Baby Lady’s Red Wine Marinara Sauce

© 2012
© 2012

This is the sauce we used in the Eggplant & Zucchini alla Parmigiana. Some people would refer to this as a marinara sauce. Other people would call it a tomato sauce. Still others, like me, would simply call it a red sauce. Whatever you call it, it sure is good.

You have to forgive me for not posting this sauce as part of the Eggplant & Zucchini Parmigiana post. I simply felt it would have made the post way too lengthy. Also, this sauce can be used as the base for many other dishes. Hence, I made an executive decision to make it a stand alone, separate post. So, here it is.

Now that I decided to make this a separate post I had two other decisions that had to be made. First, I would have to find time to post it (something I seem to find myself short on lately). Second, and equally important, what would I call it? Would anybody read it if I called it tomato sauce? What if I called it a marinara sauce? Is it really a marinara sauce? How about a sugo rosso or sugo di pomodoro? I could even call it sugo scappato because the meat escaped! The list of questions simply grew and grew which, in turn, compounded my initial problem of finding time to post the recipe. How can you post a recipe if you don’t know what to call it?

Technically, this is not a marinara sauce. Although there is no one master marinara sauce, generally, a marinara sauce is a quick sauce, seasoned only with garlic, pepper, and, a few herbs, i.e. basil or oregano. The tomatoes are left chunky, and the texture of the finished sauce is fairly loose.  The sauce, on the other hand, is definitely a sugo, Italian for sauce, not to mention rosso, i.e. red. Technically, I could call it that. At the same time, it’s a sugo di pomodoro because it’s a tomato sauce and a sugo scappato because it has no meat; ergo, the meat escaped. Most recipes for sugo scappato, however, call for some meat broth and this has none. Oh what to do? Finally, it dawned on me. Why was I fretting over something like this? Whenever men get in uncomfortable surroundings, they blame it on their wives. Yep, that’s the ticket. I could just as easily blame this on the Baby Lady. So, I have and therein lies the basis for the title. Baby Lady made the sauce and she called it a marinara sauce. Hence, right or wrong, Baby Lady’s Red Wine Marinara Sauce it is! I’m sure glad I figured that one out and can move on with the post. 😉 I’m also glad Baby Lady has a good sense of humor or I don’t know where I would be sleeping tonight. 😮

Regardless what you call this, it’s an excellent tomato sauce that you owe it to yourself to try. If you have never tried a tomato sauce with red wine you are in for a surprise as it provides such a depth of flavor and character. We hope you like it.


  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large, white onion, diced
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 28 oz cans crushed Italian plum tomatoes (we prefer Cento but use what you like)
  • 1 28 oz can Chef’s cut tomatoes (you can use diced if you don’t have Chef’s cut)
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • peperoncino flakes aka crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano
  • 1-1/4 cup red wine
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Add oil to a large pot. Toss in crushed garlic and sauté until it begins to turn a golden brown. Do NOT burn. Once it begins to turn a brown color, add onions and sweat until translucent, roughly 2 minutes.

© 2012
© 2012

Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, herbs, pepperoncino flakes and red wine.

© 2012
© 2012 – Somedays, Baby Lady and I aren’t on the same page. Before I got the opportunity to take the rest of the photos, she had everything together and was cooking merrily along. 😮 Some other day, we will have to do this again so I can get the rest of the photos. Heavy sigh.

Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for roughly 1 hour. Use an immersion blender and puree the sauce. Continue to cook another 30 minutes or so until the sauce has reached its desired thickness. Baby Lady reduced it by roughly 1/3 of its total volume.

© 2012
© 2012

Once it has reached its desired thickness, season with salt and pepper, to taste. Remove from heat and use. Alternatively, allow the sauce to cool and pour into 1 Qt Mason jars for storage until needed. We like this option because it allows the flavors to meld overnight.

© 2012
© 2012

NOTES: Some people like their sauce sweeter. If so, add 1 tsp sugar to the sauce toward the end as you adjust the flavors. John, over at The The Bartolini Kitchens, caramelizes the onions and allows the caramelization process to naturally sweeten his sauce. His recipe can be found here. His basic meat sauce can be found here.

22 thoughts on “Baby Lady’s Red Wine Marinara Sauce”

    1. Hi, Virginia. Thanks for dropping by and commenting. We love the added layers of flavor the red wine brings to the sauce. It worked beautifully with the eggplant & zucchini alla parmigiana.

  1. Lovely stuff Richard. Round these parts, you might be accused of “taking the long way home” in getting into the post. Good of Baby Lady to rescue you in your literary wandering.

    1. Hi, Conor. I have no idea what I would do without the fabulous Baby Lady. She’s always pulling my cookies out of the fire. Of course, there are some days she puts them in the fire to start with but we won’t go there. It is rather chilly here at night, still. 😉

  2. The first time I read about marinara sauce in the US I was confused because I was expecting something with seafood. In Italy marinara refers to the sea (or a seaman, to be more precise).
    I like the name though, it’s always good to have a person’s name in a recipe.

    I like the use of red wine in the recipe, it does indeed add more depth and complexity.

    Question: how about replacing the tomato sauce and water in the recipe with more canned tomatoes?

    1. Hi, Stefan. I will let Baby Lady know your thoughts. This really was all her and it’s a wonderfully flavorful sauce. Typically, when I make a tomato sauce, I start with fresh tomatoes and build from there. This also means I don’t make tomato sauce in the winter. 😮 Insofar as the name is concerned, from what I have read over the years, there is some dispute over the name. Some state it refers to mariners, i.e. seaman, therefore, it must contain seafood. Others state the reference to mariners is that it is the sauce they made in Naples for the sailors when they returned from the sea. Being from the US and of Scots-Irish decent, of course, I have no clue what it is called or why. It’s why I blamed the Baby Lady. 😉

      1. There are quite some differences between Italian-Italian and American-Italian, and I’m learning new ones all the time. Just today I found out that lasagna in the US is often made with ricotta, rather than with bechamel as in most of Italy (except for the south, where most of the US Italians come from originally).

  3. Mmmm. I can smell the aroma just from looking at the picture, Richard. I love rosemary in Italian sauces. I’ll give this a try next batch I make up!

    1. Thanks, Peggy. Let us know how you like it. To me, the real difference is the addition of the rosemary and red wine. There is such a nice depth of flavor that develops which is why I don’t consider this a marinara sauce but a red sauce. Regardless, it’s downright tasty.

  4. I love the color that red wine gives a which-a-ma-call-it sauce. Once the tomatoes are fully cooked their color combines with the wine to give your sauce that beautiful tint. You know it has to taste delicious. Just look at your sauce in those quarts. Perfection!

    1. Thanks, John. Baby Lady is thrilled you like her sauce. I love it and always have loved it. It has a lovely color and unbelievable flavor. It may have absolutely no relation to Italian sauces but it sure is good. I would serve this to anyone and would even sell it. We would just call it “Baby Lady’s Not-So-Secret Sauce.” 😉

  5. OK, I may have totally missed something, when do you add the peperoncino? Is it just one? or to taste? It’s on the stove simmering 🙂
    And, is it the “pickled” kind you purchase in a jar?
    Sorry… this is my first foray into making my own sauce. 🙂

    THANK YOU For YOUR help, as always.

    1. Hi, Linda. I guess the fault is mine for the confusion. The recipe should read peperoncino flakes, i.e. crushed red pepper flakes. It’s added with the tomato sauce, herbs and red wine. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Now, I have fixed it.

      1. Please don’t be sorry! Now I know for the next batch. 🙂 My version had a good tang for sure, but everyone seemed to like at and many added extra sauce onto their dish. I’m looking forward to the extra heat next time. Very fun to make! Thank you!

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