There is no doubt that making your own red sauce with fresh, preferably heirloom tomatoes is best.
What to do when fresh tomatoes are out of season? Or, you need homemade marinara in a hurry and don’t have time to run to the store or farmer’s market?
In those instances, you may think that organic red sauce in a jar from the store would be the next best thing. In my experience, however, a tastier and healthier alternative to mass-produced brands is still possible and only takes about 10 minutes to make. The process is a little longer than homemade pizza sauce, but is still extremely fast and won’t hold up getting dinner on the table.
Are you ready to ditch jarred pasta sauces forever? Check out my go-to recipe below for a very fast, gourmet tasting red sauce that harnesses the antibiotic properties of garlic too!
The Secret of Tasty Red Sauce
Hybrid tomatoes are typically used in jarred tomato sauce products similar to the deep red tomatoes you find at the store. This occurs even in organic jarred tomato products as organic standards allow the use of hybrids, but not GMOs.
These hybrid tomatoes lack flavor, sweetness, and most importantly nutrition. Believe it or not, they were hybridized specifically to turn red all at the same time for ease of harvest! This red appearance does not mean they are truly ripe, however.
When you are making your own red sauce and fresh tomatoes are out of season, it is important to source jarred tomatoes from a company that does not use hybridized tomatoes and takes care to carefully sort out the green tomatoes that are harvested with the plant. This ensures that only tomatoes that are at the perfect stage of ripening are used.
For this reason, I use Jovial Foods crushed or diced organic tomatoes for my homemade red sauce. The tomatoes are sorted multiple times – once by hand, once in the fields, and then two more times during packing. What’s more, the tomatoes are grown only by small organic local farmers. Each farm is just a few acres in size, family-owned, and a stone’s throw from the jarring facility.
Preserving the Flavor of Ripened Tomatoes
Here’s how the fully and naturally ripened tomatoes are processed:
The tomatoes are sorted upon arrival at the canning facility, then thoroughly washed and gently steamed to remove the peels. We take one last look at them, again sorting out the tomatoes that we do not like by hand. From there, we either crush the tomatoes, cut them in dices, or pack them whole. The process is very similar to what you would do at home, but with the help of machinery.
During the crushing and dicing, fresh juices are collected and gently cooked down to a delicious puree that is packed with the tomatoes. This puree is the key to a fantastic finished product because if we packed the whole or diced tomato pieces in the straight juice, they would be watery and you would have to cook them for a long time. Our homemade puree not only prevents waste, it gives your tomato product a wonderfully flavorful base that will save you time in the kitchen (1).
As you can see, buying just any old jarred or canned tomatoes to make a fast red sauce is not going to do. If you want to enjoy the tastiest sauce, you need to buy from a company that takes great care in how the tomatoes are grown, sorted, and processed.
With these buying tips for jarred tomato sauce in mind, here is my red sauce recipe. If you intend to serve this sauce over pasta, check out these buying tips for sourcing healthy pasta too. My favorites are (corn-free) quinoa pasta and gluten-free egg noodle pasta.
Red Sauce Recipe
A fast and healthy alternative to jarred marinara sauce when fresh tomatoes aren't available or in season.
- 1 18 oz jar Crushed or diced heirloom tomatoes preferably organic
- 2-3 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil be sure of your source!
- 2 cloves fresh garlic preferably organic
- 1 Bay leaf preferably organic
- 1-2 tsp Ground oregano preferably organic
- 1-2 tsp Ground basil preferably organic
- 1-2 tsp thyme preferably organic
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
Drizzle the olive oil into a medium size frying pan on medium-high heat.
Crush or chop the fresh garlic cloves and mix into the olive oil in the pan. Saute for about 30 seconds to release flavor.
Add one 18 ounce jar of diced or crushed tomatoes to the pan and stir.
Add herbs and sea salt. Simmer for about 10 minutes to blend flavors.
Serve immediately over pasta or vegetables. My favorites are a healthy quinoa pasta that is corn free or a traditional egg noodle pasta that is gluten free.
Refrigerate leftovers. Use up within 3-4 days.
If you have fresh herbs available for this recipe, that is wonderful! Simply substitute 1 Tbl of chopped, fresh herb for each tsp of dried herb.
Do you make your homemade marinara with different spices than I do? Share what blends you most prefer or your method of pulling this dish together quickly in as nutritious a manner as possible!
Would you please elaborate why using olive oil in your recipe? I know that the process of heating olive oil can cause the fats to become carcinogenic Thank you.
Olive oil is fine for cooking. Especially for red sauces. It does not make the fats carcinogenic! It only eliminates the beneficial phenols. The fats are undamaged. The phenols will be fine in a light saute. Here’s the research. https://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/cooking-with-olive-oil-yea-or-nay/
Do you recommend corn free even if it’s organic/non gmo?? Occasionally I get an organic quinoa/corn pasta. is that ok?
Organic or certified GMO free corn is fine. The pasta I’ve seen that is quinoa/corn has nonorganic corn in it, so be sure to check the labels carefully.
I freeze Italian plum tomatoes whole as they ripen in our garden, and it works out beautifully. When I’m ready to use them I just pour boiling water over them in a colander, slip the skins off and make my sauce as if they were fresh.
The taste was really awesome. I have tried it and according to me the recipe is really yummy.
I only have 10 years of gardening experience but have grown hundreds of tomatoes and although many of the seed packets state they come ripe at the same time, this is not a precise science. Untreated tomatoes, grown naturally, will naturally ripen at their own rate. Some hybridized types will tend to ripen more of the fruit at the same time, but no tomato will turn red (or it’s appointed color, there are several) if it’s not ripe. Doesn’t happen. There is nothing wrong with normally hybridized plants. It is nature’s way of reproducing. I’m just as against GMOs and unnatural breeding and growing practices, but it’s going a bit far to say that even hybridized tomatoes are bad.
We usually have a buckwheat pasta. Anchovies and pitted black olives also go nicely in the sauce. Grated Parmesan on top.
Hi Sarah, thanks for the recipe.
You do recommand quinoa pasta even though it’s probably not soaked? I was not sure if buying quinoa pasta was a good choice. We don’t eat pasta very often anyway…
Eating unsoaked quinoa pasta (be sure to get corn free) on occasion is not a problem. The tiny quinoa grains are lower in anti-nutrients than other grains like durum wheat. The other brand I mention is made from soaked brown rice if you prefer to try that instead.
My homemade sauce is very similar, but I try to sneak in some extra nutrition for my family. In the late summer, when red and green peppers are abundant, I will throw some into the food processor, finely mince them, freeze them in silicone molds (each square holds about 2 Tbls), and put them into a container to be used later. I do the same thing with raw liver. I have also done the same thing with fresh basil and oregano, only I mix it with olive oil when processing and then freeze them. When the time comes to make this sauce, I will throw in some of these cubes of liver, peppers, and herbs and the flavor is fantastic! It tastes fresh without a strong liver taste due to the peppers and herbs. I know that freezing allows for some breakdown of nutrients over time, but since we use them up during the winter months, I figure the loss in negligible.
No tomatoes in our house, but I’ve made tons of tomato sauce in the past. Try adding some anchovies paste or finely mashed anchovies fillets; just a bit will give it Umami flavor. Also, grind a small amount of fennel seeds – excellent flavor addition and good for digestion. If you’re in a hurry, empty an organic teabag of fennel into the sauce.
I have been consistently disappointed with jarred tomato sauces from the store. Even the organic brands taste so bland to me. I had no idea hybridized tomatoes were probably being used! Thanks for this easy recipe, will try this week!