Why is my marinara watery...?

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I help another guy make large batches of marinara at dinners we do for charity. And it is fantastic. I'm out of leftover sauce and decided to try a conventional size batch at home.

I processed grated carrot, onion and garlic, sauteed in EVOO, broke up with my fingers 2 28 oz cans of whole, peeled tomatoes, added to the pot with seasoning, simmered for almost 2 hours. It tasted great, but was like tomatoes in a thin juice.

Googling came up with the suggestion of cooking it down longer, but this would not thicken the texture at all, would just boil down to the tomatoes, with no juice. Another was pureeing the result, which I eventually did with an immersion blender, which again, does not actually thicken.

Most recipes don't seem to call for tomato paste and I didn't use any. I think my bud does use it, but I can't remember.

Any insight would be most appreciated.
 
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... and also check the type of tomato was in the can. Some types of tomato’s, especially if the “bargain brand cans” are more watery than others. In general, though, I prefer a better brand of Italian (often designated as “San Mariano”) plum tomato - crushed - rather than whole if I’m looking for a tighter and less lumpy sauce.
 
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Paste and a better quality tomato as prescribed. Or talk to your friend about how he gets the consistency next time you two make it.
 
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Thanks for comments...I will probably try adding the paste and perhaps use San Marzano tomatoes, but I'm pretty sure when we do this in quantity, we use Hunts brand tomatoes, turns out fine, and I used the same. I will also get a hold of my guy, and will report back here.
 
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Hunt's is a quality brand. That should not be your problem. Are you simmering covered or uncovered?
 
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Canned whole tomatoes contain quite a bit of water in addition to the liquid in the can. As the tomatoes cook, they release much of that liquid and can make your marinara watery.

The first thing you should do is strain the canned tomatoes. Retain the liquid. When you crush the whole tomatoes in your hands, do so in a strainer and likewise catch the liquid. This is all pure tomato flavor. Don't waste it.

Use either sauce or puree or a combination of both depending on your desired thickness. You could also use tomato paste in place of the puree, as previously suggested. Dealer's choice.

I hope this helps. Good luck. :)
 
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Thanks for all the comments and suggestions, much appreciated...work in progress.
 
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With the intent of helping (and certainly not being critical of you but being critical of television celebrity chefs)... can we talk about "broke up with my fingers 2 28 oz cans of whole, peeled tomatoes". This too might be part of the equation that should be considered. This technique has been promoted by very talented master chefs and gets oft repeated, but I'm a bit skeptical that it's always done correctly given the desired end result. I know that's how Italian Nonna's do/did it but for a thick sauce it seems like maybe there's not enough crushing going on. I really think it's become a mantra - a buzz-word/technique - by TV chefs just like their parting catch-phrase more than a best-practice. For a thicker smoother sauce like a pomodoro or bolognese or marinara I find hand crushing to be more of a ritual than a way to get the best results. For those I smash whole tomatos with a potato masher or blitz in a food processer... or when using a canned product opt for crushed tomato. This technique really is a making a tomato puree rather than chunks of tomato in water. Tomato puree cooks down into a thick sauce quicker and more consistently. For dishes where I want noticeable chunks of tomato, like a stew or cacciatora, I'll hand crush and look forward to a more "watery" sauce.
 

pete

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What is the appeal of a thick sauce? Thick red sauce reminds me of the Olive Garden.
In winter I love thicker (Olive Garden type), long cooked tomato sauces (plus it's comfort food as that is the type of sauce I grew up with) but in summer I usually prefer lighter, more quickly cooked sauces.
 
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Joined Jul 27, 2014
With the intent of helping (and certainly not being critical of you but being critical of television celebrity chefs)... can we talk about "broke up with my fingers 2 28 oz cans of whole, peeled tomatoes". This too might be part of the equation that should be considered. This technique has been promoted by very talented master chefs and gets oft repeated, but I'm a bit skeptical that it's always done correctly given the desired end result. I know that's how Italian Nonna's do/did it but for a thick sauce it seems like maybe there's not enough crushing going on. I really think it's become a mantra - a buzz-word/technique - by TV chefs just like their parting catch-phrase more than a best-practice. For a thicker smoother sauce like a pomodoro or bolognese or marinara I find hand crushing to be more of a ritual than a way to get the best results. For those I smash whole tomatos with a potato masher or blitz in a food processer... or when using a canned product opt for crushed tomato. This technique really is a making a tomato puree rather than chunks of tomato in water. Tomato puree cooks down into a thick sauce quicker and more consistently. For dishes where I want noticeable chunks of tomato, like a stew or cacciatora, I'll hand crush and look forward to a more "watery" sauce.
Great observations, not critical of me, because I'm just trying different things on advice of others, to eventually progress to JP's goal, 'take a new recipe and make it your own'.
 
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What is the appeal of a thick sauce?
The problem is not how thick it is, but the correct blend of components to avoid simple thin juice and pulp, neither of which adheres to the pasta. Regardless, I had some last night and it is delicious.
 
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Meanwhile, I have gotten in touch with my bud and will talk to him soon. I have missed the last few dinners, but I have spent many early mornings with him breaking wooden spoons while stirring tall pots.

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