Good morning! In lieu of my usual Thursday musings, I wanted to ramble a little about one of my all-time favorite foods—and share the recipe with you guys so you can enjoy it too. This Recipe ReDux post is near and dear to me, since it’s all about one of my favorite comfort foods, and one of the first things I learned to make myself—my mom’s marinara sauce. My mom is an amazing cook and a patient teacher. She is also a wonderful dog-grandma to Eli, who lives with her and my dad full time now.


mom and Eli

Not to get all mushy on your guys, but I feel so lucky (#blessed! even) to have such an awesome mom. She worked full-time out of the house when my sister and I were growing up (haha the electric smell of a well functioning copy machine brings back comforting memories of my childhood), and later went on to get her Masters and started her own business while still working a demanding job. She instilled in us a very strong work ethic and a quiet fearlessness for which I’m so grateful. Even though she was so busy, she made us feel like we mattered and could share things with her. Even as an adult, I talk to my mom almost daily and confide in her about everything from kitchen mishaps to career challenges to broken hearts. 

mother daughter newport

Somehow the talk almost always turns to cooking. There are family recipes that have been handed down for generations, and lots of new experiments that become favorites. One of the classics I keep coming back to is this marinara sauce. Though my mom isn’t Italian (that’s my dad’s side of the family), you’d never know it if you tasted this stuff. As a kid, I loved this sauce so much I would eat it out of a mug with a spoon as a snack. My mom showed me how to make it when I was a new college grad trying to navigate my way around a tiny New York City kitchen. Turned out it’s super-easy to make. It’s since become a kitchen staple.

I use it all the time as a base for other dishes, like this shortcut shakshuka, butter beans and olives with spicy red sauce, or this red lentil stew with mushrooms and chorizo. It’s also great in chili. I’ve even eaten it on toast with cheese.
red lentil tomato mushroom chorizo keeping it real food

Whenever I feel overwhelmed or scared or just like I need a little taste of home, I know that I can just grab an onion and some garlic and a few good cans of tomatoes, and everything will start to feel better soon. Here’s the basic recipe:

Mom’s Marinara


  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves diced garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 28-ounce cans of tomatoes (whole, diced, crushed, or a combination)
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  3. Add tomatoes, oregano, and basil. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low.
  4. Simmer until sauce reaches desired thickness. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Variations: Cook your favorite vegetables into the sauce (I like mushrooms, eggplant, and grated zucchini) or add cooked chickpeas, butterbeans, or lentils. For a meat sauce, brown ground beef or turkey with the onions before adding the tomatoes. Olives or parmesan rind add a salty note. For spice, shake in a teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

What were some of the first foods you learned how to make? 


I’m also linking up with the Running with Spoons Thinking Out Loud link party, where randomness is the name of the game. Thanks to Amanda for hosting.

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