A fantastic, authentic Marinara Sauce recipe from Boston’s famous North End Italian neighborhood.

Marinara Sauce

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Boston’s historic North End neighborhood has a long-standing American heritage, and it is famous for being the home of patriot Paul Revere and other colonial-era American landmarks.  But the North End is also sometimes referred to as Boston’s Little Italy, and it is equally famous for its Italian heritage!  The neighborhood is home to numerous restaurants serving fantastic, authentic Italian cuisine and it attracts crowds of locals and tourists alike!

This recipe for Marinara Sauce is adapted from The North End Italian Cookbook by Marguerite DiMino Buonopane, one of the North End’s most celebrated cooks!  An old friend of mine who came from a large Italian family originally told me about this wonderful cookbook. I knew that I had to buy it for my cookbook collection when she told me that everyone in her family referred to this book as “our family cookbook” because the recipes were so similar to their own Italian grandmother’s recipes. (My husband Jack agrees – this is a great Italian cookbook!)

best marinara sauce recipe

What is Marinara Sauce?

Marinara Sauce is a quickly-cooked tomato sauce with bright and wonderfully complex flavors! It’s a staple in most Italian-American households, and delicious as a sauce over pasta and meatballs, but it’s also fantastic as as a dipping sauce with fried mozzarella, eggplant fries, or arancini (aka risotto balls).

How do you make Marinara Sauce?

You’ll start by sauteeing onions and garlic in extra virgin olive oil until the onions are soft and translucent. Then, add canned San Marzano tomatoes that you’ve crushed by hand, along with some finely shredded carrot, fresh chopped basil, chopped fresh mint*, a pinch of red pepper flakes, as well as salt and pepper to taste.

(*Don’t be afraid to add the mint! It adds a very subtle flavor that perfectly complements the tomato and basil, and it really makes this a special marinara sauce!)

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easy marinara dipping sauce

We hope you enjoy this authentic taste of Boston’s North End neighborhood in your own home!

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You may also like these other Tomato Sauce recipes:

This post originally appeared on A Family Feast in December 2012. We’ve made some minor updates.

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Marinara Sauce - A Family Feast

Marinara Sauce

  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 1 quart
  • Category: sauce
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

Ingredients

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

½ cup chopped yellow onion

34 cloves minced garlic (1 1/2 tablespoons)

1 28-ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand (just reach in and squeeze the tomatoes)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup finely shredded carrot

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (or ½ teaspoon dried)

1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Few grinds of black pepper


Instructions

Place olive oil, onions and garlic in a cool sauce pan and gradually bring up heat to medium high. (Heating it this way makes the onions very soft.) Once the oil is hot and the onions and garlic are bubbling, cook for 3 minutes stirring frequently.

Add all of the other ingredients. Stir and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree until desired consistency. (We like our marinara sauce to be a bit chunky.)

Use as a dipping sauce or over pasta.


Keywords: Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce

 

Marinara Sauce recipe

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    Comments

  • Kate Teasler wrote:

    Is there any reason you couldn’t use your Italian Tomato Sauce recipe to make Marinara? I have made your tomato sauce recipe many times (as prescribed) and love it! I will be using fresh tomatoes this time and like the idea of preserving the fresh taste via this quick cooking method. Is there anything I should leave out of the Italian Tomato Sauce recipe to cook it in 15-20 minutes instead of 90? Thanks in advance!

    • Jack wrote:

      The two are very similar. I can see no reason why you can’t interchange ingredients and methods. The carrots in the marinara give it a slightly sweet earthy flavor where the tomato sauce has granulated sugar. The tomato sauce is cooked longer where the marinara is cooked less for a fresher tomato taste. Lastly the tomato sauce has cheese and butter and the marinara doesn’t, again so that the finished sauce has a fresh taste vs the deep rich cooked taste of the tomato sauce.
      There is no scientific or culinary reason why you can’t play around with the tomato sauce and use it as marinara. Maybe omit the cheese and butter and cook it less if that is what you are going for.
      Hope this helps,
      Jack

  • Marianne wrote:

    Im sorry but you never use mint in marinara sauce. Any true Sicilian knows this.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks for your feedback Marianne – I suppose it’s possible that Mrs. Buonopane is from another part of Italy? Either way – we hope you’ll try the recipe – you might actually like it!

  • Victoria wrote:

    your recipes look delic!!! thank you

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Victoria!

  • Geri Juen wrote:

    With the mint added, does it make the sauce taste minty?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Geri – No, not minty at all. The small amount of mint just enhances some of the other flavors, but your dinner guests would never guess that there is mint in the sauce. Hope you enjoy the recipe!

  • Nancy Stone wrote:

    Looks wonderful. I will make these meatballs

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Nancy! We hope you enjoy the recipe!

  • kayla proctor wrote:

    I MAKE MY HOMEMADE SAUCE WITH THE CANNED TOMATOES, ONIONS, FRESH GARLIC BUT TRY THIS!I ADD ITALIAN SEAONING, SUGAR,FENNEL SEEDS, RED PEPPER FLAKES, 3 DROPS OF HOT SAUCE, SEASONED SALT, SLICED 2 LARGE PICKES GREEN OLIVES, TAKE OUT BEFOE SERVING. DRIED SWEET, BASIL, OREGENO. 1/3 CUP OF WAT5ER SIMMER LO FOR 5 HOURS! 2 TABLESPOONS OF OLIVE OIL. FENNEL GROUND OR SEEDS WITH THE OLIVES TAKES THE PLACE OF WINE! THE BEST SAUCE I EVER HAD WAS BACK IN 1967 I WAS NINE YEARS OLD BORN IN FORT WORTH TEAS. MY MOTHER TOOK ME TO PIZZA INN FOR A SPAGHETTI DINNER. THE SAUCE WAS LIKE WATER LOOKED LIKE JUST PLAIN WHITE PASTA WITH A PIECE OF A TOMATOE ON MY PLACE AND A PIECE OF BAY LEAF BUT THE FLAVOR WAS THE BEST I EVER HAD AND TODAY I TRIED TO MAKE IT, TRIED THE RESEARCH AND NOTHING COMPARES. I AM 59 YRS. OLD AND CAN STILL REMEMBER THE FLAVOR THAT GOOD! CAN YOU RESEARCH IT AND MAYBE FIND THE RECIPE THANKS KAYLA

    • Martha wrote:

      Your sauce sounds delicious Kayla! Neither Jack nor I have been to Pizza Inn so we wouldn’t know where to start in terms of recreating it for you…and I don’t see any copycat recipes online either….I’m sorry we can’t be more help!

  • Christine wrote:

    I will try this recipe, I was married to an Italian who made sauce/gravy every Sunday. He cooked the meatballs in the sauce too. I could never make sauce though, I always ruined it so I stuck with jarred sauce. Some are good, but I would like to make it mysel. Question, I have never heard o mint in sauce. I can’t even get it in the stores, especially this time o year. How can I improvise?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Christine – No worries…you can always leave the mint out. It adds an additional hint of flavor but if you can’t find it at the supermarket, it’s perfectly fine to leave it out. We hope you enjoy the recipe!

  • pam groves wrote:

    Hi I would like your recipe for cucumber relish, I made it last year but have mislaid your recipe.

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Pam – We actually don’t have a cucumber relish recipe on our site (but that sounds delicious!). Could it be one of these other cucumber recipes on our site? https://www.afamilyfeast.com/?s=cucumber

  • Meagan | LifeOutsideOfTexas.com wrote:

    I made this last night for a dinner party. It was absolutely delicious! I made it almost exactly as your recipe calls, but I did add a few extra ingredients to kick the flavor up a notch. I added bell peppers in with the onions when sautéing. I also put 1 roasted red pepper and a handful of sundried tomatoes in the food processor with a bit of the sauce, then added a little more sauce and pulsed and then left some of the sauce chunky. That seemed to make a really great consistency. I cooked on low for a few hours so I added 2 cans of tomato sauce to keep the liquid levels right. And I did add fresh herbs because I had them on hand. And added meat to make it a meat sauce because that’s just what I like.

    So so good! I’ll definitely be using this as my base recipe from now on.

    • Martha wrote:

      So glad you enjoyed the recipe Meagan – the changes you made sound wonderful!

  • Leigh wrote:

    I made this tonight. The Italian market was closed so I couldn’t get any San Marzano tomatoes, I just used regular canned. And the grocery store was out of fresh basil so I used dried. I had planned to serve it with meatballs but left the meat at the grocery store. I ended up just frying up some hamburger from frozen and this was still fantastic. It will be added to my regular rotation and will be making double batches.

    • Martha wrote:

      So glad you enjoyed the recipe Leigh! Good to know that the sauce is delicious even with the substitutions.

  • Patti wrote:

    these look delicious, definetly going to try Marinara been looking for one and from a true Italian its got to be delish. thank you for sharing

    • Martha wrote:

      We hope you enjoy the recipe Patti!

  • Melissa wrote:

    A simple and easy recipe that produces wonderful results. I love this marinara! I have used it for so many recipes; stuffed peppers, Italian, meatloaf, over zucchini noodles….. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

    • Martha wrote:

      You’re very welcome Melissa – we’re glad you are enjoying the recipe as much as we do!

  • Johnatha Jones wrote:

    Hmmm! This was delicious! Reminds me of Italy.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Johnatha!

  • JoAnn wrote:

    what brand of tomatoes do you use?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi JoAnn – we usually purchase Cento or Pastene canned tomatoes – or fresh tomatoes will also work well for this sauce! Hope that helps!

  • Aimee @ ShugarySweets wrote:

    Love this recipe!!! We go through a lot of marinara in our house!!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Aimee! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Rachel @{I Love} My Disorganized Life wrote:

    This looks so good! It is seriously making me want pasta, or pizza, or just bread for dipping, like right now!

  • Sockmonkeys Kitchen wrote:

    Wonderful recipe and I love the story behind the cookbook =0)
    PS: also am now a new subscriber to your blog.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks for stopping by and for the follow!!

  • Aubrey @ Real Housemoms wrote:

    Mmmmmm I’m so glad you posted this recipe and about this cookbook! I love the North End. I recently took my husband back to Boston with me. When I think Boston I think about the North End.

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