What is marinara?

Seems like a simple question, but the answer is found on the taste buds and in the memories of families throughout hundreds of years of Italian tradition. Whether you use it over pasta or as a dip for almost any fried food, a good marinara sauce is staple that belongs in every home cook’s wheelhouse.

This recipe is one that has evolved over several years through trial and error. It can easily be transformed from a marinara into almost any other tomato-based sauce — use it for vodka sauce, meat sauce, etc.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium sized yellow onion chopped (~2cups)
  • 3 large cloves of garlic minced (~2tsp)
  • 1 large carrot peeled and grated
  • 1 celery grated, leaves removed
  • ½ cup of red wine
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste


Heat olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 8-10 minutes until translucent. Add carrot, celery, and garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Add the wine and deglaze on high heat scraping up brown bits until the liquid has evaporated – about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Other options are to add a pinch of cinnamon for an unexpected, deeply flavorful, twist, add a pinch of red pepper flakes for some heat, or add a teaspoon of sugar to mellow out the acidity of the tomatoes (the grated carrot does this naturally, but if you want more sweetness, this will help). This sauce freezes very well, so it can be made in large batches and kept for later meals.