There was an Italian restaurant that I loved in college that made their own marinara sauce. It was so balanced and slightly sweet. For years I’ve been trying to recreate a similar marinara sauce at home with that same flavor profile, but had no success. After researching and trying so many recipes that called for weird ingredients like sweet peppers, oregano, thyme, and carrots…I still couldn’t get it right! The sauce was always missing something! Little did I know that I was using too many ingredients!
One day, I was talking to a friend from work whose mother had been raised in Italy. I began to tell her about this sauce that I loved in college and all the ways that I had tried to recreate it. She told me that I had too many ingredients in my sauce, and homemade marinara sauce is simple to make with only a few ingredients. She shared with me the ingredients that she uses in her homemade sauce, and I noticed that she didn’t mention oregano. I asked her about the oregano and she said, “oregano makes the sauce bitter.” I couldn’t believe this because so many people, including me, use oregano in their homemade sauce.
After work that day, I stopped at the grocery store and got everything that she and I talked about. I made the sauce with the ingredients she suggested and it was the best! She was right–the oregano and the extras were making my sauce bitter. The only herb it needed was basil and lots of it!
The past couple of years I have made a few alterations to my sauce and one of those include using raw honey. I add honey to this recipe as something sweet to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes. Traditionally, you would use about 1-2 teaspoons of sugar, but I find that honey works well too. I try to use natural sweeteners only. I have a free download that explains how to switch from sugar to natural sweeteners here.
Another alteration that I have made is adding a parmesan rind to the sauce while it is simmering. It gives the sauce an extra layer of flavor and savoriness. Whenever I buy a block of parmesan cheese to grate myself, I save the rind and throw it in the freezer. Then, when I’m ready to make this sweet marinara sauce I throw the frozen rind in and and allow it simmer. Once the sauce is finished cooking, I remove the rind and toss it.
This recipe calls for adding salt and pepper to taste which depends on your individual preference. I think tomatoes need a good amount of salt. So, I do put a bit more salt than one would think. I like to use Pink Himalayan Salt. It is the only salt I keep in my kitchen. I use this salt because it has not been processed and stripped of its minerals. Pink Himalayan Salt contains 84 trace minerals, whereas table salt contains only one mineral. “White table salt” is highly processed and consists of sodium chloride and an anti-caking agent. Switching to Himalayan Pink Salt, Celtic Sea Salt, or Redmond Real Sea Salt is any easy swap that you can make to benefit your health.
This recipe for sweet marinara sauce is now the only sauce that I make! My family depends on it. I can no longer get by with a jar of sauce from the grocery store.
What are some foods that you have tried to recreate?
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 (28 ounce) organic crushed tomatoes
- 15-20 fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon honey
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 parmesan rind (optional)
- In a large pot over medium heat, add olive oil.
- Once olive oil has heated up, add chopped onion to pot and sauté until onion is translucent.
- Add minced garlic and cook for about 1 minute. (Do not allow garlic to brown or it will taste bitter.)
- Add tomatoes, basil, honey, salt, pepper, and parmesan rind to pot and stir all ingredients together.
- Bring sauce to a simmer and then set to low heat.
- Allow sauce to simmer for one hour.
- Once sauce is done, remove parmesan rind.