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.
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.
Recently 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 sauce was fantastic and 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. Just last week I think nailed the right combination of ingredients that make a mouth-watering, savory-sweet, delicious sauce.
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.
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).
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.
Have a healthy day!
Simple & Sweet Marinara Sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion finely diced
- 5 cloves fresh garlic minced (not from a jar)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (or the same amount left from browning meat for sauce)
- ½ cup decent red wine (No cooking wine here! I buy the single bottles or the box wine for cooking so it never goes bad if you don't need a lot. Try using a cabernet sauvignon, merlot or shiraz for slight variations in flavor.)
- 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 (optional)
- Heat a large 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.
- 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 by half by cooking for about 2-4 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.