Recipe Box

Marinara Sauce

A classic marinara sauce made with approval from my wife’s Sicilian family. Savory and aromatic with sweetness to balance out the acidity of the natural tomatoes.

Chef Ryan Callahan
Author of Cooking for Chemo...and After! and Cooking for Kids with Cancer


A classic marinara sauce made with approval from my wife’s Sicilian family. Savory and aromatic with sweetness to balance out the acidity of the natural tomatoes.

Tasting Guidelines:

  • Taste is savory, sweet, and aromatic.
  • Weight is light.
  • Texture is soft.
  • Best categorized as Italian.


  • 2 large cans tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

Flavor Balancers:

  • kosher salt to taste
  • 2 c. Chianti (red wine)
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper or 2 firm shakes of red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c. sugar


  • 2 tbsp. garlic, mince
  • 1/2 tbsp. dried oregano
  • fresh basil (optional and added at the end)

Recipe Directions:

Take a 2 qt. sauce pan and bring to medium heat. Saute the garlic in the olive oil until lightly brown. Immediately add oregano, red pepper, and red wine to stop the garlic from processing further. Allow wine to reduce for 10 minutes. Add salt, black pepper, red wine vinegar, and tomatoes. Stir well.

Allow to simmer over medium heat uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour. Stir frequently to avoid burning. After 45 minutes, take a whisk and using a whisking/mashing motion break down the tomatoes until it begins to look more like marinara sauce.

As you break down the tomato chunks, they will mix with the tomato juice and will naturally thicken the sauce. Add sugar and allow to simmer 15 more minutes.

Next, begin the final seasoning process. Add more salt, sugar, and black pepper as necessary. If sauce is acidic and makes the back of your tongue or mouth feel dry, add sugar in small increments. Stir the sauce thoroughly to melt the sugar into the sauce.

For a rustic or home-style marinara, whisking should be sufficient to attain the desired consistency. If a more commercial-looking sauce is desired, blend the diced tomatoes in a blender before adding them to the pot.

Chef Tips:

You never want your marinara to be bright red. Any marinara sauce that is bright red has not been cooked for long enough for the truly savory aspects of the tomatoes to be released. Therefore, you look for a deeper red similar to a burgundy to tell that the sauce is truly finished.

Never ever ever ever cook your marinara sauce over high heat! Plain and simple, you will burn it! Slow and low is the tempo. It is better to slowly prepare your marinara than to burn it.

You also need to make certain that you have a nice, thick-bottomed pot. A thin pot will absolutely burn the sauce before the top of your sauce even gets warm.

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Last modified: March 9, 2018

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