marinara sauce comes from the balance of acidity and sweetness. Tomatoes are inherently acidic which means that they require sugar and salt to create balance.
Should you add sugar to tomato sauce?
There are many schools of thought when it comes to homemade tomato sauce. I find that marinara sauce needs to be slightly sweeter than your typical tomato sauce, so I stir my sugar in at the end of the cooking process and taste and adjust as necessary.
Always taste your marinara sauce before adding any sugar; sometimes tomatoes can be sweeter than others.
Finally the flavour agents for this sauce are simple; onion and garlic. But not in the way they are typically prepared for tomato sauce.
I was inspired by Marcella Hazan’s method for tomato sauce where she simmers a halved onion in her sauce then discards it at the end. This allows the onion to impart subtle flavour into the sauce without it altering the texture or flavour the same way a finely chopped or diced onion would.
Should I use fresh basil or dried basil?
The final secret that I will share with you today is to stir in fresh basil at the end. Basil is a delicate herb which means it should be stirred in at the end of the cooking process or eaten raw and sprinkled on top as a garnish.
This recipe makes two cups of sauce, but it can easily be doubled to make more.
20 Minute Homemade Marinara Sauce
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 680ml bottle of passata
- 1 onion, halved and peeled
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
- Heat a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and tomato paste, stir and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the tomato paste turns a deep red and starts to caramelize. Add passata, onion, garlic and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Discard onion and garlic. Stir in sugar and basil.
Give my homemade marinara sauce a try and let me know what you think in the comments below.