That’s Amore: Juli Brandenberger’s Marinara Recipe

Community Bakery is perhaps best known for the sweet bakes and pastries that have flown off its shelves since 1947, but it’s a savory recipe that owners Juli and John Brandenberger return to time and again in their own home: a simple, versatile marinara sauce.

“It’s from an Italian friend who introduced John and I 20 years ago,” Juli says. “She taught me how to make this and I have never bought a jar of sauce again. 

“What I love about this recipe is how a few simple ingredients combine to create such warm and honest flavors. It’s the perfect example of how less is more. The sauce translates well for pasta, lasagna, pizza, you name it!”

Pasta & Marinara Sauce 


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, roasted and smashed
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 2 32-oz. cans San Marzano whole and peeled tomatoes 
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (Chef tip: Don’t be fancy, the cheap stuff is good here!)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pasta of your choice
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (optional)


  1. To roast garlic, place cloves in a small ramekin and cover with olive oil. Roast at 400 for 7-10 minutes until oil is bubbly and garlic has softened.
  2. Heat olive oil in your favorite saucepan. (Use the olive oil from the roasted garlic for extra flavor.)
  3. Sauté onions and parsley until soft. 
  4. Smash your roasted garlic and add to the pan.
  5. Add white wine, tomatoes, salt, oregano and basil.
  6. Break up the whole tomatoes with a spatula, large chunks are fine. As the tomatoes warm, they will soften and be ready to blend more later.
  7. Simmer for 30-40 minutes.
  8. While the sauce is simmering, bring salted water to a boil and cook your pasta per the package instructions.
  9. Turn off stove and blend sauce using an immersion blender. (Focus on those last chunks of tomatoes. Don’t over blend. Go slow, take breaks. You may prefer a thinner or chunkier sauce, and that’s great! You do you.)
  10. Spoon sauce generously over your cooked pasta, then top with freshly grated parmesan. Finish by sprinkling any remaining fresh herbs on top.

FAQs + Troubleshooting:

Do I have to roast the garlic?

No. You can smash and chop raw garlic gloves. If you don’t roast your garlic first, add them when you sauté the onions and parsley. Roasting garlic boosts its flavor profile and digestibility. I roast a whole head at a time and keep it in a jar on my counter. It goes great with so many things. If you’ve never tried it, don’t think of skipping this step. (Your life will change. I promise. You’re welcome.)

If you decide to roast a whole head, you will need to extend your roasting time. Toaster ovens are perfect for this task. Just keep an eye on them.

Can I just use tomato sauce instead of whole peeled tomatoes?

Yes. However, in the world of tomato sorting, the most perfect tomatoes are sorted for whole canning. They are the Gryffindor of tomatoes. The second best are sorted for chopped and the third best for sauce. So, please, try it once with whole!

I don’t have any fresh herbs. Can I use dried?

Yes, you can use dried. Check your expiration dates. Just because the can lasts one year doesn’t mean your herbs do. (I’m looking at you, Mother.) A general rule is 1 tbsp. of fresh for 1 tsp. of dried. It’s not exact, but that will get you started.

If you prefer a thicker sauce, add tomato paste.

If you prefer a sweeter sauce, add sugar to taste.

And remember: Less is more here, people.




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