Marinara, tomato sauce, red sauce, red gravy, tomato gravy. Many of us use these terms interchangeably to mean a simple tomato-based sauce that we can toss with pasta, Parmesan and maybe a little fresh basil if we have it on hand.

We can argue that marinara is something very specific and that anything called “gravy” must have meat, but rather than have a semantics discussion, let’s agree that a straightforward tomato-based sauce — no matter what you call it — can be a powerful utility player in our kitchens.

If you need proof, just look at the number of recipes in cookbooks and on the internet that feature some variation.

If you look in my freezer and do not see packages of what we down in New Orleans call “red gravy” frozen, labeled with dates and neatly stacked, then you’ll probably find an 8-quart pot of the stuff simmering gently on my stove.

I always have tomato sauce on hand. I invite you to do the same, so you can easily pull together a weeknight pizza or pasta. Usually, I make my big-batch sauce vegetarian so that it is more versatile, adding in fresh onion, garlic, bell pepper and scallions.

This time, I rethought my typical sauce with an eye toward making it more pantry friendly. I used canned whole tomatoes, tomato sauce and dry seasonings. The only fresh ingredients I included are two long-lasting ones: chopped onion and garlic.

Yes, it’s basic, but it’s basic in a good way. The resulting Big-Batch, Pantry-Friendly Tomato Sauce tastes just fine on its own. I’ve eaten it with angel hair and a generous grating of Parmesan. I’ve purchased frozen ravioli and made quick and easy dinners that way. Try it in any number of dishes you love.

Recipe from The Washington Post recipes editor Ann Maloney

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