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Marinara Sauce (Tomato Pomodoro)

Onions, garlic and tomatoes cooked until the perfect consistency.  Then add salt, pepper and basil.  Takes about 45 minutes.  The best marinara sauce you will ever make.

Last week, I was asked to demonstrate how to make Pasta Carbonara and Pesto Cavatappi on the television show, KSL Studio 5.  Two other sauces that were featured during the week were Tomato Pomodoro (Marinara Sauce) and Alfredo Sauce.  Today I am posting my own take on Marinara Sauce (Tomato Pomodoro).  Next post, will be my Alfredo sauce. I wanted to see if I could make them my own.  After working on these recipes all day, I made both for a family party last night.  They were a big hit!  Everyone asked for the recipes, so I decided to share them with you, too!

Marinara Sauce or Tomato Pomodoro is a simple tomato sauce often referred to as the Mother Sauce.  So many Italian recipes call for some kind of tomato based sauce, lasagna, spaghetti, and many others.  You can add meat or cheese to it, or basically anything.  You can put it on pasta, over meat or vegetables.  Any way you serve it, it is so delicious!

Onions, garlic and tomatoes cooked until the perfect consistency.  Then add salt, pepper and basil.  Takes about 45 minutes.  The best marinara sauce you will ever make.

How To Make Marinara Sauce (Tomato Pomodoro)

1.  Chop an onion into small pieces.  Due to the fact I have so many people in my family who do not like onions, in this recipe, I chose to use my food processor.  This way, the pieces are very small and when they cook, no one can ever tell there is an onion in the sauce.  

I have found many people do not like onions because of the texture.  The crunch is the thing they don’t like, not the flavor.  So my response is to make the onions so small, they never know there in the sauce.  At the end of this recipe, you put everything in a blender, but starting with small pieces, insures you will not have any onion haters complaining.

2.  Cut the top and bottom of the onion off.  Take off the outer layers of skin.  Sometimes there is a little bit of brown paper looking pieces on the next layer of skin.  Cut these off, as well, but use the rest of the skin.  I hate to waste the whole layer of skin when there might just be an inch or two of brown papery skin .  If you leave this on, you will be able to taste it, so make sure you cut it off.

Sometimes there are paper layers inside the onion.  The whole thing is not bad because you see this.  Just pull out the bad parts and use all the good parts.  Onions are cheap, so if this weirds you out, go ahead and throw the whole thing away and start with a new onion.  There are no guarantees the new onion won’t have some crepey, papery skin inside too.

3.  Cut the onion in half.  Take each half and cut it into smaller chunks.  Put all of this in the food processor.  Pulse the machine  several times until everything is small.  Use a spatular to wipe down the sides and pulse again.
Be careful not to make onion water.  I have done this before, and that means you have pulsed too much.

4. Take off the skin of the garlic cloves and cut off the brown part that was attached to the bulb.  I use the very smallest side of a box grater to grate the garlic.  You can use your knife and mince it too.  Sometimes, I feel like mincing the garlic and other times, I use the grater.  Following are the pros and cons to both.

Pro tip for grating garlic – it is fast, quick and makes very small pieces.  Con tip for grating garlic –  it doesn’t use all the garlic and leaves a portion you cannot grate. It sometimes is hard to get it out of the grater.
Pro tip for mincing garlic – it uses all the garlic and is easy to transfer.Con tip for mincing garlic – it takes longer, but sometimes I am in the mood for a longer prep time.

5.  Heat the olive oil in a large pan.  This recipe makes about 8 cups of sauce.  This is enough to feed 8-10 people.  You want to make this in a large pan or cut the recipe in half.

6.  Add the onion to the heated olive oil.  Cook for 2 minutes before adding the garlic, stirring occasionally.    Onions can handle the heat better, but garlic can burn and turn bitter.  By cooking the onions first, you reduce the temperature of the pan and make it perfect to add the garlic.  Have the cans of tomatoes open so you can pour them in after heating the garlic for a minute or so.

  Wipe off the tops of your cans before using!

7.  While researching online, I found an article compiling things insiders know about different industries.  One of the things I thought was so interesting was a statement that said, “Please people, wipe off the tops of your can goods.  Please do it!”  It intrigued me!  What does this person know that I do not know.  From this point on, I have wiped the tops off all canned goods before I use them.  So, I am passing this piece of information on to you, my loyal followers.

8.  Wipe off the lids of the cans of tomatoes and add this to the sautéed onion and garlic.  San Marzano tomatoes are the canned tomatoes of choice for me for any Italian dish I am making.  I find them at Walmart.  This is a particular type of tomato as well as a brand.  They have a distinct taste and make this sauce so much better.  

9.  Heat everything on high and get the contents of the pot boiling.  As the tomatoes begin to cook, they will soften.  Use a wooden spoon to pop them and break them up.  You will be using the blender later on, to puree this into a luscious sauce.   You want the tomatoes to gradually release their flavor as they cook to bring the thei best flavor.

10.  Simmer the sauce with the lid off for 30 minutes.  You want the liquid to evaporate.  This will cause the sauce to thicken naturally.  Stir occasionally to distribute all the flavors evenly through the cooking time.
Many marinara sauces use tomato paste to thicken the sauce.  You do not need it in this recipe because you simmer the dish with the lid off.

11.  Add the salt and pepper at the end of the 30 minutes.  Chop the the basil and add that too.   Basil is so fragrant and a wonderful addition to any dish.  You will need to make a chiffonade*. This means you lay the basil leaves on top of each other and roll them up like a cigar.  You want to roll it as tightly as you can.  Then cut across the leaves, or cigar shape, which makes these beautiful long ribbons or strips of basil.  Add these to your sauce.

Cook another 15 minutes so all the flavors can marry.  

12.  Continue to simmer the sauce for another 15 minutes.  This will help the salt, pepper and basil mix with the tomatoes, onions and garlic.  

13.  After simmering the tomato pomodoro sauce, use a large measuring cup and scoop the hot sauce into the blender.  You can also use an emulsion blender if you like.  I added my sauce to a blender and had to do it in two batches.  Get another bowl ready to put the first batch in.

Blend the sauce until it is smooth, about 30-40 seconds.  Watch out for the heat rising and making the lid blow off.  I have learned from past experience to not fill the container to the top.  The lid on my blender has two parts.  A large black ring with a smaller clear lid inside.  I always crack the clear part of the lid so the steam has somewhere to go.  This prevents a blowout!

Continue until all the sauce has been blended.  At this point, it is ready to serve.  If you are serving it on pasta you will be delighted how wonderful this tomato pomodoro sauce tastes!

Onions, garlic and tomatoes cooked until the perfect consistency.  Then add salt, pepper and basil.  Takes about 45 minutes.  The best marinara sauce you will ever make.

Let me know on Instagram or Pinterest if you make this.
  Post a picture and tag me @dinasdiner.  I want to know how it turns out.

Onions, garlic and tomatoes cooked until the perfect consistency. Then add salt, pepper and basil. Takes about 45 minutes. The best marinara sauce you will ever make.

Tomato Pomodoro (Marinara Sauce)

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Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8


  • 1 Blender


  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 Large Onion
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 3 28 oz. Canned Tomatoes San Marzano
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Pepper
  • 7 Leaves Fresh Basil


  • Chop onion and garlic.
  • Heat olive oil in a fry pan.
  • Sauté onions for 2 minutes before adding the garlic.
  • Cook the onions and garlic for another minute.
  • Add whole tomatoes.  Get everything boiling.
  • Once everything is heated through, use a wooden spoon to push open the whole tomatoes.
  • Turn heat down and simmer for 30 minutes with the lid off.
  • Add the salt and pepper.
  • Stack the basil leaves and make a chiffonade*. 
  • Add the basil and simmer for another 15 minutes.
  • Spoon the entire mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.  You can also use an emulsion blender.
  • If serving the sauce over pasta, cook it while the tomato pomodoro sauce is simmering for 30 minutes. After using the blender, the sauce is ready to serve.
Keyword Basil, Garlic, Onions, Sauce, Tomatoes
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