The Biggest Mistake You're Probably Making With Marinara Sauce

Is there anything more beautiful than a fresh, red marinara sauce full of rich flavor? The ubiquitous Italian sauce is applied to everything from pizza dough to pasta and used as a dipping sauce for mozzarella sticks. The easiest option may be to grab one of the dozens of jarred pasta sauces at the grocery store to heat up and use in your home cooking, but then you are missing out on lots of deliciousness and freshness. 

A homemade marinara sauce is easy to make and very rewarding, according to The New York Times, which shares a basic classic marinara recipe inspired by how the sauce is made in southern Italy. The recipe — created by chef Lidia Bastianich — calls for canned whole San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, garlic cloves, fresh basil, salt, and red pepper flakes. Since classic marinara sauce is only comprised of a few ingredients, it's crucial that all of the ingredients are high quality. Bastianich suggests using D.O.P San Marzano tomatoes if possible, which means "Protected Designation of Origin," and certifies that the tomatoes are truly from the San Marzano strain

Taste of Home's marinara sauce recipe also calls for canned San Marzano tomatoes because they do not contain as much water or moisture as other varieties and have a slightly acidic flavor. Once you have all of your ingredients squared away and you're ready to start cooking, you're not home free yet, because you have to avoid this common cooking pitfall. 

Marinara sauce doesn't take all day

When we think of Sunday gravy at grandma's house, we probably envision a pot that has been bubbling all day long. We all love grandma's sauce, but if it was simmering all day, it was most likely not a marinara sauce. While it may be tempting to let the tomatoes and other ingredients of a marinara sauce simmer for a while to make sure the flavors are enhanced, that's not the right approach, per The Spruce Eats. The tomatoes should be cooked no more than 20 minutes unlike other pasta sauces like meat ragu. The goal is to maintain the texture of the tomatoes and to make sure the flavor still has a freshness and lightness to it.

When cooking the marinara sauce, use a fast simmer to achieve some reduction of the sauce (via Bon Appétit). A lid should also be used to cover a part of the pot to help keep in moisture. If the sauce simmers for too long and too much moisture is lost, you will end up with a dry sauce. Whether your marinara is the star of the meal or a side, with a few simple ingredients and a quick simmer, you will have a delicious sauce to enjoy.