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Chunky, Aromatic Homemade Marinara Sauce

I don't like to think of having a last meal... but hypothetically, if I had to choose one, it would definitely be spaghetti with my Dad's homemade marinara sauce. My Dad used to cook with a copy of "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman. He passed it down to me and we've used it at the farm so often, the binding is coming undone and the pages are full of splatters. For years, I've been trying to duplicate his Marinara Sauce, but the recipe is just not in the book; which leads me to believe that Dad knew more than I gave him credit for in the kitchen; and the book was more of just a guide or inspiration.

He also keeps a tomato "stock" in the freezer: about 6-8 cups of his previous marinara sauce that he can use as a base for the new sauce, deepening the flavor, so over the years, this sauce gets better and better. I'm telling you, there's no way to duplicate it.

But with a garden bursting with fresh tomatoes, onions, carrots, and tons of herbs, we have had ample opportunities to try our hand at it over the last 10 years. This year, I found my favorite tomato: San Marzanos. And then I tried them out in a last minute marinara sauce with mirepoix (celery, onion and carrots). And finally, I found a sauce I could eat with every Italian dish... and to be honest, it's really simple! It's buttery, full of fresh veggies, and cooks down quickly. No need to drain and seed, or skin the tomatoes. Really, it takes no more time than it does to boil water and cook pasta. Plus there's nothing like cooking tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes rather than canned.

Chunky and Aromatic Homemade Marinara over Eggplant Parmesan & Shredded Kale. Photo: Deborah Chadsey, In Paradise Photography
Chunky and Aromatic Homemade Marinara over Eggplant Parmesan & Shredded Kale. Photo: Deborah Chadsey, In Paradise Photography

Marinara Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1 large, or 2 small sticks celery

  • 1 large, or 2 small carrots

  • 1 small white onion

  • 6 San Marzano tomatoes

  • 1 6oz can tomato paste

  • 2 sprigs rosemary

  • 1/2 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pepper

  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar (optional)


  1. Finely dice garlic, celery, carrots and white onion. Set aside in bowl.

  2. Finely dice tomatoes, and set aside in separate bowl. (Alternatively, for speed, quarter the tomatoes and blend them in a food processor.)

  3. Melt butter in large saucepan, and add diced garlic, celery, carrots and onion, salt and pepper over medium low heat. Stir occasionally until onions are translucent.

  4. Add diced San Marzano tomatoes and tomato paste, and mix thoroughly.

  5. Add in two whole sprigs rosemary on the stems, and stir.

  6. Simmer uncovered roughly 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  7. Remove rosemary stems.

  8. If the tomatoes used weren't ripe enough, or the varieties are too tart, then you might taste too much acidity in the tomato sauce. If that's the case, add a sprinkle of sugar and mix well.

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