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Basic Marinara Sauce

A great basic and versatile marinara sauce.
Sugo is the generic Italian term for sauce, particularly pasta sauce. Sugo and ragú are used interchangeably and refer to sauces that simmer long. Sughetto refers to a “little” sauce, such as a pan sauce or something that perhaps is whipped up in the moment or less long simmered.   
The following recipe begins with the base called soffrito, or finely minced aromatic vegetables. This is really the formula for making all kinds of sughi and ragú. 
The finely chopped aromatic vegetables are cooked slowly, known as "sweated". They are not allowed to brown to develop the base notes of the sauce. An essential step, this creates the foundation for building the layers of flavors. The vegetables need 15 to 20 minutes to cook - if you are impatient you will really taste the difference with a lack of depth that cannot be created later on in the process.
 Use as high a quality of tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes as you can. Pomi is my favorite brand; Mutti is very good too.
Servings: 4
Author: Denise Pardini, Hotel Castello di Sinio


  • 1 small yellow onion (or 1/2 a medium / large onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 large celery stalk
  • 1 tsp dried oregano and basil (basil optional)
  • cup white or red wine
  • 1 TBS tomato paste (optional; thickens sauce)
  • 2 containers Pomi tomato sauce (or 1 large jar Italian tomato sauce)
  • 1 container Pomi crushed tomatoes
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • small bunch flat-leaf parsley (minced)


  • Finely chop the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Peel the carrots and wash the celery, then cut them into 2-inch pieces, place in processor and, pulse until quite fine, but still in distinct pieces. Do the same with the onions and garlic, being careful not to lose the liquid. They should be fine enough to disappear in the sauce after it simmers.
  • If using a Cuisineart, process carrots and celery separately from the onion and garlic as they process at different rates and the onion liquifies before the carrots and celery are fine enough.  
  • In a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed, low and straight-sided pot, add 2 tbsp olive oil to an already heated pot. 
  • Add all vegetables and sweat over medium-low heat, stirring often about 15 minutes. Add the dried herbs. Do not let the vegetables brown.
  • When vegetables are well sweated, turn up the heat and then add the wine. Let it reduce down by half so the alcohol burns off.
  • Add crushed tomato and tomato paste with equal parts water, incorporate completely. Add tomato sauce and equal amount of water. Bring to boil, then turn down to a low simmer, and reduce for about an hour. 
  • Add the fresh rosemary for a few minutes before the sauce is done. Do not let the rosemary stay in long enough for the leaves to fall off. Discard the used sprig. 
  • When the sauce reduces to a thick consistency, taste. Add salt and pepper to taste if needed. If adding the finely minced parsley, do it now.
  • Allow to cool off heat for a couple of hours to marry flavors well before reheating for use. Alternatively, transfer the sauce to a sealed container and store in the refrigerator. Will keep for three to four days and freezes well.


  • The sauce is super versatile. Serve with a very thin egg pasta or a short pasta. Use for eggplant parmesan, lasagna, pizza sauce, and more.
  • For pasta, heat about ½ cup per portion in a large sauté pan that leaves you room to mix cooked pasta and sauce. Add a pat of butter per person if you like, as many northern Italians do.
  • After adding cooked pasta to sauce and mixing for a moment, add a little olive oil for some shine and a small ladle of pasta water to loosen up the mixture as it bubbles on the heat for a minute or two.


Copyright Denise Pardini 2008 - 2020, hotelcastellodisinio.com