Friends, let me introduce you to my most favorite, most versatile, simplest marinara sauce recipe ever: this 5-ingredient marinara sauce. Loaded with onion, garlic, chili flakes, juicy San Marzano tomatoes and some really good olive oil, it’s perfect for pastas, pizzas and so much more (pizza grilled cheese, anyone?!).
Made with just five ingredients, simmered for 20 minutes until your kitchen smells like heaven, and eaten as often as possible. It is so much more than the sum of its parts, and tastes like you were tending to a pot of simmering tomatoes all day long.
And when you make this marinara, please give yourself a little time and do yourself the favor of letting it sit in the fridge for a while. Something magical happens after the tomatoes have time to mingle and meld with the garlic, onion and chili flakes — the flavors intensify and complement each other so well, whatever you make will be ten times more flavorful for it! That seems to be the way it works out for most Italian dishes I make — spaghetti, manicotti, stuffed shells, sometimes even pizza are always better on Day 2 or 3. Magic 🙂
I prefer to use San Marzano tomatoes in this recipe because they’re sweet, and are lower in acidity + have less seeds than many tomatoes, making for a more balanced, thicker, richer marinara sauce. There are several varieties in the international foods aisle at my grocery store — petite diced, diced, whole peeled, pureed, with basil, without basil. For this recipe, I used whole peeled with basil — pureeing the tomatoes myself to retain a bit more texture than the pre-pureed tomatoes.
Can’t find San Marzano tomatoes or overloaded with gorgeous tomatoes from your farmers market or CSA? You can totally use fresh tomatoes — roma or plum tomatoes would be best, but really any will do. Just be sure to peel and seed them first — blanch them in some hot water until their skins start to split open, drop them into ice water until cool to the touch, and use a paring knife to peel the skin. Then cut the tomatoes open and squeeze out the seeds. As you’re cooking the marinara sauce, taste test every once in a while and add a teaspoon or two of sugar if you find it to be too acidic.
Happiness is a bowl of pasta drenched in this 5-ingredient marinara sauce, topped with some fresh basil and parmesan, eaten in your comfy pants.
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ¼ tsp chili flakes
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 28-ounce can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
- Salt + pepper
- Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. While the skillet is heating up, puree the onion in a food processor with the remaining olive oil. Add to the skillet and saute, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent (not browned) -- about 8 minutes.
- While the onion is cooking, puree the tomatoes (without their juice) in a food processor. Set aside.
- Add the garlic and chili flakes and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in the tomato puree and then using a sieve, strain the remaining tomato juice into the pan. Add a pinch of salt (up to ½ tsp) and a pinch of pepper (up to ¼ tsp).
- Simmer gently until starting to thicken up a bit and the flavors have some time to meld together -- about 20 minutes.
- Serve immediately over pasta or pizza, or cool completely and store in a sealed container in the fridge for a week or the freezer for a couple months.