I am, and have always been, a fan of Italian foods. I am also a lover of tomatoes. It only makes sense to combine these loves with my Instant Pot and add homemade marinara sauce to my recipe collection! This simple yet versatile tomato sauce could be used as a base for spaghetti, the first layer on a pizza, or between the layers of a lasagna. There are so many options that I’ll leave it up to you to decide how to use it in your home.
The history of marinara sauce is unclear. It appears the Spaniards brought this delicious Mexican fruit back to Europe and introduced it to the Italians around the 16th century. An alternative history is that Italian sailors created it as a warm yet inexpensive meal for when they were at sea, or it was developed by their wives to provide a hot meal upon their return. Regardless of its true origins, it has been around for centuries and is still typically made with three simple ingredients: tomatoes, herbs, and garlic.
While some may have opinions on which tomatoes make the best marinara sauce, often you find people using a variety of whatever they have on hand. For this recipe, I experimented with Roma tomatoes, tomatoes on the vine, and I even threw in a few cherry tomatoes. This recipe works phenomenally for using up any fruit that may be at risk of going bad before you can eat them all. If you’re anything like most of my friends or family that have a garden, you’ll be familiar with having an excess of tomatoes. Using this recipe to create a delicious tomato sauce that also freezes well is a great way to enjoy freshly made marinara throughout the entire year.
An added bonus to highlighting tomatoes is that they are an inexpensive fruit that can be purchased year-round. You may want to be cautious if buying tomatoes non-organic, as they are ranked twelfth on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of produce with the highest amount of pesticide residues. This is just another reason to grow them yourself, buy them at a local farmer’s market, or use the extras from a friend’s or family member’s garden.
Marinara sauce also has several health benefits, making it a great addition to your mealtime. A single cup of sauce can contain a quarter of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A, and half your daily intake of vitamin C. They are also rich in the antioxidant lycopene and are a great source of dietary fiber.
Recipe tips and tricks
This recipe is a mix of several I found online. It took a bit of experimentation to get a good flavor profile and consistency that I felt was just right to share with all of you. One thing to note is that homemade tomato sauce will not be that bright red you're used to seeing in the stores. It’s actually a bit more orangey brown. You can bring it back towards the red spectrum by adding the tomato paste (which is also necessary for that full, tomato flavor) and a few roasted tomatoes, as I have. If you like it a bit less chunky, you can add the roasted tomatoes before you blend the sauce.
To slightly sweeten this sauce, I added a carrot. I found several recipes that used sugar but wanted a more natural option. I don’t recommend adding more than one, though, as it can alter the flavor and coloring too much. If you choose to do this, you can save time by leaving the skin on.
You can also save time by not cutting the ingredients into very small pieces since you will be using a pressure cooker. I found that chopping the tomatoes and onion into quarters and leaving the garlic cloves whole worked great. If you use the stovetop instead, you may want to dice them smaller so they will cook faster.
The most time-consuming part of this recipe was peeling the garlic cloves. To help you save time, I’ve included the approximate amount of minced garlic you would need to get the same flavoring (1 garlic clove is about 3/4 tsp).
PREP TIME: 15 minutes
COOK TIME: 30 minutes
SERVINGS: 6 cups
- 7 tomatoes (about 1.75 lbs), roughly chopped
- 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
- 1 carrot, roughly cut (keep skins on if you want)
- 10 garlic cloves (~7.5 tsp minced)
- 1 small can of tomato paste
- 1/2 cup fresh basil
- 1/4 cup dried parsley
- 1/4 cup dried Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup water or broth
- 2 Tbsp avocado oil
- 4 tomatoes (about 1 lb), quartered
- 1 Tbsp avocado oil
INSTANT POT INSTRUCTIONS:
- Throw in the tomatoes, carrot, garlic, fresh herbs, oil, and water or broth into the inner pot.
- Lock the lid and be sure the steam release vent is set to ‘sealing’. Using the ‘manual’ or ‘pressure cook’ setting, adjust it to cook for 15 minutes at High Pressure. It will take about 7–10 minutes to come to pressure. When the cooking time is up, allow it to naturally release for 10 minutes and then quick release. Carefully open the lid.
- While the sauce is cooking, you can roast the optional tomatoes. Lightly coat with avocado oil and roast for 5 minutes in an oven preheated to 400°F. Allow to cool to touch and remove skins, then dice. Could use a can of diced tomatoes instead.
- Using a blender, blend the sauce with the tomato paste until it reaches your desired consistency — chunky, smooth, or in between.
- Add in the roasted tomatoes and enjoy! Store the marinara sauce in the fridge for up to five days or freeze the excess.
STOVE TOP INSTRUCTIONS:
- Add the 2 Tbsp avocado oil to a large saucepan and heat to medium-high heat.
- Add the garlic. Sauté for a minute and then add the dried herbs and onions. Sauté for a couple more minutes until you get the aroma of garlic.
- Add in the tomatoes, carrot, fresh herbs, and water or broth to the pan and mix well and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Finish similarly to the Instant Pot instructions.
Erika is a Certified Health Coach at Empowered Health Institute in Richland. She can usually be found either with her nose stuck in a book or experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen.