Marinara Sauce: Green Monday Recipe Flashback

Cooking 101: How to make the versatile & vegetarian staple

photo: we heart this

As winter bears down upon us, the days are short and the nights are cold ~ it’s the perfect time to warm up with a hearty pasta dinner. This Green Monday we’re spotlighting an oldie (first featured almost exactly two years ago on wht) but a goodie of a recipe – Marina Sauce. We recommend that you make this simple sauce over the weekend and than reap the rewards with a quick, delicious meal during the busy week. ~ wht

I never knew how to make a homemade Marinara Sauce (my Italian Grandfather is somewhere clicking his tongue at me right now). So when on a recent visit to my house, wht writer Pam volunteered to share her recipe with me, I jumped at the chance. Seeing how truly easy it is to make, I’m embarrassed to think about the many jars of sauce I’ve bought in my lifetime!

Marinara is a vegetarian sauce that gets it’s name from the word marinaro, Italian for sailor (or specifically, seafaring), as it was a quick and easy, yet hearty sauce made for sailors when they came home from sea.

It’s inexpensive, delicious and your first step in mastering Italian cooking. Once you get the hang of it, you can add just about anything; wine, mushrooms, crushed red pepper for a spicier sauce. The possibilities are endless.

Ingredients: (makes about 2.5 quarts)

  • 3 28 oz cans whole tomatoes (here’s a case where more expensive is truly better)
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1/3rd cup vegetable oil and olive oil blend*
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh or 1/2 tbsp dried of each: oregano, parsley, basil


1. In a large pot over medium heat; saute the carrot and celery, seasoned with the salt and pepper in the blended oils until tender – about 7 minutes.

Tip: Why a blend of two oils? Olive oil cooks hot, so a blend (which you create yourself, don’t try to find this in a store!) will make sure you don’t scorch the oil.

2. Add onion to the carrot and celery mixture, cover and cook 10 minutes (stirring frequently to avoid burning), until the onion has caramelized.

Tip: Just what the heck is caramelization? It’s cooking, until the sugars in a vegetable are released, resulting in browning.

3. Move vegetables to the side, allowing the oil to fill the center of your pot. Add garlic to the oil, cook for 1 minute, then mix vegetables into the oil and cook for 2 additional minutes.

4. Add tomato paste, stirring to coat all the vegetables. Cook for 20 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.

5. While the vegetables and paste are cooking, blend the whole tomatoes in a Cuisinart, emulsion or standard blender, to the desired consistency. If you are using fresh herbs, these can be blended with the tomatoes.

6. Add blended tomatoes to pot. If you are using dried herbs, they should be added now (rub them in your palms to release the oils).

7. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, adding a bit of water if the sauce gets too thick.

The sauce can be made 1 day (or a few) ahead of eating, and we highly recommend you do so! It really does taste better after giving the flavors a day to marinate. Just be sure to allow to cool, then cover and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat before using.

I hope you enjoy this family favorite this winter!

Recipe thanks to we heart this review team member and kitchen guru, Pamela Irene. She lives with husband David in Orange County, CA and works in the management office at the ‘happiest place on earth’ – South Coast Plaza. She can also mix a mean cocktail and is the owner of the largest bath & body collection we’ve ever seen.



Stef is a plethora of things. Amongst them: co-founder of we heart this, photographer, condiment connoisseur, Philly girl in the California desert, borderline hoarder and a hardcore beauty junkie. She also has a touch of wanderlust and, arguably, the cutest dog in the whole world...
skin tone: NC 25/30
skin type: oily with a fear of rosacea
favorite beauty product: high end skincare and lip products

10 thoughts on “Marinara Sauce: Green Monday Recipe Flashback”

  1. lyssachelle

    This sounds YUMMY. I’m a huge marinara fan, but a lot of time it can be too sweet or flat. But with such fresh ingredients, I know this will be light and bright and DELICIOUS. thanks so much for reposting this, I’m going to have to make this tomorrow night!!!

    1. tyna

      I’m not an expert Alyssa @lyssachelle – but I don’t see why this sauce couldn’t be frozen and used later. Hopefully someone with more knowledge can confirm!

      UPDATE: Yes – you can freeze this! According to Pam “Yes, double, triple, quad this recipe. You wouldn’t believe the huge batches we do.. It also freezes well. :)I do all the time! It’s great to pull out for an easy dinner!”

    2. lyssachelle

      YES!! I’m sold. It’s just me and my husband, so I’d hate to have any go to waste. (I seem to mess things up when I halve the recipe, it’s a thing…) I even got a new Seal-a-Meal for Christmas, so there WILL be marinara making and eating and freezing very soon!!

    3. irene

      Yes, It freezes very well!! Just remember it’s in the freezer! We freeze all kinds of sauses and soups for months and they are great to defrost in a pinch.. If you like spicy sauces, you can easily add heat to this dish by adding hot chili pepper or a serrano pepper..

  2. tyna

    I have to agree – it takes a little bit of time, but making Marinara Sauce is really easy. I’ve used this recipe a few times since the original post and it is delish. It makes every type of pasta, just that much better – and makes the wheat/dark grain pastas I’ve been buying taste nuttier against the sauce. And with some (whole wheat) bread and/or a salad, it’s a complete, fairly healthy meal.

    I must echo that this Marinara really, really needs that day to marinate. It tastes soo much better with a day or two in the fridge. Also, great tomatoes make a difference. Sometimes I splurge on the ones imported from Italy and actually grown in the San Marzano region (check the labels first – they try to confuse you sometimes!) – yum.

    1. stef

      I absolutely suggest you get San Marzano tomatoes – the difference is night and day! Especially since it’s the main ingredient of this sauce.

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