Simple and Sweet Marinara

IMG_3580by Jenna Braddock, RDN

Over the past few years I’ve been on a secret quest to develop to my own
“family” recipe for marinara. I have nothing against an easy jar sauce but I love
the idea and taste of sauce that’s been simmering on the stove all day. I’ve
tried a lot of different combinations and even written some of them down. But
finding something that both my husband and me think is better than the jar
stuff has been tricky.
Recently I had a student pass on their grandmother’s sauce recipe to me. I’m
not sure her name or what her story is, but her sauce was fantastic and easy.
Since then I’ve been playing with the recipe for a couple of months to come
up with my own version that the our family likes and this is it.
I’ve discovered the key to a great marinara sauce is time. The more time the
better. My last batch simmered for about 4 hours. I have also thrown all the
ingredients (after sautéing aromatics and browning meat if using) in a slow
cooker and left it on low all day. This is a great option if you are not going to
be home.
Make a double batch of this awesome sauce and freeze it to make another
meal quick and easy in the future. I’ve now used this on spaghetti and in
homemade ziti. The touch of brown sugar and lots of fresh basil add a
wonderful faint sweetness that balances really well with the depth of the red
wine (a must use ingredient).
Don’t forget that canned tomato products offer great nutritional value! The
antioxidant lycopene has been found to be more readily available to our
bodies in processed tomato products than in fresh. One study also found that
a diet rich in tomato paste could even help protect your skin from sunburn. So
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
5 gloves of fresh garlic (not from a jar), minced
½ cup decent red wine (No cooking wine here! I buy the single
bottles or the box wine for cooking so it never goes bad if you don’t
need a lot. Try using a cabernet sauvignon, merlot or shiraz for slight
variations in flavor.)
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
6 oz can tomato paste
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (use less for less sweetness if that’s
not your thing)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper¼ cup (at least) fresh basil, finely chopped
¼ cup (at least) fresh oregano, finely chopped
3 tablespoons (at least) fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb blend
(1/2 pound ground meat of choice is optional)

1. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 1
tablespoon of oil.
2. Add onions and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook
for another 2 minutes.
3. Pour in red wine and deglaze the pan, carefully scraping up any
bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Allow the
wine to reduce in volume by half by cooking for about 2-4
4. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs. Then add the dried herbs by rubbing them between your
fingers before sprinkling in to the pot (this releases their flavors
and oils). Stir to combine.
5. Reduce temperature to low or simmer. Add cooked, ground meat
into sauce if using. Cook for a minimum of 1½ hours and as long
as 8 hours.

JennaBraddockJenna Braddock, RDN, CSSD is a registered dietitian nutritionist and sports
dietitian who is all about ways to “Make Healthy Easy”. She regularly shares
real life strategies and recipes for better health through her blog at and through regular TV appearances. As a mom
and football coach’s wife, she has a realistic approach to healthy living that is
do-able and delicious.
Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest: @JBraddockRD
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