Classic Marinara

by Andie Mitchell on July 29, 2010


I’m not sure how I ever made a sports team. Soccer, lacrosse…end list. A serious lack in coordination, balance, and natural athletic ability surely must have been apparent at tryouts. It couldn’t have looked promising when I threw up on the sidewalk after the coaches made me run a mile. Or when I asked if practice could be cut a little shorter because I was “just so sleepy.” Seemed legitimate on my end.

Other than the sports part, I really enjoyed the team. I’d walk off the field feeling like I’d just done the stand-up routine of my life. Always called out for talking too much, laughing too loud, riding my lacrosse stick like a bull, using my soccer ball as a seat on the grass. I’d even get in trouble for making what sounded like animal sounds on the field. Whinnying like a horse, in particular. I think that one was just my laugh.

My main problem with team sports was the uniform. Plainly, that it never fit. Who the hell decided that lacrosse players should wear skirts? And could Umbros at least make wind pants that didn’t look like I’d just strapped royal blue Hefty’s to each leg?  God. 

Maybe my physical discomfort was apparent. The reason why I never started a game. I think it’s safe to say that if my entire team had broken their legs at once, and I was the remaining, able-bodied player, to make one final kick into a wide open goal, my coaches would’ve just called off the game and the season. Probably for the best, as I had a tendency to run away from the ball. Less liability when you don’t make any direct contact, I found.

Plus, I was never clear on the rules. Something something blah blah ‘forty five minutes until you can eat orange wedges.’ That’s what I heard anyway. I barely had enough Sprite in my water bottle to last that first half.

But who knows, maybe it’s positive to try things you’re not necessarily good at. Gives you some humility. Some grace. It’s a wonder that someone with almost no athletic ability can lose 135 lbs. Probably a beautiful testament to the power of just moving in any way you can. I ran, became a runner, quit it like a bad habit, started walking, kept walking. Now I’m striding the streets while listening to podcasts on astronomy 101 like I’m preparing for space travel. Hours upon hours of information on parsecs and light years that I can’t wait to share with… Dee Dee. My pug.

Nowadays I stick to the things I know how to do. Eat cookies. No, and bake them too. Oh, and cook actual food. Because someone told me recently that you people might need some sustenance other than butter, sugar, eggs, and chocolate.  I’m not sure why. But I’ll give you something real nonetheless.

A classic marinara. One that doesn’t require you to be a professional to attempt. And I won’t judge you for your athleticism, your wind pants, or the sound of your laugh. Even if it sounds like a whinny. Especially if it sounds like a whinny.

This sauce is blood red and rich. Luscious and intensely sweet. Caramelizing the onions in olive oil before adding the tomatoes to the saucepan gives it a depth of flavor that is unmatched, and absolutely delightful. Go heavy on the spices and add a spoonful of sugar, as my PJ always does. Ladle it on pasta or just into a bowl… it’s divine.

Classic Marinara

  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1, 28 oz can ground, peeled or crushed tomatoes (Pastene brand or San Marzano is best)
  • 1 TBS dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1-2 TBS sugar
  • fresh basil, a garnish for serving

Add olive oil to a medium saucepan set over medium heat.

Add onions and saute for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions have begun to turn a deep caramel color. They will smell faintly sweet.  Do not let them burn. You will want to lower your heat to medium-low after about 5 minutes of cooking. Next, add the garlic and stir constantly for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. If you let the garlic burn even slightly, the sauce will taste bitter so be very careful here.

Add the tomatoes.

Add all remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Turn the heat back up to medium and let the mixture come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let your sauce simmer for as long as you can. At least 30 minutes for an intense, sweet tomato flavor. The longer you let your sauce sit on the stovetop, simmering away, the richer the taste will be. Test the sauce and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Generally, the most common problem you’ll detect in food (of any kind) is either too much or too little salt. Or sugar. Those are the areas you’ll want to play with- adding more or less salt/sugar- for the optimal flavor.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Shanna, like Banana July 29, 2010 at 10:20 am

And who doesn’t love a classic marinara!?

I was not and still not great at sports. That’s why I joined the dance team cuz one thing I can do is shake my booty ;)

Your writing impresses me each and every day Andrea! Seriously..write a book!

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Can You Stay for Dinner July 29, 2010 at 10:24 am

Thank you so much, Shanna!

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Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday July 29, 2010 at 10:48 am

Oh man, I’m playing beach vball right now and I suck at it so bad. I just blogged about that actually.

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Katie @ Health for the Whole Self July 29, 2010 at 11:13 am

Can you believe I have never made my own marinara sauce??? It’s shameful, really!

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Amy @ Second City Randomness July 29, 2010 at 11:20 am

I got bored easily with organized sports. I quit basketball and softball with no regrets. And yeah… the uniforms always sucked. Always.

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Lu July 29, 2010 at 11:28 am

I want pasta for lunch now. Yummy. I was actually good at sports when I was a kid, but now, I can’t do anything. It’s like as I’ve gotten older my coordination and balance have taken a hiatus. I loved hearing about your story.

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Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman July 29, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I have zero coordination, too, which is why I never made a sports team. Not that I wanted to. I figure if I had played lacrosse I would have killed myself by day 3 of practice by somehow tripping over the grass.

This marinara looks great. I never make any because I hate onions and garlic and, go figure, they’re kind of a necessity. Yes, I’m Italian. Shame me.

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Kelly July 29, 2010 at 12:23 pm

This is awesome…I love classic marinara but it is usually has so much sugar!! I love making my own! And your anticdotes totally cracked me up…I swear you bring words to life and I feel like I am reading an awesome book!

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Can You Stay for Dinner July 29, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Thank you, Kelly! We have to be able to laugh at my past- it was hilarious

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Tina July 29, 2010 at 12:36 pm

You need to write a book! You have such a fabulous way with your words. I love it.

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Karen July 29, 2010 at 1:27 pm

I agree with the other comments Andrea – write a book! I’ll buy it! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and what keeps me coming back and back again is your clever and witty writing style and your delicious food!

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Karen July 29, 2010 at 1:29 pm

P.S. I wish I really COULD stay for dinner!

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Meg July 29, 2010 at 1:31 pm

I’m a little weirded out that I’ve been thinking about finding a good marinara recipe all week and here it is! I will DEFINITELY be testing this out!

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Erica July 29, 2010 at 2:09 pm

I’ve never made my own marinara and I should just DO it. I’m book marking right now. Josh doesn’t like chunks though…If I grind up the tomatoes, do you think it will impact the flavoring? Let me know. Oh and I bet you looked just awesome in umbros…gosh I had them in every color :)

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Can You Stay for Dinner July 29, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Hey! You can certainly grind up the tomatoes- the flavor will remain the absolute same! Hope you make it and like it!!

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Kate July 29, 2010 at 6:12 pm

This post made me laugh so hard at our failed sports career! What was my excuse!? I love you and PJ’s marinara–equally. xoxo

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Can You Stay for Dinner July 29, 2010 at 9:21 pm

AAAAHHHH!!! I’m soooo soo happy to see your comment. I love you love you love you! God, at least you’re giving credibility to our insufficiencies as sports players. Thank God we stopped when we did and didn’t mess around with intramurals in college. That would have been disaster zone. I’ll call you tomorrow or Saturday! Thanks for the sweet message, it made me smile a thousand times over!

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Anne Marie@New Weigh of Life July 30, 2010 at 7:54 am

I love homemade marinara sauce. It reminds me so much of home!

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Arlene November 4, 2010 at 9:41 am

I read you story in a magazine last night – can’t wait to start following you journey.
Thanks for shareing it.

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Cynthia January 13, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I wonder if this would store well in the fridge for say a week or so?

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admin January 14, 2012 at 7:31 am

Yes, it should keep for a week in the fridge!

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Rose Weiss July 19, 2012 at 9:58 am

I made the meatballs and this marinara sauce and I have to say, it is the best sauce I have ever had! I served it over the zucchini and summer squash like you did, and I don’t think I will ever buy sauce again! Thanks for sharing =)

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Veronike May 28, 2013 at 2:38 pm

I let this simmer for about an hour and it was just delicious! I went through 3 spoons because my boyfriend wouldn’t stop licking them!! Can’t wait to have them with your slow cooked meatballs which are taking over my apartment with such bouquet of scents as I type. Yet another great recipe.

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