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Homemade Marinara

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I am going to kick off Naturally Frugal: Food Week with one of my most requested recipes: homemade marinara. This has all kinds of yummy goodness but is still easy on the pocketbook. This week I will be focusing on healthy, homemade recipes that are easy on the pocketbook and this is no exception. Because I regularly practice bulk cooking this is one of my favorite recipes that I use month in and month out. It makes a TON, has a unique flavor, isn’t loaded with sugars or additives, freezes well and can be added to many different types of recipes.

I’ve made marinara before, but always with canned tomatoes. It is light years better than jar sauce, but I’ve heard so many times that when made from fresh tomatoes it is even better, so I decided to test that out. I bought several tomatoes still on the vine, along with a handful of roma tomatoes from the garden, my favorite for all of their deep flavor. Having never made fresh sauce before, I assumed I had to peel the tomatoes, and started researching the best method. A couple of weeks ago I did just that–I peeled and boiled and made sauce without the peel on the tomato. It was delicious! It was time to make more, but Lo and behold I discover I don’t have to peel the tomatoes to make great sauce! Because I use an immersion hand blender to make the sauce smooth, I can leave the peels on and the blender will blend them right up with all the other parts of the tomato. There was no reason to spend all that time peeling and prepping. This greatly reduced the amount of time it took to prep the sauce! We went from an hour of prep and actual work, to maybe 15 minutes! The simmer time is the same, but the actual work part was greatly reduced, increasing the chances I will make this again. In fact, it even tasted better than the first time.

Marinara sauce is super easy to make. When you leave out the sugar and all of the other nasty ingredients in most jarred sauces, you’ll also find it tastes way better! I add wine for depth to my sauce, and a touch of crushed red pepper flakes to add a unique pep to the sauce. Here’s what you’ll need:

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Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 3-4 hours

Makes: 2 jars of sauce

  • 12 large ripe tomatoes
  • 4-5 ripe roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 bottle dry red wine (I prefer Merlot, but Cabernet will work)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • handful of fresh basil and oregano
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Instructions:
  1. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and place in the pot. Remove any stems, green bits, or dark spots. Heat on stove for 30 minutes at medium heat. The tomatoes will release a lot of water. As the tomatoes begin to cook, stir occasionally and smash lightly with the spoon.
  2. After about 30 minutes on the stove, the tomatoes should be soft and watery. Using a stick blender, puree the entire pot. It is okay to leave it a bit chunky, this is just the first blend. Do not worry about the seeds–as you cook, the seeds will soften and blend in.
  3. Allow to cook another hour over low heat, uncovered, as the water will begin to evaporate out of the sauce.
  4. Add wine, salt and spices to the sauce.
  5. Allow to cook another hour over low heat, partially uncovered. (This allows steam and moisture to escape but keeps splatters to a minimum.)
  6. Remove from heat and blend again using the stick blender. Be thorough this time–this will help to crush up any remaining seeds, skins and blend in the spices fully into the sauce.
  7. Depending on how thick you like your sauce, you can remove it now or let it simmer another hour to allow more moisture to evaporate.
  8. Let cool, then spoon into jars for storage!
This is what my pot looked like at the end. You can see how much it cooks down as the water evaporates! Again, the longer you let it simmer, the thicker the sauce.

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It is truly one of the best sauces I’ve ever had! (Seriously, I wanted to eat the sauce all by itself!) The wine and salt seem like a lot, but they cook down and give the sauce a real depth of flavor. The crushed red pepper flakes add a touch of spice, but not enough to be labeled “spicy.” Trust me, I’m a wimp when it comes to spicy foods. This just adds a bit of bite to it, making it a different sauce. You can add whatever extras you’d like from here to make it your family’s own sauce. Add mushrooms, meat, etc. Whatever you’d like! I know the 3-4 hours to cook may look intimidating, but really, since you aren’t standing at the pot most of that time, it is very simple. I would get up and check on the sauce every 45 minutes or so.

Have you ever made sauce from scratch before? What tips can you share?

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