This sauce is very quick-cooking. No need to simmer for hours and hours. You can make this while the pasta water is boiling—then you never need use jarred sauce again! So, before you start the sauce, put on the pasta water to boil.
BASIC MARINARA (TOMATO) SAUCE FOR PASTA
- olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped (or to taste)
- 1 yellow onion, finely diced
- pinch of salt
- 1 large can Italian *whole* plum tomatoes (my preference is imported San Marzano tomatoes but you can use Trader Joe's or Contadina or Muir Glen—whatever). The kind with basil is ok, too.
- 1/2 wine glass white wine (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
In a frying pan put 2-3 good glugs of olive oil. The bottom of the pan should be very well coated. Use more than you think you need. Add the chopped garlic and onion and pinch of salt and heat over medium heat stirring often until onions turn translucent.
Dump in tomatoes and bring to a rapid simmer (your stove will be a mess). Add wine if using. Every so often, smash up tomatoes with back of spoon. Reduce heat to a low simmer (you should still see some bubbles on surface) and let sauce reduce. Stir every 5 minutes or so. Allow liquid to reduce by about 1/3.
Once sauce is reduced, season with more salt and pepper. If you season before, the sauce might end up being too salty.
Some people like to add a pinch of sugar to their tomato sauce. I don't but if you want to, go ahead.
By this time, your pasta should be done. If sauce seems too thick you can "loosen" it a bit with some pasta cooking water (wait until the end of pasta cooking time when the water is nice and starchy). Drain pasta, toss with sauce. Top with grated cheese of your choice.
This sauce is very versatile. You can add fresh chopped basil to it at the end. You can saute some dried chilis with the onion and garlic to make it spicy. You can brown meat first then add this finished sauce to it. You can use it for lasagne. You can use it as a base for seafood sauce—just add shrimp, clams, and/or mussels to it plus a very generous handful of chopped, flat-leaf parsley.