I won’t be one to say “never use jarred marinara again!” but I will suggest making your own if that’s going to be the hero or the main flavor of the dish. So if you’re layering it in a lasagna or using it in baked ziti, go ahead, use the jarred stuff. But if you’re going to have just plain pasta marinara, you will really taste a difference by making your own if you have time. It has a brightness you just can’t find in a jar.


  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium-large onion
  • 1 28-oz (800-gram) can whole tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 sprig basil
  • 1 red chili pepper*
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste


  1. Slice the onion into very thin half rounds.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat (do not use a pot). Add the onions and fry until translucent.
  3. Add the canned tomatoes, water, oregano, and garlic. Mix so the ingredients are evenly distributed. Place the basil sprig and red chili pepper on top.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer over low heat for 30-45 minutes. Mash the tomatoes and garlic slices with your mixing spoon as they soften.
  5. Remove the basil sprig and discard.
  6. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Salt will help make the other flavors sing, so add a pinch even if you think it doesn’t need it.
  7. If you like your sauce chunky, keep as is. Sometimes my tomatoes don’t break down enough, so I blend about half the sauce—including all the harder pieces—and then add it back into the rest of the sauce, so it has texture without any pieces that are too large and chunky or unpleasant to eat. Of course, if you prefer it all smooth, you can blend the whole batch.
  8. Serve over your preferred pasta. Optional: Garnish with chopped basil and freshly shaved parmesan.

*Note: For a spicier sauce, slice the pepper and saute it with the onions. This will bring out the heat.

Yields: Approximately 2 cups sauce. Refrigerate for up to a week.