Marinara Sauce

This little recipe is hands down the one thing I’ve made the most in my home over the last 10 years. My husband loves this sauce. My kids love this sauce. Anyone I ever serve it to love this sauce AND it’s so versatile.

You can add ground beef to it and serve it over pasta or other “noodles” and call it spaghetti. You can use it to build a simple lasagna. You can prepare it in a pot without meat and serve it over meat balls, over veggies such as sautéed summer squash or anywhere else you might need a delicious Italian-style red sauce.

You can prepare it in bulk and freeze it in portions for later use. You can just eat it with a spoon (it’s that good.)

I simplified this recipe into its most basic, yet still delicious, version below for those of you who are a little newer to cooking but the “Fanci-fy it” version is actually the one I make each time I prepare this sauce. I make it both with and without ground beef depending on what I’ll use it for.

A word about tomatoes – You’ll find tomatoes on the Dirty Dozen list of foods that harbor a lot of pesticides so I purchase them organic wherever possible. I prefer to purchase jarred tomatoes to guard as much as I can against the chemicals that can leach out of metal cans into the food. Tomatoes are especially acidic and therefore canned tomatoes tend to be of particular concern to those who try to avoid BPA and other substances getting into their food. You can easily find organic canned tomatoes. You may also want to look for cans that say they are BPA-free. My favorite brand of tomatoes in a jar is Jovial and the best price I have found is online at Thrive Market. Vitamins Plus (Drug Emporium) here in Lubbock carries the Jovial brand of jarred tomatoes and so does Natural Grocers. I have also purchased the large boxes of organic canned tomatoes and tomato sauce at Costco.

You could also use diced, fresh tomatoes. You simply cook them down in a separate pot until much of the water has evaporated and the tomatoes have broken down. They can then be used in the recipe below in place of the canned or jarred tomatoes. You can sub extra diced tomatoes for the tomato sauce if you want to.

As long as you have some sort of tomatoes in there, you can cook your sauce down to your desired thickness and it’ll be fine! I almost always use jarred tomatoes if I have them or organic canned tomatoes from Costco or a health food store.

If you want the tomatoes to be smoother and less chunky just give them a whir in your food processor before adding them to the pot.

For tips on how to thaw frozen ground beef see our post, “How To Reheat Food.”

Here’s to having one more food you used to eat out of a jar but no longer need to!

ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef or Primal ground beef from Holy Cow Beef in Lubbock, preferably grass-fed, (optional)
  • 1 medium size yellow, purple or white onion, small diced OR 2 tsp onion powder
  • Tomatoes – 30oz (about 3 cups) diced tomatoes from a can or a jar (or fresh chopped)
  • 1 can/jar tomato sauce, about 15oz (can sub with more diced tomatoes instead if you like)
  • 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • 1 ½ Tbs dried oregano OR ¼ C fresh oregano leaves, chopped
  • 1 ½ Tbs dried basil OR ¼ C fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 ½ tsp granulated garlic OR 3 to 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • salt and black pepper to taste (I use Real Salt and use roughly 2 to 3 tsp in this dish)

Fanci-fy it:

  • Add 2 Tbs quality Worcestershire sauce (Annies Organic is a better one)
  • Add 2 Tbs quality ketchup (low sugar/ few ingredients – Annie’s Organic is good. The ketchup sweetens the sauce a bit), omit for keto-friendly
  • Add 1 red or green bell pepper, diced
  • Add a few dashes hot sauce or a tsp red pepper flakes

instructions

  1. Place a large pot on your stove top over medium-high heat.
  2. Place your thawed ground beef and diced onion into the pot. You will also add your diced bell pepper now if you’re using it. If you want to use onion powder instead, don’t add that quite yet. You’ll add it when you pour in the rest of the sauce ingredients. (If you aren’t using meat, see Step 11).
  3. Cook the meat and onion/peppers, stirring and breaking it up with a spatula, until the meat is brown. If you have a lot of fat in the pot now you can take some of that out if you like. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to leave that in there!
  4. Meanwhile, if you don’t like chunky tomatoes in your sauce you can whir them around in a food processor or blender to smooth them out before adding to the meat. I do this for my kids.
  5. Remove your pot from the heat while you add in your other ingredients.
  6. Add in the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, and ALL the other ingredients you’re using (don’t forget onion powder if you haven’t already added fresh onion). P.S. I use all the ingredients when I make this recipe – including the “Fanci-fy it” ingredients. It’s delish!
  7. Stir the sauce until everything is well combined and place it back on the heat – medium/low this time.
  8. Place a lid over the pot but don’t cover it all the way. You want steam to escape so your sauce will cook down and thicken. Make sure there’s a gentle bubble/simmer going in the pot.
  9. Stir every 4 or 5 minutes but be careful, it could bubble up and splatter you!
  10. After about 30 minutes the sauce should thicken and the flavors will meld and it will be ready!
  11. If you don’t want to add meat just place all the other ingredients in a pot (including any freshly chopped onions or peppers) and go from Step 7 above. The onion and pepper will soften as the sauce cooks.
  12. This is an easy and versatile one-pot recipe that will be so handy in your recipe arsenal. Enjoy!

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