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Home / Italian Night! Quick and Easy Dinner with 20-Minute Marinara

Italian Night! Quick and Easy Dinner with 20-Minute Marinara

quick and easy dinner

A Quick and Easy Dinner Solution for an Unforgettable Italian Meal

Who doesn’t love “Italian night?” The only thing that might not be to love is the hours upon hours good Italian food can take to prepare.

Let’s face it: Sensational Italian cooking can be incredibly time-consuming.

And since it is always the slow-simmered marinara sauce that makes the meal, how can you possibly speed the cooking time up without compromising the sauce?

The answer is, you can’t. Unless of course you find a short cut to the sauce…

Two Secrets to a Sensational Marinara Sauce

I am not a trained chef and I am not even Italian, but I do know that the secret to an unforgettable Italian dinner is a sensational marinara sauce. And the only way to get a sensational marinara is to slow-simmer it. For hours and hours. All day is even better!

But who on earth has time to spend all day in the kitchen tending to their marinara sauce these days? Everybody needs a quick and easy dinner solution.

That’s why you need to get a little help from Rao’s…

I still remember the first time I saw Rao’s Marinarait was on a big end-cap display at Bed Bath & Beyond in New York City. That was the spring of 2001 when our son was a newborn. And yes, I do have an elephant’s memory for strange things like this.

We had just moved to the city so Andy could begin his surgical oncology rotation at Sloan Kettering and I was at Bed Bath & Beyond that day trying to figure out how to spruce up our new one-room “furnished apartment”. We did not have a television, the kitchen had zero cooking utensils, we had one table and one chair, our “bed” consisted of a pull-out couch with a mattress so thin and so worn that the springs stuck out of it, the windows had no blinds and the floor was a cold concrete. Plus the shower did not drain. It was not exactly the ideal place for my new baby ether. I was already totally overwhelmed as a young new mom in a new city and was surely on the verge of having a little mini breakdown, but I still remember thinking that maybe if I just bought some pretty new bath towels at Bed Bath & Beyond it might help make up for the fact that our shower didn’t drain?

As for the Rao’s marinara, I remember I thought it was a bit odd to find marinara sauce on display at Bed Bath & Beyond but what I found more peculiar was that a single 24-ounce jar of Rao’s Marinara was selling for $8.00. Why so PRICEY!?!? “What on earth could be so great about a bottle of marinara sauce that someone would pay $8.00 for it?!” That was the question I asked out loud and the answer came quick from several ladies standing by…”You haven’t tried Rao’s Marinara! Rao’s is amazing. Rao’s is to-die for! Rao’s is the very best secret to making unforgettable  Italian.” Surely these New York ladies must have showers that drain and real beds I thought. But I bought the fancy Rao’s marinara anyway. If I couldn’t afford to have a proper New York City apartment with a proper bed then at least I could indulge myself with an $8.00 bottle of fancy marinara sauce!

What Makes Rao’s Marinara So Special?

I honestly can’t really put my finger on just what exactly makes Rao’s Marinara taste so superior to every other prepared sauce that I have ever tried. The ingredients really are nothing fancy, just a blend of sweet, imported Italian tomatoes, Italian olive oil, sweet onions, fresh basil, fresh garlic, crushed black pepper, salt and oregano. It must be the superior quality of each ingredient? Or maybe Rao’s slow simmers their sauce for 24-hours before they bottle it up? I’m not really sure. All I know is that yes, Rao’s Marinara is pricey but it is also the absolute very best prepared marinara sauce you will ever buy. Bar none. By the way, if you ever get a chance to visit Rao’s restaurant (the original was established in Harlem in 1896 but they also have one in Vegas), be sure to go! You won’t get a better Italian dinner anywhere else.

You Can Save Money (and Still Save Time!) by Stretching Rao’s Marinara Out….

You can absolutely use Rao’s straight from the jar, but if the price is too off-putting to consider doing that, don’t worry, I get it! When we were living in New York I never used Rao’s straight from the jar, I always stretched it out with my “Almost Homemade Tomato Sauce” recipe below. Although I do make my own marinara from scratch, I have to admit, “my almost-homemade” version is better than my homemade and it can be ready in under 20 minutes.

Where to Buy Rao’s Marinara

These days you can buy Rao’s Marinara at numerous grocery stores and specialty food stores nationwide. You can also order it direct from one of my favorite online discount retailers, Click the coupon below to order Rao’s at a discount or to browse other specialty gourmet food items sold through Vitacost…

A Quick Word About Choosing the Healthiest and Best-Tasting Gluten-Free Superfood Pasta…

I cannot mention Rao’s marinara without also telling you about the absolute healthiest and best-tasting pasta I have yet to discover: Tolerant Foods brand “Organic Red Lentil Rotini”. And no, it is not red. It is the exact same pasta used in the photograph above, so it looks just like “regular” pasta. However, I truly do think it actually tastes better than regular pasta and it is certainly tastier than every other gluten-free pasta I have ever tried. Best of all, Tolerant Food’s rotini has just ONE single ingredient: non-GMO organic red lentils. That’s it! Absolutely nothing else added. Because it is made with legumes, Tolerant Foods brand rotini offers more nutrients per calorie than standard whole wheat pastas and it absolutely blows gluten-free pasta away (note: the vast majority of gluten-free pastas are not a nutrient-rich food choice.)  One single 3-ounce serving contains a whopping 13 grams of fiber and 21 grams of “super clean” legume plant protein in addition to 30% of the RDA for folate, 25% of the RDA for zinc, 40% of the RDA for iron and 20% of the RDA for calcium plus lots of energy-boosting and metabolism-supporting B vitamins. And, unlike standard “fortified” pastas, this pasta gets all of its nutrition naturally, straight from the organic red lentils! Tolerant Foods brand legume pastas are just starting to pop up in various natural foods stores, but you can always get it online and at a discount from Ok, back to the tomato sauce…

How to Make Almost Homemade Tomato Sauce…


Italian Night! Quick and Easy Dinner with 20-Minute Marinara

quick and easy dinner
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  • •1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • •6 cloves garlic, minced
  • •1 cup finely chopped Spanish onion (or another mild onion)
  • •1 cup finely chopped celery
  • •1 cup finely chopped carrots
  • •Unrefined sea salt, to taste
  • •1 teaspoon oregano
  • •1 box (24.46 ounces) BPA-free Pomi brand chopped tomatoes (or other BPA-free brand)
  • •1 jar (24 ounces) Rao’s Marinara


  1. Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat; add the garlic and onions and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 8 or 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots and salt; sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes or so. Add the oregano, boxed Pomi Tomatoes and jar of Rao’s. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Season with additional salt to taste.

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© 2024 clean cuisine Recipe by:

Ivy Larson

In 2010, Clean Cuisine was launched because Ivy Larson wanted to share her anti-inflammatory lifestyle and delicious recipes using ingredients in their most natural and nutrient-rich state. In 2020, Ivy passed the website to Aimee and Madison. Since then, they have been adding new recipes and nutrition posts while updating old recipes and articles. Thanks for visiting Clean Cuisine!

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