There are many ways of making marinara depending on taste, region, and family tradition. Even within my own family, there are disagreements on how to make a proper marinara. My mother is ashamed that I put crushed red pepper in mine while I consider adding carrots sacrilege.

I’m going to walk you through how to make marinara the way I like best and easiest. Thus, from henceforth, it shall be known as Mary-nara.

How to read these instructions: Please read through this page in its entirety at least once before making the recipe. Make sure you have all the supplies and ingredients at the ready. Food prep instructions are below.




  1. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and dry them thoroughly.
  2. Peel and finely chop the onion
  3. Peel and thinly slice (not chop or mince!) the garlic.
    NOTE: To get rid of the garlic smell on your fingers, hold a large metal spoon under running water while rubbing your fingertips all around its bowl.
  4. Open the cans of tomatoes.


  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
    • NOTE: It usually takes a minute or two for the oil to fully heat up. Hover the back of your hand over the pot and if you feel heat, it’s ready. Resist the urge to put anything in there before that.
  2. Add the onions, stirring them around evenly along the bottom of the pot. Let them cook until soft and translucent but not brown (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add the garlic and let it cook for about 1 minute so that it softens and becomes fragrant but doesn’t brown.
  4. Use your hands to crush the canned tomatoes as you add them to the pot, eventually pouring the entire contents of the cans so as not to splash yourself.
    • NOTE: This is where having a pot with high sides comes in handy. Cleaning up tomato stains is not a fun time.
  5. With your spoon (or your masher if you have one), carefully crush any remaining tomato chunks.
  6. Add the spices. If you’re not sure how much spice you like, try this:
    • Start by adding about 1/2 teaspoon each of the oregano and crushed red pepper.
    • Stir thoroughly, breaking up any chunks of tomato as you go, and let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes or so.
    • Using your spoon, carefully take a taste of the sauce and add pinches of more oregano, crushed red pepper, or salt and pepper as necessary.
      • NOTE: Never be shy about tasting your cooking as you go! How else will you know how you’re doing?
  7. Cover your pot and reduce the stove to medium low heat. Let simmer while you cook your spaghetti or polenta or whatever else you plan to put the sauce on. Stir occasionally so the bottom doesn’t caramelize. It’ll be done whenever you’re ready to eat it.

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September 28, 2020


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