Homemade Marinara Sauce, cheaper than store bought?

Marinara sauce is one of the last holdouts in the dwindling number of ready-made convenience foods we buy. I had to wonder… is homemade marinara really cheaper? How does it taste?

At the market last weekend Dogwood Lane Farms had a large number of bruised and over-ripe tomatoes off to the side in a bin. I’m always looking for a bargain so I asked how many bruised tomatoes I could get for $5. In the end she gave me all of the tomatoes with no mold for $3, 2 large variety bags. This was a huge savings since she sells 4 heirloom tomatoes for $4.

I started processing the tomatoes that very night. I knew these tomatoes wouldn’t wait. I cored each tomato and sliced it in half, gently squeezing out the seeds and the water around the seeds, and laying them out in a baking dish. I had so many tomatoes I filled every baking dish I had.

Following Alton Brown’s directions for roasted tomato sauce, I drizzled all of those tomatoes lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper. They all went into a 350· oven for an hour, then I rotated the pans. I left them in until the edges of the tomatoes were almost blackened and most of the liquid was reduced to a thick syrup on the bottom of the pan.

The next part is the easiest. Simply scrape all of those wonderfully fragrant tomatoes into a large pot and start seasoning. I started with a couple cloves of garlic, lightly sauteed in olive oil in the pot, then a couple of glugs of red wine, then I added the tomatoes. Out came my new toy, my first immersion blender. It worked perfectly, tearing through the tomatoes and turning it all into a chunky sauce. Then I added fresh oregano and rigani from the garden, some dried marjoram and basil, and plenty of pepper.

How does it compare to jarred tomato sauce? It’s thicker, richer, and much more complex, with a slightly smokey undertone from roasting the tomatoes. It’s also orange because not all of the tomatoes I used were red. This batch made a little less than 2 quarts. Our usual marinara sauce is “Mid’s Homestyle Pasta Sauce” because it has very low sugar, less sugar than more expensive brands, and tastes pretty good.

The best part? Homemade really is cheaper. One 32 oz. jar of Mid’s Homestyle is $6. I made 2 quarts for $3 in tomatoes and probably 50¢ in herbs, oil, and wine. I used recycled quart soup containers instead of jars because they’re free. I will definitely be doing this again and freezing the resulting sauce.

I can’t wait to try it on spaghetti!

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