Classic Marinara Sauce

This classic Italian sauce is a staple for many dishes and can easily be enjoyed on it’s own over pasta.  It can also be used as a dipping sauce for bread, calamari, or mozzarella cheese sticks.  It can also be used to make classic dishes such Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs or Chicken Parmesan.

Time: 60 – 90 Minutes
Level: Easy
Cost: $2-3 per plate
Serves: 4-6


  1. 2 TBSP olive oil
  2. 1 TBSP butter (or clarified butter)
  3. 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  4. 4-5 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped
  5. 1 small to medium yellow onion, diced
  6. 8oz baby bella or crimini mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on size (optional)
  7. 1 TSP red pepper flakes (optional)
  8. 1 28oz can (or 2 14.5oz cans) whole peeled plum tomatoes (opt for San Marzano if you can get the real thing)
    1. Alternatively, 1 140z can stewed tomatoes, 1 140z can petite diced tomatoes, and 1 60z can tomato sauce will work fine.
  9. 1 6oz can tomato paste
  10. 2 tsp (or up to 1 TBSP) dried oregano, to taste
  11. Salt and Pepper, to taste
  12. 1/4 cup brandy (optional, for flambé or to enhance flavor)
  13. 1.5 cups dry white wine
  14. 1 12oz can decent chicken stock
  15. 2 sprigs fresh basil, divided


Heat olive oil and butter in a large heavy bottomed skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and stir until onions are translucent, 3-5 minutes. Once onions have sweat a bit, add garlic and stir until fragrant, being careful not to brown.

Add mushrooms and red pepper flakes, if using, and continue to stir until the mushrooms begin to caramelize ever so slightly.

Optional Step:  Add 1/4 cup brandy and flambé

Add white wine and chicken stock, stir, and bring to a boil.  Scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add canned tomatoes, with liquid, and stir to incorporate.  Add tomato paste and stir to incorporate.  Use a potato masher to mash the whole tomatoes as they cook.

Return to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and allow sauce to reduce to desired consistency, stirring once in a while to ensure even cooking.  Taste for seasoning.

In the last ten minutes of cooking, place one of the basil sprigs in the center of the pan.  Allow it to wilt, and then submerge it in the sauce and allow sauce to continue simmering, 10 minutes.

Discard basil sprig and stir in 2 TBSP unsalted butter.  Continue to stir until butter is incorporated (you won’t believe the difference this makes).

Garnish with remaining basil sprig if desired.




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