My boyfriend’s mother makes the best marinara sauce—she has never divulged all the ingredients she uses to me but I suspect it tastes so good because she lets it cook for hours. So I gave it a shot one cold winter weekend, cooking up a large batch so I could freeze it for use throughout the coming winter weeks.
I bought about six cans (28 ounces each) of my favorite whole peeled tomatoes, tomato paste, yellow onions, garlic, and fresh basil. I finely chopped about three cups of yellow onions and minced almost the full head of garlic. I heated about 3 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat and then added the onions. Once they were translucent, I added the garlic, a heaping tablespoon dried oregano, and some red-pepper flakes. I cooked that for 2 to 3 minutes before I added about 2 tablespoons tomato paste. (I cleared a spot in the center of the onions and garlic to allow the paste to caramelize before I stirred it into the vegetables—a trick I learned from a my favorite minestrone recipe.)
I then added all the cans of tomatoes, about 1 full can of water (add water to each of the empty cans to catch all those lingering juices), and several sprigs of basil. I let it come to a simmer before I used a potato masher to start breaking up the tomatoes (they are easy to break up once they have cooked a bit). The sauce cooked for about three to four hours. I added more water, seasonings, and salt and pepper to taste as it cooked. It turned out great and made the whole apartment (and building) smell great. I used it that same day on crostini with Parmesan shavings, the next day to make several lasagnas, then froze the rest for future use.