Today I'd like to share another one of my Real Recipes of Genius, aka my favorites recipes that are both easy and versatile. Today's pick is Beth of Budget Bytes' Homemade Marinara sauce. Dave and I love us some spaghetti, and I'm ALL about balsamic vinegar, so this has quickly become one of our favorites. Here's the original recipe, but if, unlike me, you can make sauce in your slow cooker without burning the top edges of it, here's the slow cooker version.
- two 28 oz. cans (56 oz. total) crushed tomatoes
- 1 medium onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp dried basil
- ½ Tbsp dried oregano
- 2 medium bay leaves
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Finely dice the onion and garlic. Cook in a large pot with 3 Tbsp of olive oil until very soft and slightly golden brown. I [Beth] wanted to make a sweeter sauce which is why I let the onions and garlic caramelize a bit. If you don’t like sweet sauces, proceed to the next step before they get any color on them.
- Add the rest of the ingredients (crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano, bay leaves, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar) to the pot. Simmer on medium/low for one hour. Be careful of the splattering sauce! Leave a lid on the pot but slightly ajar to allow steam to escape but keep flying blobs of sauce from landing on your counter top.
- Taste the sauce after a half hour or so and adjust spices and seasoning to your liking. The proportions listed above yield a slightly sweet and tangy sauce. If you like savory sauces, leave out the balsamic vinegar and reduce the sugar to 1 tsp. Some sugar is usually needed to balance the high acidity of the tomatoes.
As Beth writes in the slow cooker version, "You can also try adding other ingredients like sliced mushrooms, Italian sausage (cook separately and add to the sauce after it has cooked), crushed red pepper, olive oil (for a richer sauce), bell peppers… the sky is the limit." I've personally added peppers, spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, and shaved carrots at different points. I've served this with meatballs or with ground beef or turkey added straight into it. You really can't go wrong here.
I also tend to leave out the sugar entirely now while keeping the balsamic vinegar. Maybe I can just handle more acidity, but I just don't find the sugar necessary anymore and hey, less added sugar = win.
Another great thing about this recipe is that, as Beth also points out, it freezes well; she recommends cooling it in the fridge first.
So if you've got some extra veggies lying around and are craving something with a nice red sauce, which is me about 75% of the time, this recipe is for you!