Award Winning Definitely-Not-Italian Marinara Sauce

“This isn’t how Italians would do it!”

I don’t care. I’m not Italian. This is not Italian marinara.

It used to be. Yes, it started that way. A French-Italian ex girlfriend, who you can read about elsewhere on this site, gave me this recipe from her Italian Nonna.

This is not that recipe. It was, 20 years ago. It’s not anymore.

I won an award with this recipe a long time ago at a cooking contest that doesn’t exist anymore, the Silk Skillet Challenge. That’s a story for another day.

Again, this is not Italian. And that doesn’t matter at all, because it’s delicious, and you’re going to love it. So shut up and stuff your face and stop worrying about how Italian a pasta sauce is, or isn’t.

Tomatoes aren’t Italian anyway, and you don’t hear anyone complaining about that, do you?

Just make it and eat it and go on with your life being happy to have such a delicious marinara sauce.

Marinara Sauce for pasta

Definitely-not-authentic Italian style Marinara
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian


  • 1 8 qt saucepot
  • 1 wooden spatula
  • 1 slotted strainer spoon
  • 1 cutting board
  • 1 kitchen knife


  • 1 lb 85% ground beef
  • 1 lb hot italian sausage
  • 2 lg Vidalia onions or sweet, yellow, or white
  • 1 bulb American garlic if using stronger Euro garlic, a few cloves
  • Olive oil
  • Unsalted Butter
  • 1 750ml bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon look for fruit notes like plum, cherry, blackberry. Avoid a cab-sav that's described as oaky, coffee, chocolatey, or tobacco notes.
  • 1 tbsp Better than Bouillon Beef
  • 1 tbsp Better than Bouillon Veg
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano preferred)
  • 1 28 oz can tomato puree (San Marzano preferred)
  • 2-4 Bay leaves
  • Oregano
  • Savory
  • Fennel
  • Thyme
  • Red Pepper
  • MSG
  • Hing
  • Salt
  • Black pepper


Cook the meat

  • Set the stovetop on high. Place the large cooking pot on the heat.
  • When the pot starts to smoke, drop in the beef and sausage. Let sit to sear a crust.
  • When the meat starts to release grease, use the wooden spatula to break it up into mince.
  • Chop it repeatedly and turn it. When it begins to crumble, stir frequently.
  • When browned, use the slotted strainer spoon and remove the meat from the grease.
  • Do not drain the grease.
  • Turn the burner to med-low (3) and move the cooking pot aside for now so the remaining grease can cool.

Prepare and cook the veggies

  • Separate the garlic and remove the paper.
  • Mince the garlic well.
  • Sliver the onions.
  • Return the cooking pot, with the grease still in it, to the heat.
  • Let the grease come up to medium-low.
  • Add hing to the grease, if using hing. It will bubble.
  • Add a stick of butter, more or less. Let it melt.
  • Add some of your spices into the grease-butter and let them temper.
  • Add the garlic and salt it to draw out the water. Sweat the garlic.
  • When the garlic is simmering, add the onion and salt it to draw out the water.
  • Add MSG to the garlic, onion, and spices mix.
  • Let the onions cook until translucent.
  • By now, any remaining crust from the meat browning should have lifted into the onions & garlic mixture.
  • Add the entire bottle of wine to the pot.
  • Let it come back up to temp and start simmering.
  • Add both types of Bouillon and stir them to incorporate.
  • Simmer until the wine starts to cook down.
  • Add the beef and sausage mixture into the wine-veggie-butter-spices mixture.
  • Add more of your spices.
  • Add both tins of tomato, rinse the tins, add the rinse too.
  • Stir well to incorporate all the wine, butter, grease, and spices into the tomatoes.
  • Add more spices as you see fit.

Simmer to desired thickness.

  • Let simmer for 30 mins to 2 hours, depending on how much water you added.
  • When nearly finished, add olive oil and crack some pepper into it. Stir to incorporate.
  • Taste for acidity and adjust with sugar.
  • Add more salt if needed.
  • Stir some more to ensure all the salt, sugar, and oils are incorporated into the tomato-wine mix.


Where’s the spice measures? There aren’t any. That’s up to your taste. 
You can chop and add carrots, celery, or green & red peppers if you want. If doing so, just add them at the “onions and garlic” stage.