Some people think sauces should be simmered all day. Some people are just too busy for that. 30 Minute Marinara Sauce takes a few shortcuts and the result tastes like it has been simmering since before the sun came up.
30 MINUTE MARINARA SAUCE
The practice of simmering a sauce all day which has been prepared using fresh tomatoes and basil is foreign to me. That’s why I have created this 30 Minute Marinara Sauce. Growing up, our marinara sauce came from a jar or a can. There were no locally grown tomatoes. Period.
I remember my parents buying “fresh” tomatoes whenever they went out of town for groceries. I say “fresh,” because most of the time they were lined up in a plastic container, wrapped in cellophane, and had the words PRODUCT OF MEXICO printed on the side.
They were never bright red like the tomatoes you see at a farmers’ market. Nope; I remember them well, and they were dark orange. At the time, I thought they tasted great. Now, even during our Canadian winters when farmers’ markets are closed, I’ll pass up tomatoes that are not bright red.
Oh, and the smell is important too. If a tomato doesn’t smell like a tomato, then don’t buy it! I’m one of those shoppers that will smell a tomato, knock on a cantaloupe or watermelon, and gently squeeze avocados, lemons, and limes.
TAKING SHORTCUTS WHEN PREPARING SAUCE
Traditionalists are probably going to send me hate mail. They are the type of people to start their pasta sauce early in the morning and babysit it all day. I don’t hate those people. I applaud their commitment and dedication. For me, it all comes down to time. There’s just not enough of it!
Whenever I make marinara sauce, I always start with canned tomatoes. I always use a lot of onion, fresh garlic, lots of salt and ground black pepper. Traditionalists will use fresh basil, but it’s hard to find that where I live. Besides, I’m not a fan of basil, but I love oregano. So, I use that instead.
Likewise, I’m not a fan of strong tasting olive oil. I always use a light, extra virgin olive oil. But, any olive oil will do just fine. And, lastly, I prefer a bit of heat, so I add in some crushed dried red chili flakes. Those are optional, of course.
NOT ALL CANNED TOMATOES ARE CREATED EQUALLY
I think it’s safe to say that everyone knows the look and taste of a roma tomato, right? You know, those elongated tomatoes that have more flesh and less pulp?
Compared to the roma tomato, San Marzano tomatoes are thinner and more pointed. The flesh is much thicker with fewer seeds, and the taste is stronger, sweeter and less acidic.
I do favour San Marzano tomatoes. But, if you’re looking to save some money, then you might want to consider regular canned tomatoes. Will they work? For sure! I would recommend that you buy whole canned tomatoes. Don’t be tempted to buy diced tomatoes.
MY RULES FOR CANNED STORE-BOUGHT TOMATOES
Canned tomatoes can be found anywhere and they come in so many shapes, sizes, and textures. Here are my steadfast rules to buying canned tomatoes. I apologize if you’ve read this on my blog before, but it’s worth repeating.
First, if you need tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, buy them in a glass jar. You can see what you’re buying. The colour should be bright and vivid; the sauce/tomatoes should look fresh and cohesive. If there are seeds or pieces of tomato skin, move on to another brand.
Second, if you need chopped or diced tomatoes, always buy whole tomatoes. When produce companies can the tomatoes, the best tomatoes are packed in the cans marked “whole.” The blemished, not-so perfect tomatoes, are crushed, chopped, or pureed and sold as such.
I would rather buy canned whole tomatoes (they’re always the same price!) and spend the extra two minutes chopping them myself so that I know I’m getting really good and really ripe tomatoes.
If you have time, make your own canned diced tomatoes. That way, you can be assured that there are no “bad” tomatoes, there will be no skin, and they’re already chopped and ready to go. Plus, canning tomatoes in the summertime, means you lock in that fresh, locally grown, tomato taste.
HOW TO USE MARINARA SAUCE
The uses for this sauce are too numerous to list. Obviously, the first thing we think of is tossed with cooked pasta. But, marinara sauce can also be used in Eggplant Parmesan, or stirred into soups for more flavour and a rich colour. You can also use marinara sauce to simmer meals in until they are cooked through and delicious.
I know lasagna is basically a pasta, but it does use marinara sauce. Try this Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille. It’s delicious! You can use marinara sauce on pizza, on nachos, and even mixed in with your favourite meatloaf recipe!
If you don’t use all of your sauce, wait until it’s fully cooled and then transfer it to a food-safe, freezer-friendly container and freeze it for up to three months. I like to pour the cold sauce into sturdy freezer bags. I push out the air, seal it, write on the bag what’s inside and the date. It certainly does make life easier when trying to put together a meal in a hurry!
30 Minute Marinara Sauce
- 28 ounces whole canned tomatoes
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes (optional)
- In a large skillet with a heavy lid, over medium-high heat, add two tablespoons of the olive oil, the onions, garlic, canned tomatoes and the juice, salt, ground black pepper, oregano, and dried red chilies, if using. Stir to combine.
- Place the lid on the skillet and cook for 10 minutes.
- Carefully remove the lid (there might be splattering) and stir the sauce. Use a potato masher or a fork to break up the tomatoes. Stir once more and place the lid back on the skillet.
- Cook for 5 minutes.
- Carefully remove the lid once again and stir to combine.
- Once again, place the lid back on the skillet and cook for 5 more minutes.
- Turn off the heat. Remove lid and stir sauce. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.
- Pour in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and stir into hot sauce. Serve immediately.