I grew up in an Italian-American family where it was considered a sacrilege if one ate canned pasta sauce. Ever. In fact, I never ate canned sauce unless I happened to be at a friend’s house. My mom, who is not Italian, diligently learned how to make amazing “gravy” as we all called it, from Italian women in my dad’s family and friend group. This gravy always included meatballs and often, sausage. She didn’t make marinara sauce very often, which is a quick meat-free sauce, and when she did, it often seemed over-acidic to me.
When I decided to follow a vegetarian diet nearly five years ago, I knew I needed to find a good marinara sauce recipe; one that was rich, garlicky and had just the right balance of acidity and mellow mouthfeel. I bought Chloe Coscarelli’s cookbook, Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen, and liked her marinara sauce recipe. I’ve tweaked it a bit and here is what I make once a week to use on pasta and homemade pizza.
As I almost always do with recipes, I give you an amount range for a few ingredients. For example, if the tomatoes you are using are sweet and not too acidic, you might not need all the sugar or milk. You also might prefer a less garlicky sauce, so use less garlic. Cooking has a lot to do with personal taste, so adjust it to your liking.
Easy Marinara Sauce
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1/2 cup of water, approximately
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2-4 tablespoons unsweetened non-dairy milk, such as almond (optional)
- 2-4 tablespoons fresh parsley or basil, chopped (optional)
In a thick-bottomed pot on medium heat, heat the olive oil, add garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds until it turns golden, stirring and watching it carefully to prevent burning.
Add water and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any garlic that might be sticking.
Add tomatoes and the salt through milk, and bring to a simmer, stirring gently to combine. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and remove from heat.
Adjust seasonings. Add fresh herbs if desired.
Notes and Options:
This lasts for about a week to ten days in the fridge.
It can also be frozen and thawed for a later time.
Feel free to add dried fennel, basil, thyme, or other dried herbs you prefer.