Not for the faint of heart, this hearty marinara sauce is intensely jammy and garlicky. We use a ton of fresh garlic and cook it longer than typical recipes for marinara. The longer cooking time concentrates the tomato flavor and creates a thicker sauce. Use this meatless tomato sauce to elevate your favorite pizzas, pastas and other Italian vegetable and meat dishes.
Typical marinara is a thin tomato sauce flavored with garlic and basil. Cooks use it to top pasta and pizza, and as a sauce for dipping breadsticks and fried foods like calamari. This hearty marinara sauce is much more full-flavored and thick. So, on pizza, ravioli and other pastas? Oh my! It’s heaven. It’s my husband’s favorite sauce by a mile – and that’s saying something since he is a self-proclaimed “sauce guy.” And he happily eats this marinara sauce by the spoonful.
This hearty marinara sauce recipe is adapted from the excellent recipe by best-selling cookbook author Lidia Bastianich, as published in the New York Times by Julia Moskin.
For a healthy pasta meal, use this hearty marinara sauce to top a whole grain pasta. We especially love this ancient whole grain Tummina busiate pasta from Sicily. It has a fantastic texture and delicious, nutty taste. It’s also higher in protein and fiber than many other pastas, with a lower glycemic index. Hearty marinara sauce would also make an excellent alternative to the cherry tomato sauce in this super healthy Grilled Eggplant Parmesan recipe.
Ingredients for Hearty Marinara Sauce
The quality of the tomatoes that you select for this hearty marinara sauce recipe makes all the difference. You can’t go wrong with true San Marzano Roma tomatoes from Italy. San Marzano tomatoes originated in a town by the same name near Naples. They are longer and more narrow than regular Roma (plum) tomatoes and they have fewer seeds. And the taste of San Marzano tomatoes is stronger, sweeter and less acidic, which makes them perfect for sauce. But be careful. There are a lot of brands that say they are San Marzano “style” tomatoes, but these are not the real deal. Only cans marked with “DOP” designation on the label are true San Marzano tomatoes. Available in better stocked grocery stores and online. Rega is an excellent brand.
Another great choice for canned tomatoes is the Bianco Di Napoli brand of organically grown tomatoes from California. The long summer days and fertile soil of their Northern California farm produce very unique & delicious tomatoes. I find them every bit as delicious as true San Marzano tomatoes and I appreciate that they are organic. And I’m not the only one. In 2020, The New York Times named Bianco DiNapoli Organic Tomatoes the #1 brand of canned tomatoes in the country. I love the quote from Chris Bianco, a co-founder of the company, who says, “Whether a tomato or a rumor, consider the source.” Indeed! Bianco Di Napoli tomatoes are also available in better stocked grocery stores and online.
- olive oil
- sea salt
- crushed red pepper flakes
See recipe card for quantities.
Instructions for Hearty Marinara Sauce
Put the tomatoes in a medium bowl and crush them well with your hands.
Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef’s knife, peel the cloves and then slice them into slivers. Heat olive oil in a 12” skillet on medium heat. When hot, add the garlic slivers and sauté until fragrant and golden, but not browned.
Add the tomatoes, salt, crushed red pepper and basil sprig. Stir to combine.
Bring to a simmer, lower heat slightly and let simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should reduce at bit and will be thick and jammy when it’s ready. If it’s still thin, continue simmering until hearty. Remove the basil sprig and serve over pasta, on pizza or use in your favorite Italian recipe that calls for marinara.
Hint: Hearty marinara sauce should simmer at a gentle bubble. Reduce the heat if it bubbles too intensely, sending sauce out of the pan and onto your stove.
Store hearty marinara sauce covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The sauce freezes well for up to 6 months.
Flavorful tomatoes are critical to this marinara sauce. Don’t economize on the tomatoes if you can help it! Buy the highest quality authentic San Marzano (or similar) tomatoes you can find.
This hearty marinara sauce is made from standard marinara sauce recipe ingredients: Roma tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil. Where it differs is in a higher quantity of garlic and a longer cooking time, which concentrates the flavor of the tomatoes and produces a thicker, richer sauce.
Tomato sauce and marinara sauce share some common ingredients, specifically Roma tomatoes, olive oil and herbs such as basil or oregano. Tomato sauces typically add additional flavoring elements, like pork or anchovies and may also contain additional vegetables such as zucchini. And tomato sauces are typically cooked for a much longer time than marinara sauce. So, that’s what makes this recipe different. This Hearty Marinara Sauce recipe maintains the simple ingredient list of a marinara, but has the longer cooking time of a tomato sauce, which intensifies the flavors and creates a thicker, heartier sauce.
Hearty Marinara Sauce
- 28 oz whole peeled canned San Marzano tomatoes, or other high quality Roma (plum) tomatoes
- 8 garlic cloves
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
- 1 fresh basil sprig
- Put the tomatoes in a medium bowl and crush them well with your hands.
- Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef’s knife, peel the cloves and then slice them into slivers. Heat olive oil in a 12” skillet on medium heat. When hot, add the garlic slivers and sauté until fragrant and golden, but not browned.
- Add the tomatoes, salt, crushed red pepper and basil sprig. Stir to combine.
- Bring to a simmer, lower heat slightly and let simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should reduce at bit and will be thick and jammy when it’s ready. If it’s still thin, continue simmering until hearty. Remove the basil sprig and serve over pasta or use in your favorite Italian recipe that calls for marinara.
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