This Easy Homemade Marinara uses fire-roasted diced tomatoes, Vietnamese caramel sauce, and a sardine to get fast and easy flavor packed full of umami. Jump to Recipe
Hello. It’s been a while. I’ve missed being here and creating things. I always lose myself a little bit in summer. But this summer was particularly hectic.
First I felt blocked (GDPR stuff), then I got busy (shower planning, weddings, work), and then I got thrown for a loop. It was the summer of firsts. I was a maid of honor for the first time at my sister’s wedding. And I got fired for the first time in my entire life.
Whatever reason you’re fired for or however it’s done, it doesn’t feel very good. I’m getting over it by coming back here and creating things. But like all unemployed people, the process of getting a job, or in my case this time around, landing freelance jobs, is stressful.
Which calls for comfort food. Fall is in the air, at least in the mornings and evenings here. And pasta sounds like a good idea.
Easy Homemade Marinara
Marinara sauce has always underwhelmed me. The only way I’ve ever liked it is by adding ground beef, pork, or sausage to it. For the past few years, I’ve tried to create an easy homemade marinara that doesn’t need any meat to add that savory punch that’s so satisfying.
And technically, I still haven’t done that, because a vegetarian couldn’t eat this. But it achieves my purpose of creating a light, healthy, and flavorful marinara that’s extremely easy and ready in 20 minutes.
The Top Secret Ingredients
The three ingredients that add flavor are:
- Canned fire roasted tomatoes
- Vietnamese caramel sauce
- 1 small sardine
Slow roasting sauces add depth and flavor but the process takes time. As a shortcut, using canned fire roasted tomatoes can add fast spice and flavor.
I’m obsessed with a couple of ingredients. And one of them is Vietnamese caramel sauce, which I broke down in my last post.
There are a lot of umami ingredients you can add to pasta sauce to make them pop: butter, cheese rinds, sardines or anchovies, fish sauce, soy sauce, liquid aminos, marmite, and miso paste. I’ve tried many different combinations and Vietnamese caramel sauce is my favorite.
The fish sauce and palm sugar combo in the sauce, plus the addition of one small sardine, creates that salty, sweet, savory punch that marinara needs.
You have to be a little careful with the sardine though. A little sardine helps round out the flavor. A big sardine overpowers the other flavors and makes the sauce taste fishy.
A Kitchen Staple
This easy homemade marinara is a good kitchen staple to have around. Which is why it gets a whole post to itself with not that many pictures (sorry).
It’s going to be the main ingredient in Ricotta Zucchini Lasagna and Spaghetti Squash Bowls with Turkey Sausage and Marinara Sauce.
Meanwhile, to all those who need comfort, I’m sending you hugs, cookies, and carbs ❤️
Easy Homemade Marinara Sauce in 20 Minutes
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 an onion finely diced
- 5 garlic cloves pressed
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 2 14.5 ounce cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 small sardine* soaked in olive oil preferably
- 1 tablespoon Vietnamese caramel sauce or 1/2 tablespoon coconut or palm sugar + 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon Himayalan salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano diced
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the onion and garlic, cooking for 3 to 5 minutes until fragrant, shiny, and translucent.
Add the tomato paste in the middle of the pan and let it sit sizzling for 30 seconds. Mix it in with the onions and garlic and cook for 30 more seconds to 1 minute, until it starts smelling caramelized.
Add the fire roasted diced tomatoes, mix, and let simmer for 5 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium-low.
Add 1 sardine and 1 tablespoon Thai caramel sauce (or 1/2 tablespoon coconut or palm sugar + 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce). Break apart the sardine and stir together, cooking for 3 to 5 minutes.
Reduce heat to low. Use an immersion blender to the get the sauce more smooth or to the consistency you prefer.
Add the oregano, salt, and pepper and stir. Turn off heat and set aside.
*Using a small sardine will up the flavor and umami of the sauce while a big sardine can overpower the other flavors and leave the sauce tasting a little fishy.
Makes about 3 cups
Try this marinara sauce out in these Spaghetti Squash Bowls with Turkey Sausage and Marinara Sauce.