American College of Nutrition Certified Nutrition Specialist | Author | Professor of Nutrition


Quickie Marinara

February is Heart Health Month, and its also stay-inside-where-its-warm month, so here’s a quick tip and recipe to make both better. Marinara, the darling of pasta sauces, is really easy to make, easy to double or triple the recipe, easy to freeze, and easy to make into lots of interesting dishes.

Its also full of nutrients like lycopene that our hearts need to stay healthy. And we know from research that getting our lycopene, folic acid, vitamin C, et al. from foods works best. With marinara, cooking the tomatoes makes more lycopene available for digestion, and the healthy fats in olive oil help us absorb the carotene vitamins, and the basil and oregano provide valuable antioxidants that work with all of the other nutrients. Its how Sophia Loren stays so gorgeous.

You can use any recipe you like, here’s an easy one to try:

  • 28-35oz can peeled whole or crushed tomaotes (if whole, crush them with your fingers or shears)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp (more if you like a little spice) dried red chili pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp or to taste dried oregano
  • 2-3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 stalk of fresh basil, equal to 15-20 leaves (if you only have leaves, chop them into strips before adding to the sauce)

Get oil warm in a large skillet over medium high – medium heat.

Add garlic, pepper flakes and oregano and saute for about a minute, until fragrant.

Add tomatoes and basil and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the sauce reaches desired consistency, remove basil stalk and season to taste with salt and pepper. You can add some fresh basil just before serving for a fresh taste.

To double or triple the recipe – and I suggest you do – keep the proportions the same and extend the cooking time a little. When the sauce is done, cool any extras and freeze in ziploc-type freezer bags or containers. Defrost the sauce in the fridge overnight, or in a glass bowl in the microwave if you need it sooner. About 3 cups of marinara dresses one pound of pasta, so that is a good guide for how much to defrost at a time.

To jazz it up, here are my favorites:

Marinara + 2 cans good tuna + 2 Tbs. capers + zest and juice of one lemon + one pound pasta

Saute 3-4 sliced chopped bacon (or pancetta) + one chopped onion until soft + extra chili flakes (1/4 tsp) + marinara = arrabiata sauce

Marinara + 2-3 Tbs. mascarpone cheese or heavy cream + 1/4 cup vodka = delicious vodka sauce, great with pasta or gnocchi

Marinara + eggs, poached or scrambled + toast = delicious breakfast or light dinner

Marinara + ravioli + mozzarella all baked together = lazy lasagna

Marinara + cooked eggplant slices + ricotta + parmesan, all baked together = eggplant gratin

Getting inspired? Less than forty minutes in the kitchen and you can have the ingredients for several quick, interesting, delicious and healthy meals in the freezer. Now that’s something to love.


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