This Easy Marinara Sauce Recipe is based on one my friend Heather shared with me. I think everyone has a friend like Heather, one who does everything beautifully. So when she told me she had an easy marinara sauce recipe to share, I knew it was going to be good.
This past week has been a doozy around my home. My auto-immune disorder and arthritis decided to flare at the same time, and I felt like I’d been run over by a bus. Looking back, I can see the warning signs now. I’m still learning to recognize them, though, and I didn’t slow down early enough. The result was three days of basically not moving due to the pain. Meanwhile, I fell behind on everything.
So when I started feeling better over the weekend, I realized my teenager had polished off all of the leftovers in the fridge. If we were going to have lunch, I’d need to cook something. That’s when I remembered Heather’s easy marinara sauce recipe and, since I had all of the ingredients, decided to give it a try.
I’d been told this was an easy, 10-minute recipe perfect for busy nights and was thrilled to learn that was true. I started boiling the water for pasta the same time I began prepping ingredients for this sauce, and wound up waiting for the pasta because the sauce is that easy to make!
To make mincing garlic easier, I sprinkled a pinch of Kosher salt over the cloves first. This keeps the garlic from sticking to the knife blade as you work. It makes it easier to slide the minced garlic onto your blade when you’re ready to transfer it to the pan, too.
Since I’m growing basil indoors over the winter, I decided to use fresh leaves instead of dried, though I did stick with Heather’s suggestion of adding dried oregano. One thing about using fresh herbs: you want to add them at the end, so the flavors stay bright. If you’re using dried herbs, though, add them early in the cooking process.
Next, I snipped about eight large basil leaves in a small ramekin with the tips of my kitchen scissors. I find this so much easier than trying to chop fresh herbs. It works great with just about every fresh herb besides lemongrass. That stuff needs to be whacked with the side of a knife to pulverize it a bit, then sliced. But for this recipe, scissors work wonderfully.
Heat a skillet on medium-high while you’re prepping the garlic then swirl a tablespoon or two of extra-virgin olive oil in it. When the oil has warmed, add the garlic and cook until it’s fragrant — about 1 minute — then stir in the rest of the herbs and spices.
While that cooks a minute, quickly drain the diced tomatoes into a bowl. Don’t discard the tomato liquid, though; you may want to add it to thin the sauce, depending on how you’re serving it. I like a thick sauce over pasta, so I saved the liquid to make a Bloody Mary later this week. (Don’t judge.)
Stir the drained tomatoes into the skillet and lower the heat to medium. Continue simmering the tomato mixture, using the edge of your spatula to help break up the tomatoes. Add the tomato juice back in as needed to keep the sauce simmering and not burning.
After 7 minutes or so of simmering the sauce is ready. By this point, the tomatoes should be broken down nicely, and the flavors you’ve added so far have melded together. Remove the skillet from the heat and sprinkle with any fresh herbs you’re using.
Easy Marinara Sauce Recipe
Serves: 3.5 cups
- 2 (14.5 oz.) cans of petite diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1teaspoon dried basil OR 2½ tsp. fresh basil, minced (about 8 leaves)
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Drain the tomatoes, reserving liquid.
- Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add dried spices, including pepper flakes, to skillet.
- Add tomatoes and reduce heat to medium. Stir well.
- While tomatoes simmer, use the edge of your spatula to break them up.
- Continue cooking 5 to 7 minutes, adding reserved tomato liquid if needed to thin sauce.
- Remove from heat and stir in fresh herbs. if using.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
I draped the sauce over spaghetti and sprinkled it with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese. Heather says she likes to ramp up the red pepper flakes and add shrimp, which sounds delicious to me! Michaell at Foodscape has some fantastic ideas for ways to use marinara sauce. Since this easy marinara sauce freezes well, I have a feeling I’ll make extra this week so I can try them!
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