A Simple Marinara Sauce

Homegrown tomatoes

After a long gap I am harvesting tomatoes in sizable quantities this summer that require processing. Yes, the monkeys have been kind enough to share with us. I have been harvesting around 3/4 of a kilo every two days. The strategy is to harvest them the moment they start to show the slightest bit of colour. Sorry, no vine-ripened tomatoes for us, lest the monkeys get more than they leave for us. Left in the basket they ripen in a couple of days.

I have made two batches of marinara, and who knows, I just might succumb and make ketchup too. It’s just a tad too much work for the likes of me. But miracles do happen.

Marinara can be a hit and miss for many as the quality of tomatoes is inconsistent and most of the time we wing it rather than follow a recipe. Many of you messaged me on Instagram asking for my recipe. When I made the second batch I took care to measure the ingredients which there are few of. Go ahead and make it with the bounty of tomatoes currently in season. Don’t tell me you don’t have the time. 🙂 Make the most of the lock-down; it will be behind us soon and we be back to our sordid ways again.

I don’t fuss with peeling the tomato skins by blanching or processing the tomatoes through a food-mill. Lock-down or not, I have better things to do with my time. I didn’t plant any Italian basil this past winter so I had none for the sauce. Do add a few leaves if you can get some or use whatever fresh herbs you have available. Use dried herbs if you don’t have fresh ones. Make it your own. I used rosemary and marjoram from my garden and didn’t miss the basil at all. You can always add other herbs to your dish later.

Marinara Sauce

A Simple Marinara Sauce
Yield: 1.5 kg (approx.)

2 kg ripe (desi) tomatoes, rinsed and halved or quartered
4 medium onions, peeled and quartered
6 (small) cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
a glug or two of good olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 tsp red chili flakes (or fresh ground pepper)
1 tsp sugar
fresh herbs like basil, oregano, marjoram, and rosemary (do not chop)

Homegrown Tomatoes

Take the olive oil in a heavy bottom nonreactive pan and add the smashed garlic cloves. Do not allow the cloves to brown. Just as they begin to sizzle add the tomatoes. Keep the heat at medium and cook a few minutes till some of the juice starts to pool. Add salt and let cook another few minutes. Stir gently to make sure nothing catches at the bottom. Cover for a couple of minutes, if needed, to speed up the steaming.

In 10 minutes it will all start to look quite juicy. Add the quartered onion to the pot, lower the heat, and let it all simmer away (uncovered) for approximately an hour and 15 minutes. Stir every now and then to check the progress. Set a timer lest you forget and the whole thing burn down to a char. It can happen to the best of cooks.

10 minutes into cooking

One hour into the cooking taste and adjust seasoning. Add sugar. Add the chili flakes. Add half of the herbs to the pot. At the end of the cooking time the contents should be looking thicker and reduced by about 1/4th or so. Take the pot off the heat. Remove the herbs. You may also remove the garlic and onion – sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. This time it’s all in. Blend the sauce using an immersion blender to a consistency you like. Add in the reserved herbs to the still warm sauce. Transfer to clean glass jars or containers and top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Use to top your homemade pizza or toss in some homemade pasta for a quick meal. Refrigerate and use within 10 days. Or freeze for later.



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A self professed urban ecologist!

2 thoughts on “A Simple Marinara Sauce”

  1. Very nice, Anita! I had no idea the monkeys went for tomatoes! Guess they aren’t poisonous after all… 😉

    My own marinara ritual is even simpler than yours in some ways… but I admit that I /do/ use the food (Foley) mill. No need to blanche and remove skins first, as they get sieved along with the seeds in one step: just cut each fresh tomato into rough 8ths, mix them in a pan with a little salt to pull out juices, and heat gently, covered, until quite soft. Then run through the Foley to meet those Italian high standards. I don’t waste the beneficial fibre from the skins and peel, however (this is where the frugal Indian in me emerges); instead, taking a cue from our dear friend, Musy, I add this to paratha dough, and add a few spices (turmeric, chilli pdr, dhania-jeera, kasoori methi, black pepper, I think) for a heavenly treat! The rest of my method is similar to yours: heat olive oil, fry minced or smashed garlic lightly (no browning), then add sieved tomato, carefully reduce by 1/4 to 1/3… (yes, I once burned an entire batch too!) season delicately with salt, red chili pdr, black pepper, and basil. I don’t add sugar. The last few times I’ve been adding some marjoram and oregano, still allowing the basil to be “the star” in the show.

    I hope you and your family are keeping healthy and staying safe amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s doing some horrible things here to our most-vulnerable and their families – not to mention the economy and supply-lines. Trust me, I’m VERY thankful for my stash of dried veggies and Indian dals… eases my worries. But we, as humans, WILL weather this too! Praying for a vaccine soon.

    Take care-


    So good to hear from you! I ought to post more often if this brings you out.

    The monkeys don’t eat the tomatoes but they pluck, taste and then throw them. They are wasted for me. And I have a feeling, the squirrels are also at them. But my garden has been a constant source of greens all through the year (if only you were there on Instagram!) and we now eat a lot more greens than before – almost 5 days a week.

    My food mill sits in a different part of the house and needs another level of involvement which I am too lazy for on most says. So I leave the skin and all in. With these tomatoes it’s as well that I do because they seem to be more liquid than pulp. I so miss not having basil this year. A friend has planted some for me and I hope to get it once this lockdown is over.

    So far we are doing ok in terms of being safe from this flu but the economy is going to take a lot of work and time to come back on track. We are just testing opening up a bit starting today. Fingers crossed. Good to hear that you are well. MUst be a very busy time for you in fact.

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