If you like your marinara on the sweet side, then this simple recipe is for you. Red wine, lots of fresh basil and oregano, and a little brown sugar create a delicious homemade sauce.Jump to Recipe
This Sauce Has a Story
Over the past few years I've been on a secret quest to develop to my own "family" recipe for marinara. I have nothing against an easy jar sauce but I love the idea and taste of sauce that's been simmering on the stove all day. I've tried a lot of different combinations and even written some of them down. But finding something that both me and my husband think is better than the jar stuff has been tricky.
Several years ago I had a student at UNF pass on their grandmother's sauce recipe to me. I'm not sure what her name is or what her story is, but her marinara sauce was a little sweet, really fantastic and definitely easy.
Since then I've been playing with the recipe for a couple of months to come up with my own version that the Braddocks like. I think this recipe nails the right combination of ingredients that make a mouth-watering, simple and sweet marinara sauce.
This Simple and Sweet Marinara uses some very simple ingredients.
- Olive Oil - You can use your favorite type. I like extra virgin for this recipe.
- Yellow Onion - I personally prefer the flavor of yellow onion but you can use any type.
- Garlic - Fresh cloves are ideal.
The Secret Ingredient Is...
I've discovered the key to a great marinara sauce is time. The more time the better. My last batch simmered for about 4 hours. I have also thrown all the ingredients (after sautéing aromatics and browning meat) in a slow cooker and left it on low all day. This is a great option if you are not going to be home.
Can you Make a Double Batch?
Make a double batch of this awesome sauce and freeze it to make another meal quick and easy in the future. I've now used this on spaghetti and in homemade ziti. The touch of brown sugar and lots of fresh basil add a wonderful faint sweetness that balances really well with the depth of the red wine (a must use ingredient).
Are Canned Tomatoes Healthy?
Don't forget that canned tomato products offer great nutritional value! The antioxidant lycopene has been found to be more readily available to our bodies in processed tomato products than in fresh. One study also found that a diet rich in tomato paste can even help protect your skin from sun burn. So cool! This doesn't mean you should stop eating delicious, fresh tomatoes, but it means that tomatoes are one canned vegetable that offer amazing health benefits.
Simple and Sweet Marinara Sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
- 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- ½ cup dry red wine, (like merlot, cabernet, or malbec)
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 6 oz can tomato paste
- 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (use less for less sweetness if that's not your thing)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- ¼ cup fresh basil, finely chopped (add more if desired)
- ¼ cup fresh oregano, finely chopped (add more if desired)
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped (add more if desired)
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian herb blend
- ½ pound ground meat of choice, cooked and drained (optional or use more if desired)
- Heat a medium pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil.
- Add onions and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, or until onions are soft.
- Pour in red wine and deglaze the pan, carefully scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Allow the wine to reduce in volume in half by cooking for about 4-5 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs. Then add the dried herbs by rubbing them between your fingers before sprinkling in to the pot (this releases their flavors and oils). Stir to combine.
- Reduce temperature to low or simmer. Add cooked, ground meat into sauce if using. Cook for a minimum of 1 ½ hours and as long as 8 hours.
- If including meat in your sauce, cook that first in the pot over medium heat. Remove the cooked meat and use the remaining fat to saute the onions and garlic. Add the olive oil if needed.
- You can certainly make this sauce in less time by reducing the simmer time to just 30 minutes. I think it tastes better the longer it simmers, but it's still very tasty.
- Red wine recommendations - Buy wine you would actually drink, not cooking wine. I suggest buying single serving wine bottles or boxed wine if you are not a wine drinker and don't want to waste a whole bottle.