Homemade Marinara Spaghetti Sauce – A Family Recipe

by Grace Boyle on November 18, 2010

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My momma is a wonderful cook. She is 100% Italian (her maiden name is Spatafore) and with her own garden our whole life, we always had fresh vegetables and food on our table from our backyard. She is organic to the core and keeps me inspired to serve, shop and eat organic. This is her vegetarian version of homemade marina, spaghetti sauce. I make it for our potlucks and it’s always devoured.

Aside from loving this recipe, this is part of a foodie, Italian cooking challenge with my friend and “Adopted Blogger“, Cailin over at A White Picket Fence. Simultaneously, she has posted her favorite Italian recipe. Check her out and learn more about what we’re doing together to mentor and learn.

Let’s the games begin.

You Will Need:

  • 2 cans whole peeled tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes – try Organic Muir Glen)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 carrots (diced)
  • 2 celery stalks (diced)
  • 7 cloves garlic (diced)
  • 1 cup onion (diced)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup sugar (key, secret ingredient)
  • Olive Oil
  • OPTIONAL: 1 Tbl. parsley


Pour olive oil into deep, tall pot (cover the pan with thin layer of olive oil) on medium-high heat. Once hot, add the diced carrot, celery, onion and basil. Add the bay leaf to soak into the ingredients.

Cook and stir for 60 minutes, until vegetables are soft and onions are transparent.

After 60 minutes add tomatoes (juice included) to the vegetables. Add 1/4 cup sugar (this is my favorite part of the ingredients). It makes the sauce. Taste for appropriate sweetness.

Slow simmer for 2+ hours until reduced to half.

I like my sauce a bit chunky and when you use the whole tomatoes, even by simmering it down, it will stay chunky (this is why it’s important to really dice your vegetables). You can always crush or blend for a smoother sauce. I like to mash down the simmered sauce with a large spoon.

Make sure to remove the bay leaf before serving.

Personally, I love my marinara sauce over rigatoni or angel hair. Shave fresh parmigiana reggiano and voila, molto bene!

*Note: Last weekend when I made this sauce for my friends at Potluck Sunday, I was so hungry, I forgot to take the final photo of the finished sauce. Excuse my hunger and love for food – I will be adding a final photo when I make it again.

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  • Cailin

    I love this recipe and your family stories behind it.

    Great photos!

    • http://gracefullplate.com grace

      Thank you 🙂 Glad to hear you like it. I can’t believe I didn’t get a photo at the end…such a mistake haha, but it’s still worth it. Let me know if you try it.

  • http://www.lostincheeseland.com Lindsey

    Bookmarking this!! Love homemade tomato sauce (and love that you are so authentically Italian)

    • http://gracefullplate.com grace

      Lindsey, so glad to hear you like it. It’s a really simple recipe – the only thing that it takes is TIME. But you can do a lot of things while its simmering 🙂 Let me know how it comes out.

  • http://doniree.com doniree

    And…. bookmarked.

    • http://gracefullplate.com grace

      YES! It’s such a good one to whip out – you can do anything with it 🙂

  • http://rebeccaarielle.wordpress.com/ Rebecca

    Your sauce is simmering with an hour and a half to go. It smells great!

    • http://gracefullplate.com grace

      Take pictures, feel free to blog it yourself! I can’t wait to hear how it tastes 🙂

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  • http://www.BeHappyLifeCoach.com Lenora Boyle

    It’s fun to play Italian music like Andrea Bocelli or Pavarotti while cooking Italian food!
    Usually stores sell fresh basil even during the winter months.

    Rebecca, make your own pesto (basil relish-like mixture) and freeze it for out-of-season use.

    • http://gracefullplate.com grace

      Thanks for the delicious recipe Mom! You know I love it and now I’ve got it down.

    • http://rebeccaarielle.wordpress.com/ Rebecca

      I do have pesto frozen from earlier in the season. It’s nice to have on hand in the winter. Next year we will have to plant a lot more basil than we did this year!

  • http://thewholekitchen.wordpress.com Jenn Sutherland

    I’m gonna have to try your recipe next time I make marinara – I know you would not be steering me wrong with your momma’s recipe! I do a couple big canning sessions every summer, to stockpile tomato sauce, salsas, and stewed tomatoes…I’m a dork like that. 😉

    • http://gracefullplate.com grace

      Jenn, you will have to let me know how it comes out! My grandparents both do canning – their whole life they have and I crave their sweet peppers and pickles. This will be perfect.

  • ali

    Yes! I have to try… but I’m afraid it will never be as good as lenoras!

    • http://gracefullplate.com grace

      Ali! It will be 🙂 It’s very easy, that’s the best part. It is SO good a few days after too.

  • http://www.sarahewelch.com Sarah E. Welch

    Yup, this is how I learned to make it, too 🙂 I do the same thing and add roasted red peppers and blend the whole thing to make my roasted red pepper tomato soup.

    Also–I use a potato masher to break down the whole tomatoes a bit–sometimes use it on ground meats, too! It does a great job, and I feel better about not having a uni-tasker in the kitchen 🙂

    • http://gracefullplate.com grace

      Sarah, thanks for popping by! I’ve never tried roasted red peppers, I can imagine that would really alter the taste (in a great new way).

      Yes, I use unique tools but a potato masher is one of them! I like to just mash it up but not completely blend it. Adding the vegetables and tomatoes makes it chunky and it totally depends how you want the sauce!

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  • Brett Chalupa

    Thank you for sharing this!
    I have been looking for a spaghetti sauce recipe to try for ages, for some reason my mom has never really attempted to make her own!

    I can’t wait to try it out! 🙂

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