Quick, Fresh Neapolitan-Style Marinara Sauce (Salsa di pomodoro alla napolitana)

Marinara Sauce
Michael Waring/Getty Images
  • 40 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins,
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Yield: 1-1/4 pounds sauce (Serves 4-5)
Ratings (20)

[Edited and expanded by Danette St. Onge on 3/28/2016.]

Though a slow-cooked "pomarola" tomato sauce that simmers for hours is certainly worth the time and effort, there are times when you want something quicker -- that's when this classic Neapolitan tomato sauce, known as "marinara" in the U.S., comes into play. It's perfect for pasta, but will also work well on pizza or as a dipping sauce, or as an element in countless other recipes. 

This super-quick and easy recipe starts from fresh plum tomatoes and will make about 1 1/4 pounds of sauce (1 large jar) in about 15 minutes. No need to buy jarred pasta sauce ever again!

If tomatoes are not in season, you can start from canned, whole plum tomatoes instead (drain and seed them). 

What You'll Need

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 kg) very ripe plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, washed, dried and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

How to Make It

  1. Set a large, covered pot full of water to boil over high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, wash and core the tomatoes, then use the tip of a sharp paring knife to cut an "X" shape into the tip of each one (this will make the peels easier to remove). Dump the tomatoes into the boiling water for 1 minute to blanch them and remove them with a slotted spoon.
  3. Peel the tomatoes (just peel starting from the tips made by the X shape that you cut), discarding their skins. Then seed and slice the tomatoes and put them in a large bowl. 
  1. Heat the oil and the garlic in another large pot (traditionalists use one made of terracotta -- you don't have to use terracotta, but be sure to use a nonreactive pot, such as stainless steel, glass, or enameled cast iron -- do not use an aluminum or uncoated iron or cast-iron pot to avoid unpleasantly metallic-tasting, not to mention unhealthy, sauce), and stir in the tomatoes before the garlic begins to color. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the basil, simmer for 5 more minutes, and remove from heat. Whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil with a whisk until it's emulsified into the sauce. 


If serving on pasta: Allow about 1/4 cup of sauce (or more, to taste) and 1/4 pound of pasta per serving; serve the pasta with grated cheese on the side.

Note: To keep the sauce from becoming heavy, it's important that the oil not get too hot before the tomatoes are stirred in. Also, some Neapolitan cooks of the older generation made this sauce using lard rather than oil.