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This five cheese marinara is so simple to make, yet it’s so hearty and satisfying. Serve it over your favorite pasta, or you can top your favorite rice or baked potato. Very versatile and tasty – see for yourself!
Tips for the Best Marinara Sauce
There are a few keys to making this five cheese marinara sauce a success. I use dry herbs in this recipe, as they are more readily available. If you have fresh herbs – all the better for adding more flavor! If using fresh, you will need 1 tablespoon packed to equal the 1 teaspoon of dry.
Using the red wine is optional, but I believe it adds a nice depth of flavor that can’t be gotten any other way. The alcohol cooks off quickly, and the deglazing process soaks up the flavor bits from the bottom of the pan.
You could cook this marinara in less time if you want, but I believe letting it simmer for a bit really helps to meld the flavors. This process really shouldn’t be hurried.
If you need to save time, I recommend preparing the sauce ahead of time (the day before) without adding the cheese. Then while you’re preparing your pasta, you reheat the tomato mixture on medium heat and add the cheese once heated.
Reheating leftovers will also improve the flavor. Just reheat gently due to the presence of the cheese. You don’t want it to boil vigorously after adding the cheese, as it will tend to curdle and change its texture.
Feel free to use crushed tomatoes instead of diced if you wish. I broke up my tomatoes a bit while they were cooking, so they were still a little chunking, but mostly smooth. If you like your sauce more chunky, using diced and not breaking the tomatoes up is the way to go.
How to Make Five Cheese Marinara
First, you will preheat your Dutch oven to medium heat. Getting the pan nice and hot before adding your first ingredients gives you a jump start on the cooking process. This ensures that the garlic and onions get a nice browning that translates into great caramelization (caramelization = more flavor).
After your onion and garlic cook a bit and begin to brown, you will then add your herbs and black pepper and cook a bit longer while stirring together.
Before the tomatoes, you will pour in your red wine and stir to deglaze pan briefly. The deglazing process (as I mentioned above) will soak up bits of browning and flavor from the cooking of the onions, garlic, and herbs.
Once you add your tomatoes, you want to turn up the heat until the sauce begins to boil gently (also called a simmer). Once simmering, you will turn the heat down, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. I like to break up the diced tomatoes a bit (I used my hamburger chopper, but you can use a spoon or whatever works).
After cooking for 30 minutes, you will uncover and raise heat to low-medium (3-4) and simmer 15 minutes. The covering and uncovering processes serve different purposes.
Covering holds in the liquids and prevents thickening. Cooking uncovered does the opposite – reduces the liquids and thickens by letting the steam escape. So these steps are pretty important for the success of the recipe.
Before adding cheeses, you will want to let the marinara sauce sit and cool a few minutes before adding the cheeses. You don’t want to boil your cheeses, but you want the sauce to be hot enough to melt the cheeses.
With heat still off, you will add the cheeses and stir to blend. Cover the pot and let sit while preparing your pasta in another pot. You’ll want to stir again to thoroughly incorporate the cheeses before serving over cooked and drained pasta.
BTW … My favorite cookware is my Milo cast iron Dutch oven and skillet. Tough and rugged, yet so easy to clean. And a dream to cook with! Check them out here (and I believe if you sign up for their newsletter you get 10% off your first order)
Five Cheese Marinara
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp garlic, minced (about 3-4 large cloves)
- ½ red or yellow onion, diced
- 1 tsp dry oregano
- 1 tsp dry marjoram
- 1 tsp dry basil
- ½ cup red wine (decent quality – NOT cooking wine)
- 2 cans good quality Italian diced tomatoes in juice (28 ounces each)
- ½ cup ricotta cheese
- ½ cup Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
- ¾ cup 3-cheese blend (asiago, parmesan, romano) or ¼ cup of each, shredded
- Preheat Dutch oven to medium heat (about 5).
- Add oil, onion, and garlic. Stir and cook 3 minutes.
- Add herbs and black pepper and cook another 2 minutes, stirring together.
- Pour in wine and stir to deglaze pan briefly.
- Add canned tomatoes and turn heat up to 7 until simmering. Simmer on low boil uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring and breaking up tomatoes lightly with spoon or hamburger chopper.
- Reduce heat to low (about 2) and cover once mixture stops boiling.
- Cook 30 minutes covered, stirring occasionally.
- Uncover and raise heat to low-medium (3-4) and simmer 15 minutes (to reduce liquid a bit).
- Turn heat off and let sit 5 minutes before adding cheeses.
- With heat still off, add cheeses and stir to blend. Cover and let sit while preparing the pasta. Stir again before stirring over cooked and drained pasta.
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