I have a confession to make. I used to eat jarred marinara sauce. No really. When I was a freshman in college and living in the dorms, I would fill up a shallow bowl of water, microwave some spaghetti in the water, and then carefully drain it over the bathroom sink (don’t want to use any dropped noodles), and then mix in some marinara from a jar I kept in my tiny tiny dorm fridge. That was what I would eat when I got sick of endless meals from the salad bar/sandwich bar/french fries-dipped-in-ranch-dressing (you know you would eat that too). But those shameful days are behind me now.
For just a few dollars more than 1 jar of (semi-decent) marinara, you can make a large pot of your very own, much tastier marinara. It freezes beautifully. This recipe made enough for me to both freeze 3 quart-sized ziploc bags, each with about 2 cups of sauce, plus make spaghetti and meatballs for dinner with the rest of the sauce. It’s also great to use on homemade pizzas too (mmmmm). This sauce recipe is easily adaptable; in fact, I never measured my ingredients until now, for this post. Also, as I dumped the “oregano” into the pot, I thought to myself, “Weird, this oregano smells like tarragon!” Then I looked at the herb bottle and said out loud, “Ohhh….right.” But tarragon didn’t ruin it and added a little extra sweetness, so happy accident?
2 medium sized onions, roughly chopped (I normally use yellow, but red was what I had on hand today)
2-ish tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 small (or 1 medium) sized carrots, roughly chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
3 (28 oz) cans of diced tomatoes (you can see from my eclectic mix that I buy whatever brand is on sale, plus I only had 2 28 oz cans and 1 14.5 oz can on hand today)
1 tsp Kosher salt- start with this and then add more to taste later
1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1 tsp or so dried)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
Optional fresh basil, to add after the sauce has finished cooking
pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan, and then add the onions, carrots and garlic. Saute them until soft, 10-15 minutes. Then the next step is optional; I like a relatively smooth sauce, so I pureed the cooked vegetables in my blender, along with 1 (28 oz) can of the tomatoes. If you do this, remember to remove the little thingy on the blender lid (so the hot liquid doesn’t expand and blow up all over the kitchen) and cover the top with a dish towel to prevent splatter- I personally just want to eat my marinara, not wear it.
Add the pureed vegetables back to the saucepan, then add the herbs (except for the optional fresh basil that you want to add at the end so it has the most basil-y flavor), salt, and a little freshly ground black pepper.
Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat, then put a lid on it and turn down the heat to low. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, until thickened (I let mine cook for 2 hours while I was doing other stuff, and it was even better). Cool down the sauce a little if you’re going to freeze some of it in ziploc bags, then congratulate yourself for not needing to buy jarred sauce any more!