Italian tomatoes sauce: the truth about “Marinara”

Tomatoes sauce is one of the main popular Italian’s “food” all around the world. And I believe the reason of that is because you can use the “Italian Tomatoes sauce” as important ingredients to make many Italian recipes, as for Italian Spaghetti, Italian Cannelloni, Italian Parmigiana, Tomatoes and Salsiccia sauce pasta, Amatriciana , Italian Meatballs, pasta alla pizzaiola, and so on.  The curious thing about Italian tomatoes sauce is that it is not a simple tomatoes puree, but there is a precise method to make it, that of course can slightly change from family to family (for example some Italians use sugar in their tomatoes sauce), but that most of the time requires, besides canned tomatoes, also garlic, onion, rosemary, nutmeg, pepper (or red pepper) and basil.  At this point I should precise that in the past it was very common (also for my mom) to prepare the “tomatoes puree” at home, at the end of the summer, with home harvested tomatoes. I remember all the countless hours that took to my mom for cleaning the tomatoes, depriving from the skin and seed, cooking, pureeing  and then canning. Nowadays even in Italy it is less common to find homemade canned tomatoes, but the one you buy already canned, still allows to get a decent sauce.

When I moved here in Midwest I got a bit confused from some American friends that insisted to have my secret “Marinara sauce”, which honestly at the time I had no idea what it was, and only after I found out that Americans call “Marinara” what for Italians is just regular “tomatoes sauce”.  And be aware that if you take a trip to Italy and order a “pasta with Marinara Sauce” (Marinara means “related to the sea”) you will likely get a Sea Food pasta!

But going back to this basic Italian recipe, learning how to make it is very easy and once you’ll mastered it, you’ll be able to prepare a lot of other delicious meals!

 INGREDIENTS for 6-8 servings

2 cans plain tomatoes sauce (please, free of any dressing)

5 tbs. virgin olive oil

1/2 medium sized white onion (or 1 small sized white onion)

2 big cloves or garlic (deprived of the stem)

1 rosemary spring (or 2 tsp. dried rosemary)

1 pinch of nutmeg

1 basil leaf (or 1 tsp. dried basil)

1 pinch black pepper (or crushed red pepper)


In a sauce pan, heat at medium heat about 3 tbs. virgin olive oil, the garlic cloves cut in four, the rosemary spring and the finely chopped onion.

Sauté the onion until changes color and becomes “translucent” stirring time to time. It may take 5-8 minutes. Never leave the stove during this phase because you don’t want to burn the onion. When the onion looks ready, add the canned tomatoes sauce, the pepper, the basil, the nut meg and let the tomatoes sauce reach the boil.

Once the sauce is boiling, switch at low heat, cover the pot with a lid and let it cook for about 30 minutes. The sauce should never loose the boiling point, but cook slowly without getting a burned bottom.  Finally, add 2 more tbs. of olive oil, stir gently, and use the sauce to dress your spaghetti or to complete any other recipe you could have in mind.  Sounds incredible but spaghetti dressed with this easy tomatoes sauce, tastes just amazing!

I shall admit that I LOVE eat the tomatoes sauce just like that in a warm slice of fresh baked baguette 

or as a scrummy deep for Italian meatballs.. YUM! 

As simple as it is, as extraordinary good as it is!


TIPS: –  When it’s time to buy the canned tomatoes sauce, please avoid those that pretend to be somehow “Italian” and are already flavored. Buy the regular plain tomatoes sauce;

– If you don’t mind the idea of a hint of spicy in your sauce, substitute the black pepper with a couple of tsp. of crushed red peppers;

– It’s very important to cook the sauce patiently at low heat, otherwise it will get too dry (if not burnt) and would keep a taste of “row tomatoes” and for sure we don’t want that!

– Once cooked you can freeze the sauce and thaw right before using it!

I hope you found this post interesting and I would really like to know what was your knowledge about Italian tomatoes sauce…

did you call it “Marinara”?

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