This marinara sauce is as summery as it gets, made with grilled ripe tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, garlic, and dried chile flakes. Pro tip: Whip up a double batch when tomatoes are growing in the garden, then freeze it to enjoy when the warm months are long gone.
In case you missed the memo, grilled tomatoes are a thing. A wonderful thing that can add smoky, tangy flavor to any summer plate, from salsas and salads to fish, chicken, and pasta dinners. And once you learn how easy it is to make marinara sauce with grilled tomatoes, you'll never buy bottled pizza sauce again.
Here are the basic steps:
- Cut ripe tomatoes in half, then brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Grill the tomatoes until they're charred on both sides.
- Put the grilled tomatoes in a food processor. Add a little olive oil, garlic, salt, and dried chile flakes, and buzz until the mixture looks like a chunky sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
- Spread on stretched-out pizza dough, add cheese and other toppings, and bake.
A Note on Ingredients for Marinara Sauce with Grilled Tomatoes
This recipe calls for only four ingredients, plus salt and pepper. And it's all about quality. If you spring for the good stuff—plump heirloom tomatoes, fruity imported olive oil, a firm, fresh garlic clove, and a new jar of dried Urfa pepper flakes (my fave)—then it just might be the best marinara you've ever had. If, on the other hand, you grab those watery, pinkish-red grocery store tomatoes, a shriveled nub of garlic, and red pepper flakes that lost their punch 10 years ago . . . well, you know. Meh.
My suggestion? Taste the tomato before you grill it. Same with the olive oil and chile flakes. Grilling will intensify the tomatoes' flavor a bit, but if you start with something amazing, your sauce will be truly extraordinary. Use an olive oil you'd dip bread in or drizzle over caprese salad, and opt for dried chile flakes that smell good and have a pleasing flavor as well as a kick of heat.
Grilled Tomato Marinara Sauce
- Outdoor grill or grill pan
- Food processor
- 2¼ pounds (4 medium to large) beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes (ripe but still firm), halved horizontally
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
- ¼ teaspoon dried chile flakes (I prefer Urfa pepper)
- Preheat your outdoor grill or grill pan. If you have a gas grill, ignite the propane and turn the dials to high. If you have a charcoal grill, light the coals and arrange them in the grill for high direct heat. If you're using a grill pan, place the pan on your stovetop and set the burners to high.
- Coat both sides of the tomato halves generously with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
- Place the tomatoes on the hot grill or grill pan. Grill for about 6 minutes per side, until both sides have dark grill marks. Transfer the tomatoes to a plate; let them sit for 10 minutes.
- Pour off any accumulated juices from the plate with the tomatoes, then transfer the tomatoes to a food processor. Add the 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, garlic, and dried chile flakes. Pulse just until the mixture looks like a chunky sauce. Taste and add more salt or dried chile flakes as desired.
- Spread ½ cup to ⅔ cup of sauce on a 12- to 14-inch round of pizza dough, or toss the whole recipe with a pound of cooked pasta. Pour leftover sauce into an airtight container; refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 6 months.
Looking for a year-round marinara sauce? Click here to try my no-cook, dump-and-stir recipe, or click here for my cooked-down New York style pizza sauce.
Want to explore other summer pizza sauce recipes? Here are a few you might want to try: