Cherry Red Marinara

Cherry Red Marinara

Sometimes, one surprise leads to another … and Cherry Red Marinara was one such happy surprise.

Jump to Recipe

To Garden or Not to Garden

My husband Paul and I like to do simple gardening in the summer, typically tomatoes and peppers. That’s how I learned how much heat can get up in your space when you boil a huge stock pot full of habaneros on your stovetop! All I have to say is thank goodness we could open up all the doors and windows and anything else that would open and walk ourselves outside until the air cleared enough that we could breathe inside again. 

This year, we had too much going on at the start of gardening season so we just let it go. I was a little sad about it, but we knew that a garden this season was the right thing to not do. Imagine our surprise when we discovered a volunteer cherry tomato in our garden! Oh, it started out innocently enough, and got bigger, and bigger, and bigger… Honestly, the thing was out of control.

As if to prove we live in the volunteer state, this volunteer overtook an entire garden area.

We were thrilled to have a garden despite our own inaction. But, a single plant that was producing like a full tomato garden? We were not ready. Someone suggested making tomato sauce and freezing it. Cherry tomatoes, with their seeds and peels, don’t always make the best sauce, but then again…when you have enough cherry tomatoes to feed an army, even after giving some away, something must be done. So…cherry red marinara was born. 

About Cherry Red Marinara

The taste will depend upon the tomato used. In our case, the cherry tomatoes are sweet, and that flavor pulls through beautifully, even after freezing. This sauce has decided advantages over the traditional marinara I make: it takes far less time, it has ZERO added salt and it is vegetarian friendly. Meatless Monday? Give it a shot. On a low- or no-sodium diet? No problem. In a hurry? Done in under an hour. Or make it ahead, freeze it (or can it), and be done in about 15 to 20 minutes.

I tended to avoid making marinara in my early cooking days because I just couldn’t get it to taste right. Then an Italian grandmother told me to put a little brown sugar in the sauce to cut the acidity. It sounds ridiculous, but this little tip (and not coincidentally, the rest of the recipe) changed my life. Suddenly, I could make and enjoy sauce that led to so many new meal options: lasagna, eggplant or chicken parmesan, marinara options over spaghetti, linguine, ziti, angel hair nests…

I won’t claim cherry red marinara will be life-changing, but I was surprised at how well it turned out. A full flavored, garden-to-table, quick- and easy-to-make marinara…that’s a win for busy people who don’t want to sacrifice quality and nutrition.

Use it to create a sturdy, Italian inspired meal.  Feel free to use another tomato variety, unless—like me—you have a bountiful cherry tomato harvest to work on. 

Do you garden? If so, what do you grow? Do you have any recipes you created or use to handle a large harvest? I’d love to hear from you.


Cherry Red Marinara

This vegetarian-friendly marinara is made using garden-fresh (store-bought if you must) cherry tomatoes and does not add any salt.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword cherry tomatoes, marinara, vegan, vegetarian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 31kcal


  • 1 pint cherry or other variety tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • ¼ yellow onion diced
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp cilantro Fresh or dried
  • 2 tsp sweet basil fresh or dried
  • 1 tsp brown sugar dark or light
  • ⅛ to ¼ tsp ground fennel seed, to taste to taste


  • Cover bottom of cooking pan lightly with olive oil.
  • Rinse tomatoes and remove tops as needed. Mince garlic, dice onion and any other herbs and add to pan.
  • Heat pan to medium, sautéing until tomatoes begin to burst. Add brown sugar and stir in completely.
  • Reduce heat to low and cover, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove lid and mash tomatoes with a ricer. Stir and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and serve.


Serving Suggestions
Serve over pasta with boiled shrimp, chicken, Italian sausage, or zucchini. 


Serving: 1person | Sodium: 14mg | Calcium: 26mg | Vitamin C: 28mg | Vitamin A: 592IU | Sugar: 4g | Fiber: 1g | Potassium: 280mg | Calories: 31kcal | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Fat: 1g | Protein: 1g | Carbohydrates: 7g | Iron: 1mg