Val’s Easy Red Sauce

Marinara with red sauce

best tomatoes for marinara sauce

This quick red sauce is a staple in our home. It’s both easy to pull together and simply delicious. The longer it simmers on the stove— and when I simmer, it’s a “high” simmer, I like it to really bubble— the more intense the flavor. But honestly it doesn’t need to sit on the stove for hours as Nona’s did back in the old country to taste good.

I always have it on hand to use for pastas, pizza, and mix it in with sautéed garden veg. The key to the sauce is the San Marzano tomatoes (Italian plum will not do — the flavor is so much better in the SM’s).  I tried growing San Marzano’s in the garden one year with no success. Now, I’m totally committed to the canned version-even canned San Marzano’s had incredible flavor. With minimal ingredients, this recipe is all about the tomatoes. It’s a great example of my philosophy that simple, well-chosen ingredients make the best meals.

This recipe makes enough sauce for one pound of pasta, so if you are cooking a smaller portion of pasta, save the extra sauce to use for pizza night.

Marinara with red sauce

Here's the sauce with with zucchini pasta

Val’s Easy Red Sauce

Val’s Easy Red Sauce

1 24 oz can San Marzano tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon butter


Heat oil on medium heat and add garlic, cook until you can smell the garlic. Add tomatoes (removing basil leaf from the can) and bring to boil. Once it boils, simmer on stove for up to 1 hour (but at least ten minutes), add the salt stirring occasionally.  When you are ready to use the sauce, taste for seasoning and take the pan off the heat and stir in the butter.  (For a smooth sauce, emulsify with a hand blender adding the butter as you do it) Either way will result in a beautiful, tasty sauce.


To make a pink sauce: Ladle your desired amount of sauce into a large bowl with pasta and then add ¼ cup heavy cream and toss to incorporate.


To make it spicy: When cooking garlic add 1/2 teaspoon of red chili flakes.