This 15-Minute Tomato Sauce Is My Weeknight Secret Weapon

For pasta, pizza, and so much more.

September 25, 2019

We've partnered with Mutti®, Italy's #1 tomato brand, to share the secret to a 15-minute tomato sauce that's perfect for weeknight pasta and so much more: Mutti's® Finely Chopped Tomatoes, which are picked at peak ripeness and canned for maximum flavor all year long.

I thought I knew all the pasta tricks in the book: salt your pasta water so it tastes like the ocean; sprinkle grated Parmigiano-Reggiano over freshly boiled pasta before tossing it with sauce to make sure everything sticks; and never, ever dump that starchy pasta water—it's liquid gold.

But then my friend and colleague Ella Quittner dropped a pasta bomb on me: her 15-second trick to make plain weeknight pasta seem fancy.

The trick is to swoosh a dollop of ricotta onto her pasta plate, like a soft, cheesy cloud, and top it with a nest of her family's go-to weeknight spaghetti marinara. That way, you get a little coating of ricotta on each swirly forkful of noodles.

But this revelation wasn't the only thing that intrigued me—so did the "unfussy tomato sauce" she mentioned, which on top of being super speedy, requires little more than garlic and basil. What was the secret to that? I wanted to know.

Luckily, she sits right next to me.

Photo by Ty Mecham. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne. Prop Stylist: Sophia Strangio.

Armed with a few of her pointers—like to slice the garlic as thinly as possible, then cut it in little half moons to keep its bitterness at bay—I tried recreating the marinara at home. And more than a few tomato splatters later, I landed on a sauce that is both exceptionally delicious and very easy.

The secret is to use high-quality canned polpa, which literally translates to "pulp" in Italian and combines the juice of the tomato with finely diced tomato pulp; it's got a bright, sunny flavor, and as a bonus, using it saves you the extra steps of peeling, de-seeding, and chopping the tomatoes.

The method couldn't be simpler: Gently cook the garlic in a bit of butter, then add the polpa and let everything bubble and simmer for a little more than 10 minutes (until it's starts to thicken and the color darkens slightly).

After that, all you have to do is stir in a tangle of fresh basil, a generous heap of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and some al dente bucatini. Oh, and you can't forget to add that swoosh of ricotta to your plate before you add the pasta, of course—that way you get a cheesy surprise in every forkful.

While pasta is probably definitely my favorite way to use this 15-minute tomato sauce, it's not the only use. There are many delicious dinner ideas it would be perfect for—from eggplant Parm and margarita pizza to Tuscan bread soup and spicy eggs in purgatory.

Basically, there's nothing this miracle marinara can't do.

More Delicious Dinner Ideas

How would you use this 15-minute marinara sauce? Share your ideas with us in the comments below!

Thanks to a few quality ingredients, you don't need all day to prepare a fantastic, flavorful tomato sauce. In partnership with Mutti®—makers of premium Italian tomato products harvested at peak ripeness—we're excited to highlight the many reasons their Finely Chopped Tomatoes are the ultimate weeknight dinner hero. At the tippy top of our list: a homemade marinara you can use in everything from speedy bucatini to hearty Tuscan bread soup.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Erin Alexander is the Brand Partnerships Editor at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.