Frankie’s Classic Homemade Marinara Sauce

20140901-112822.jpgI have a dear friend who I met in the late summer of 2006 while taking a film workshop in Maine.  We became fast friends over the 7 week class and knowing he was in New York City was a big reason I found the courage to move there when the class ended.  We connected over our love of The Birdcage.  When I broke my pelvis, he gave me a ride home from the hospital.  He let me sleep on his floor more than a couple times.  He believed in my talent and drive.  He could listen to me bitch and make me laugh until my gut hurt.  I am eternally grateful that he was brought into my life. His name is Frank, and Frank is awesome.

He also happens to be a first generation Italian who has many secrets he’s learned from his amazing mother over the years 🙂  So he was happy to share a few secrets to making a simple, fresh marinara sauce.  These tips include:

“Keep it simple.”

“Cook the onions SLOWLY.”

“There is never enough garlic.”

“How much basil?  LOTS”

“As the tomatoes boil, they foam up.  Skim that sh*t off the surface of the sauce.”

The devil is in the details folks!  Fresh is so good!  Plus, many store bought marinara sauces have extra sugar and salt added that you just don’t need or want in your body.  So without further adieu, let’s get cooking!


Frankie’s Homemade Marinara Sauce

7 medium tomatoes

1 can tomato paste

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 whole bulb fresh garlic

Fresh basil – lots.


1 Tbs Olive Oil

1 tsp honey (optional)


Prep for blanching: remove core and cut an X on the bottom.
Prep for blanching: remove core and cut an X on the bottom.

To blanche the tomatoes (you do this to easily remove the skin):

Heat water (enough to fully immerse the tomatoes) to a boil in large stock pot.  With a paring knife, on each tomato, remove the core and cut an X on the bottom (see photo).

Place the prepped tomatoes in the boiling water until skin starts to peel away, about 20-30 seconds.  Remove from water, let cool.  Skin should easily peel away from the flesh of the tomatoes.  Discard skin.

20140901-113002.jpgTo start the sauce: In a large pot, heat the oil.  Add onions.  Cook them SLOWLY, on low heat, until translucent and tender, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, prep the garlic.  How much you use is really up to you, but in this case, more is better!  Peel each clove of garlic and then either mince or smash them.  Personally, I like to smash them with the side of my chefs knife.  Once the onions are translucent, add the garlic.  Continue cooking slowly until tender and fragrant.   At this point, I add the tomato paste and mix in with the garlic and onions.

Now, the fun part!  Frank recommend hand smushing the tomatoes, to give the sauce a chunky texture.  (Spell check is telling me smushing is not a word but I’m using it!)  Take each blanched tomato and squash in your hand over the pot.  If you have kids, this would be a great way to involve them 🙂  If you want a smooth sauce, you can always use a hand blender or food processor after cooking.

Once all the tomatoes are added, bring the sauce to a boil.  Then reduce the heat and simmer.  Let it cook down until it develops the desired consistency/thickness you personally enjoy.  Remember to skim off the foam that comes to the top!  That’s Frank’s mom’s super Italian secret!

skim off that foam!
skim off that foam!

Fine chop the fresh basil – I use about 1 1/2 cups… again, more is better! – and add once the sauce is cooked down.  Add salt to taste – NOT before.  If you add salt to any sauce before it reduces, the flavors become concentrated and you end up with an overly salted sauce.  That’s the type of sin that gets people kicked off Top Chef.  Don’t do that!

At this point, you can add the honey if you want, but a very small amount.  The slight bit of sugar will cut the acidity of the tomatoes and can brighten the flavor – but either way, you’ll have a great sauce.

Serve it over spaghetti squash (pictured) or finely chopped zucchini.

Plenty to eat with spaghetti squash and more to freeze!
Plenty to eat with spaghetti squash and more to freeze!

I double this recipe and freeze what I don’t use.  I’m no canning expert, but if you are I’m sure you could can this as well.

As with any Paleo meal, do not forget to add some protein/ meat to your meal. Meatballs are an obvious choice but you could just as easily do chicken or a roast.


3 thoughts on “Frankie’s Classic Homemade Marinara Sauce

  1. Amy … This looks delicious. My Romas are ripening on the vine now. Just wanted to add seafood as a protein source possibility. For some reason we farm types overlook it, but fish pairs with marinara beautifully…especially a sturdy whitefish or a seafood blend(often available in the frozen food section).

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