Red Sauce, Marinara, or Sunday Gravy

No matter what you call it, you've all had it. Its traditional, its a staple in everyone's diet, its a go - to ingredient for a wonderful home cooked meal. In my house, we've always just called it "Sauce."

Growing up with an Italian-Irish mother who loves to cook, there was always a container of this sauce in the fridge. Once a week my mother would stew the sauce on the stove and fill the home with a scent that I could smell from a block away. She would add fresh basil from the garden in the summer time and meatballs whenever chop meat was on sale. There are tons of quick meals you can make when you've got this sauce up your sleeve. Whether is homemade pizzas in the toaster oven, a meatball sub on the run, or a quick bowl of pasta you can always rely on the short cut. And for long cooking on Sundays, you can incorporate this sauce into an array of meals to feed your family like; lasagna, baked ziti, eggplant Parmesan, penne alla vodka, or even incorporate it into a meatloaf.

This family tradition of sauce on a weekly basis has followed me into my own home. It only takes 10 minutes to prep, 30 minutes on the stove and will save me time on scratch cooking lunches and dinners all week. I call that a win. Over time I've adapted the recipe my mother had taught me into something that my family loves. With just one added secret ingredient you can take your tomato sauce to the next level too!

Basic ingredients -

Pureed tomatoes- No additives, no fuss. During the summer months I take the tomatoes we've grown, or tomatoes from the local farm, cook them and can them. Its a days work but worth it to have fresh pureed tomatoes year round. If you don't have this option you can feel free to use canned tomatoes from the store. Just be sure to read your labels and choose wisely. Avoid any additives besides sugar, salt, and vinegar. If you see something you don't recognize in the ingredient list, skip that one. Choose brands that are organic, non-GMO, and cans that are BPA free.

Onions and garlic - Staples of flavor. Dice your onion very small, this will give the sauce a little added texture without having large pieces of onions floating around. Always use fresh garlic and peel it yourself. I know there are lots of ways to buy garlic pre-peeled or chopped but honestly that garlic is far from fresh and does not impart the clean flavor of whole garlic. To save time, feel free to use a garlic press or Microplane to grate your garlic right into the pot.

Red wine- I don't know a whole lot about wine, but I do know its delicious. When I cook with wine I like to cook with wine that tastes good. I generally always have a bottle of red and a bottle of white in my fridge. They are usually already open and ready for a glass when I get home from a long day at work. The plus side to this is I've always got wine to cook with. By no means am I cooking with a hundred dollar bottle of Chardonnay but I cook with the red and white I would drink. You wouldn't want to buy a cheap wine that has a harsh flavor and keep it in the closet for years while you use it once in a blue moon. (Blue moon reminds me, we also keep lots of beer. You should do that too. For good measure.) Why add poor tasting wine to your food, that poor taste is just then going to be in your dish. Common sense right? So no matter what wine you like (as long as its red or white- no pink) you can use that to cook with.

Parmesan or Pecorino- People often question the difference between these two similar cheeses. Pecorino Romano is saltier and tangier than Parmesan. Parmesan is more mild and nutty than Pecorino. I prefer Pecorino Romano for my recipes but either one will work fine. Save your rinds! Although these hard cheese rinds are a bit waxy and not as pleasant to eat, they are still packed with flavor. Any rinds or cheese that has gotten too hard in the fridge can be thrown into your sauce to give it a rich umami flavor.

Herbs- Fresh or dried, herbs are important in any sauce. Fresh herbs have a clean bright flavor and are best if you add some more for serving. Dried herbs should be used in smaller quantities because their flavor is stronger than fresh. Oregano and basil are my favorites when it comes to tomato sauce. I like fresh basil, and crushed dried oregano. During the summer when my herb garden is flourishing, I hang the herbs to dry and then crush the leaves into small jars. I like to do this in small batches in order to keep a fresh flavor. When you have large bottles of dried herbs sitting in your pantry for years, they get stale and loose flavor over time.

Secret Ingredient- Drum roll please..... Beef marrow bone. I know, I know, to many people this may seem odd, or even gross. Trust me. Not only is this marrow good for you, but it imparts an irresistible flavor that you cant get from anything else. You can find a beef marrow bone at your local butcher and in most grocery store meat sections. Just be sure to buy grass-fed organic when ever you can. While the sauce stews, the marrow will soften and release the most delicious, luscious, liquid fat and result in sauce you will want to eat by the spoonful. This bone marrow trick is an old Italian secret. Someones grandmother is very upset that I have put this on the internet right now, so don't tell! The best thing you could do is discard the bone from the sauce before anyone sees. Your family and guests wont have any idea it was there but they will be praising you for serving them "the best sauce they've ever had." I've learned this from experience.

The #1 way to try this succulent sauce is to toss is with some freshly made pasta. If you are wondering how to make pasta from scratch or looking for a recipe for pasta dough you have come to the right place! Check out the "Staples" section on the recipes page to see our how-to roll make fresh pasta dough and how to roll it out.

Comment below and let us know how this secret ingredient went over at your house! We'd also love to know how you incorporate this sauce into quick weeknight meals.

Tomato Sauce





  • 30 to 40 oz Tomato puree

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 large onion (small dice)

  • 2 large garlic cloves (minced or grated)

  • 4 oz red wine

  • 1 Beef marrow bone (optional but suggested)

  • 1 Parmesan or Pecorino Romano rind

  • 1 tsp red chili flakes (optional)

  • 1 tsp dried oregano

  • 1 tsp dried basil or a handful of fresh leaves

  • Salt to taste


  1. Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat with olive oil

  2. Add diced onion and a pinch of salt. Stir and cook until clear, stirring often.

  3. Add garlic and stir until fragrant (about 1 minute)

  4. Pour in wine and stir to combine. Let wine cook for 2 minutes to reduce.

  5. Pour in tomato puree, then add in beef bone, cheese rind, oregano, basil and chili flakes if you want some heat.

  6. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover pot and simmer for 30 minutes.

  7. Remove from heat, take out bone and cheese rind to discard.

  8. Season with salt to taste.


Serve with fresh pasta, grated cheese, and fresh basil.

1. If you find that your tomatoes are a big acidic, you may add a tsp or so of sugar to sweeten the sauce.

2. The beef bone is going to give an irresistible flavor profile, but you may omit it if you'd like.

3. Adding a pinch of salt to the onions will help with sweating the onions instead of browning. You don't want to brown the onions you just want them to become somewhat translucent.

4. This is an all around tomato sauce that you can keep in the fridge for up to 1 week and use for multiple meals. Use left overs for more pasta dishes, homemade pizza, chicken Parmesan, or even sandwiches.

Dedicated to my amazing mother, Bonnie.

Thank you for always keeping homemade healthy meals on the table for us. Even when you were swamped with better things to do. Xo



Recipes are never rules!

Use your judgment; if you've made it before and it has worked by shaking not stirring, try it! If the recipe says something will brown after 12 minutes in the oven and your's hasn't browned yet, leave it until you think its brown enough. 



Taste, taste, taste!

Any good chef will tell you to taste your food multiple times as you cook. Stick your spoon in and see if it tastes good. Is your food seasoned well? Can it use more salt or pepper? Would you like it if it were a bit sweeter? Everyone's palate is different, if you think it needs something; Go for it!




Its just food... so have some fun!


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