Marinara: The Recipe

Read my Multi-Part Guide to marinara.

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800 g (28 oz) can of whole plum tomatoes
50 g (60 mL or about a quarter cup) extra virgin olive oil
50 g (about six to eight medium-sized) garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 medium sprig fresh oregano with the stem
1 medium sprig fresh basil with the stem
3 medium-sized basil leaves, julienned
Kosher salt to taste (about 5 g or one teaspoon)


60 g (60 mL or about a quarter cup) kombu dashi
3 g (one large) dried red chili pepper


  1. Empty tomatoes and juices from the can into a large bowl. By hand, thoroughly crush the tomatoes so that they break down into pieces no bigger than the size of a dime.
  2. If using the dashi, pour into the can and swirl around to pick up the tomato juices and small solids. If not using dashi, use an equivalent amount of water. Reserve this mixture.
  3. In a large, stainless or carbon steel skillet (do not use cast iron or a deep pot) heat the oil to approximately 230 °C (446 °F). Add the garlic and simmer just until it becomes aromatic.
  4. Before the garlic has a chance to brown even slightly, add the tomatoes. Start a timer for 20 minutes. Your tomatoes are now on the clock and cannot cook for longer than that. Gently, but quickly, fold the tomatoes and juices with the olive oil, integrating the two as best you can. You know you’re done when there is not much oil pooling atop the tomatoes.
  5. Wait until your tomatoes come to a mild simmer then pour in your dashi (or water) mixture. Carefully, but quickly, integrate this by folding it in with the tomatoes.
  6. Sprinkle salt over the whole surface of the tomatoes and add dried red chili pepper. Delicately but quickly fold the salt into the tomatoes until they just become deeply aromatic. Taste some of the sauce to verify a mild, pleasing saltiness. If insufficiently salty, sprinkle a small amount of additional salt and fold it into the tomatoes once again, note the change in aroma and taste again. Continue until salt is at mild, but pleasing level. Be careful not to oversalt and err on the side of undersalting.
  7. Place the oregano and basil sprigs atop the sauce. Wait until the basil begins to wilt and push both downwards into the tomatoes. Bring sauce to a rolling simmer.
  8. As the sauce simmers, the olive oil will separate again and come to the surface. As it does it will turn a deep orange color. After 10 minutes of additional simmering taste the sauce. The soft, sweetness of the herbs should balance the acidity of the tomatoes. You should not be able to taste any overpowering herb flavor or bitterness. This is a sign that you have simmered too long and should not happen at this stage. If balance between sweetness and acidity has not been achieved (that is, insufficient herbal sweetness), continue to simmer, retasting every couple minutes until you perceive the balance or when your 20 minutes has expired.
  9. Remove from heat, delicately but quickly refold in the separated oil back into the sauce. Add additional salt to taste as necessary. Top with julienned basil.
  10. Use your marinara to coat pasta, to compliment baked goat cheese, atop pan roasted meatballs, alone with toast squares or however else you enjoy marinara.

Go back to part one, Marinara: A Multi-Part Guide.

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