Seasonal Flavors: Homemade Marinara Sauce


By Denise Zito

Nothing is easier than homemade spaghetti sauce when the tomatoes are ripening and the nights are still warm so that the tomato skins haven’t thickened.  The central Virginia gardens and markets are full of onions, garlic, basil and tomatoes and truth be told: all those lovely vegetables and herbs  and some oil are all you need to make a really fabulous, fresh pasta sauce.

And best yet, this is a case where less is more.  A very quick sauté yields a fresh tasting, light sauce that is much more authentic than what passes for sauce in those jars I’ve seen on the grocery store shelves.

Somewhere between a pet peeve and utter astonishment is this: I’ve seen people make spaghetti and serve it by having the pasta in one bowl and the sauce in another….NO NO PLEASE NO.  Drain your pasta and add it directly to the sauce.  Toss and serve.

Make your guests wait for the pasta….never make your pasta wait for the guests!

As people have the opportunity to travel more, they will learn that a light sauce that doesn’t smother the pasta is actually very tasty.  We’ll talk about thick, rich Bolognese sauce another time, but while summer lingers, please try this.


Fresh Marinara Sauce with Pasta

  • 1 lb angel hair pasta
  • 2 lb fresh red, ripe tomatoes
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • Large bunch of fresh basil
  • 1 medium onion
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Romano cheese for grating at the table
  • Additional basil to add at the table

Fill your tea kettle with water and put it on high heat.

Put all the tomatoes into a heat-proof bowl

Fill a large pot with water for the pasta, salt it and turn it on high heat.

Put the oil in a large frying pan (stainless steel or porcelain only, never cast iron or aluminum) and turn to medium heat.

Chop the onion and add to the oil

Mince the garlic but don’t add it yet!

By now your tea kettle should be boiling.  Slowly pour the boiling water over the tomatoes and let it sit for 3-4 minutes or until you see the tomato skins split.

Remove the tomatoes one at a time from the water. (careful—hot!) Cut the core from the tomato and remove the skin.

Coarsely chop into one-inch squares and add to the onions.

After all the tomatoes have been added, add the garlic.  Turn the heat up high.

Coarsely chop the basil and add it to the sauce.

By now your large pot of water should be boiling; add the pasta and start stirring.

Bring the sauce to a boil and let it boil while the pasta cooks.

Angel hair pasta cooks quickly; taste it to make sure and then drain it when it is just done.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat the pasta.

Serve with a chunk of Romano cheese, sitting on the table with the grater.  Let everyone grate her or his own. Also serve with a bowl of fresh basil leaves to be sprinkled on the pasta.


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