This rustic marinara—calling for only six ingredients—is proof of how little is needed to deliver satisfying flavor. This, my third attempt at a homemade marinara, marries the fresh, herbaceous taste of the first—a more traditional slow-cooked fresh tomato recipe—with the convenience of the second, a rudimentary attempt using canned crushed tomatoes. Switching to whole peeled tomatoes was the key to keeping the sweetness of fresh tomatoes that is sometimes lost in canned varieties. Some cooks sweeten their sauce to balance the tomatoes’ acidity, but I don’t find this hack necessary. Instead, I select brands of canned tomatoes that lack citric acid, which is added to mimic a fresh tomato’s natural acidity.
1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) olive oil
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) fresh garlic, peeled and minced—about 5 medium cloves
28 ounces canned whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 ounce fresh basil—about 1/4 cup packed leaves
large (12-inch) skillet
kitchen scale [optional]
1. Combine oil and minced fresh garlic in skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté garlic until it is aromatic and golden—about 2 minutes.
2. Pour canned tomatoes into skillet, then season with salt and red pepper. Use cooking spoon to split and mash tomatoes into small chunks, then stir until seasoned tomatoes come to a boil—about 3 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens—about 25 minutes.
4. Rinse basil thoroughly, chop finely, then stir into sauce.
NOTES & TIPS
• If you’re the type that likes to add a splash of water into the empty can to collect the last bits of tomato clinging to the sides, you may want to simmer the sauce a few minutes longer or leave uncovered for a while to allow the water to steam off, so your marinara doesn’t turn out watery.
• There’s just enough time to boil a pot of water and cook some pasta while the sauce simmers.
• BONUS RECIPE: Pizza Sauce: Add 1/2 ounce minced fresh oregano during Step 4 or 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves during Step 2.