Mama’s Marinara


1 (28 oz) can peeled Italian plum tomatoes, well crushed by hand, shoulders removed
2 T good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup of finely chopped carrots
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 t ground black pepper
1/8 t salt
8 large basil leaves, rinsed, dried, and torn in half

Optional: hot red pepper flakes or a little oil from the Calabrian chile jar. Be judicious. You can always add more later but you can’t take it out!

Spoon Mage™ Note:

Get a good brand of tomatoes. My preference is Cento or DeLallo. Both brands work well to cook up a wonderful marinara.

Keep the fragrant basil leaves away from the cats. I suggest putting the leaves in the microwave oven as I’ve observed my cats open cabinet doors when something smells pretty good in there. Basil is non-toxic to them, but I don’t want to have to go back outside to pick more!


Crush the tomatoes, by hand, into a medium sized bowl. Run the tomatoes through your fist over and over until there is little left to crush. Discard any shoulders – often yellow in color and harder than the rest of the tomato. Set aside.

Chop onion and carrots, place in a bowl. Chop the garlic and place in a small bowl.

Measure the salt and black pepper, pour on top of the waiting tomatoes. Ps – if you are a salter, you will need more salt, but wait until it cooks a bit before tasting and deciding how much more to add.

Rinse and dry the basil leaves.

In a 3-quart pot set over medium heat, pour in the olive oil.

Wait for the oil to shimmer. Then add the onion and carrot. Stir until the onion softens.

Add the garlic and stir frequently until you notice that the garlic browns a bit. Hang by the stove, this won’t take but a few minutes.

Pour the tomato mixture into the pot. Bring to a goodly simmer, leave it uncovered, and let it go with infrequent stirring for 15 minutes. Salty people need to test after 10 minutes so that any added salt has time to heat up with the rest.

After 15 minutes of simmer, add the basil leaves, stir well. Cover the pot with a tilted lid – this allows the steam to escape so the sauce doesn’t turn watery. Turn off the burner and let the pot sit there undisturbed.

After 15 minutes of sitting, give it a taste.

If you think it needs more garlic, add a good pinch of dried garlic. It is fine to mix dried spices with fresh. The fresh flavor gets a bit of a supportive note from the dry.

If it needs more basil (sometimes if the leaves are old they lose flavor), add dried basil.

If you’d like it just a little spicier (not too much, ok?), add your choice of hot red pepper flakes or chile oil.

Stir well. Keep the lid on, tilted.

The sauce is now ready to use but you can let it sit a few hours, which gives all the wonderful flavors a bit more time to get to know one another.

Tonight, I’ll use some of the sauce to make a Chicken Marinara (will post that recipe later) and the rest of the sauce will coat angel hair spaghetti.

When it is just the two of us, I measure 2 ounces for the spaghetti. It will suit the dish just right without overloading the plate or stomach. Mama would be so proud of you for eating sensible portions.


One thought on “Mama’s Marinara

  1. Pingback: Chicken in Marinara with Mushrooms | Mindful Palate

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