This marinara recipe is simple and easy to make (and vegan), and nails all the right flavor notes. Fresh basil, garlic, and a veggie infusion make the sauce pop.
Intro to My Favorite Marinara Recipe
I’ve been exploring various ways of cooking marinara sauces lately. The ones that have tasted the best highlight a trio of main flavors – tomato, garlic, and basil. You might even say the garlic and basil serve the purpose of enhancing the tomato. In any case it’s a sauce where simplicity is king.
I developed this recipe with the goal of simplicity of flavor and method, though the recipe has a few additions that further help the tomato flavor shine and round out the mouthfeel.
What’s different about this Marinara Recipe?
This recipe is largely similar to most others for marinara sauce but there are two things I’ve found take it to the next level:
- Steeping the sauce with carrots and onions – by cutting the veggies large, you can simmer them in the sauce and then easily remove them before serving. This way, the sauce takes on their flavor in a subtle way that slightly sweetens it and makes the flavor rounder. (I learned this trick from a Serious Eats recipe.)
- Stirring in some miso at the end. Maybe I use miso in too many recipes. Maybe it’s just super versatile. But it meshes with the tomato flavor so well and goes a long way to magnify the natural umami of the tomato.
How do you make this?
As far as sauce recipes go, this one is pretty hands-off. Once you’ve chopped all the veggies, you just saute some garlic in olive oil in a pot, then add canned tomatoes, onion, carrot, and basil.
Simmer that for at least half an hour, no need to stir if you keep the heat low. You can cook it longer to develop the flavor, if you want. After simmering, remove the onion, carrot, and basil. Stir in the miso, add salt to taste, sprinkle on some fresh herbs, and you’re good to go!
Some Cooking Tips
I used canned organic whole, peeled, tomatoes from Muir Glen and they worked really nicely. (They’re not paying me – I just like the product.) Especially out-of-season, canned tomatoes can be much tastier than fresh ones. I cooked them whole and mashed them coarsely with a wooden spoon before serving, to create a rustic look.
I used white miso in this, but I bet red miso would work well, too. Be sure to get a miso that doesn’t contain any bonito (fish) ingredients.
How do you use this Marinara Recipe?
Aside from the obvious use as a pasta sauce, I’ve made a few different dishes with my marinara test batches and they all turned out great. Here are some ideas:
- Vegan chick’n parmesan – just use a store-bought vegan chick’n sandwich patty, put a couple tablespoons of marinara sauce on it, then put a slice of vegan cheese (I went with smoked gouda). Use the air fryer or oven to melt the cheese. Perfecto.
- Toast up some slices of bread – a baguette or otherwise – and spoon some marinara onto them as a snack or appetizer. Like a fancier bruschetta!
- Pair them with vegan “meatballs” – whether homemade or store-bought – the combination is on point.
More Plant-Based Pasta (Sauce) Recipes
- Spaghetti Carbonara – feature smoky mushroom “bacon” and a silky “eggy” sauce
- Lentil and Mushroom Bolognese – has a deep earthy, “meaty” flavor
- Creamy Mushroom Pasta – uses cashew cream and dried mushrooms to create big flavor
- Spaghetti Puttanesca – tomatoes, capers, and olives make for a very umami pasta
- Pasta Primavera – has six kinds of veggies in a refreshingly light cream sauce
Plant-based sides to accompany the Marinara
- 3-Ingredient Sauteed Kale – easy and fast and the flavor profile is in sync with the marinara
- Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup – creamy, soothing, and full of mushroom flavor
- 3-Ingredient Vegan Creamed Spinach – rich and delicious, less than 10 minutes
- Italian Fennel and Radicchio Salad – contrast on many different dimensions makes this a fun salad
As always, if you try this recipe out, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @gastroplant on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.
My Favorite Marinara Recipe
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic crushed, pressed, or minced
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 Tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 carrot cut into quarters (sticks) lengthwise
- 1/2 onion cut into quarters through the root so the layers of each quarter hold together
- 1-2 sprigs basil
- 2 cans whole peeled tomatoes (28 ounces / 793 grams per can)
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 Tablespoon miso
- Salt to taste
- Fresh parsley chopped
- Fresh basil chopped
- Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and stir until fragrant and light golden, 2-3 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and oregano and stir for another minute.
- Add the carrot, onion, and basil sprig. Pour the canned tomatoes, including all the juices on top, covering the other ingredients. Stir in the tomato paste. When the tomato juice begins to boil, reduce to low heat and cover.
- Simmer at least 30 minutes, up to an hour, depending how much you’d like to develop the flavor of the sauce. Remove the basil, carrots, and onions, which you can either discard or eat separately.
- Scoop a few tablespoons of the liquid part of the sauce into a small bowl. Mix the miso together with the sauce and dissolve it completely using a fork. Pour the mixture into the pot of sauce.
- Use a wooden spoon, muddle, or other device to crush and chop the tomatoes to your desired consistency. Taste the sauce and stir in salt as needed.
- Garnish with fresh parsley and basil and serve over boiled pasta, as a dipping sauce, or any other way you prefer.
Sue R says
I’m not vegetarian or vegan but the recipe does sound nice for sure and I subscribe to your wifes blog 🙂 I have a thing for not wasting food so even though I am sure the tip from Serious Eats is perfect (I have Kenji’s big white book!) I’m thinking I’d try to either grate the veggies or pulse them till very fine in a food processor so then I get the added fibre and the taste. Do you think that would work?
I wouldn’t mind making big batches and freezing it too instead of buying jars of sauce.
Thanks for stopping by! My goal is to share recipes that are tasty enough for omnivores, and my wife approves everything I cook 🙂 So I’m glad you’re here. What I did with the simmered carrot and onion is just eat them as a side dish, but I’m sure they would be really tasty pulsed into the sauce, too. I think this sauce is a good one to have frozen in bulk, since it’s so versatile.
Sue R says
Good idea to just eat the veggies that way. Our home was flooded early this year and am only just back in a couple of weeks ago but already planted our herb garden so I’ll have gorgeous basil to use in the sauce very soon 🙂 I have just been given a compost bin from the city council so guess there is another way to use the veg. Flood victims were offered a few things to help green up the city a bit.
Have you try this in an Instant Pot? If so, how long did you cook it?
Good question! I haven’t tried it in the Instant Pot but I think it would do a wonderful job of developing the flavor (Step 3). I think that you could do as little as 5-10 minutes or up to 40 minutes if you want to develop deeper flavor (and don’t mind the tomatoes being more tender). I’d be curious to hear how it goes!