This Easy Marinara Sauce recipe offers rich and sweet flavors that can be enjoyed on plenty of dishes. Using a handful of basic ingredients and only 1 pot, you can whip up this classic Italian sauce in just 30-minutes!
Now, this is a recipe to keep on hand at all times! Never will you need to buy plain or processed pasta sauce ever again, thanks to this quick Marinara Sauce recipe.
Sweet and tasty, this is a go-to tomato sauce to use with cooked pasta, roasted vegetables, or to use as a dip. You can indulge in this rich and lively Italian favorite knowing it’s been made with fresh and easy ingredients!
The only thing better than making marinara with fresh tomatoes is using San Marzano whole tomatoes. These high quality canned tomatoes still bring plenty of fresh flavors and help to cut down on the cooking time. Simmered with all of the right herbs and seasonings, this sauce still tastes like you’ve just picked the tomatoes straight from the garden.
As a bonus, this sauce is naturally vegan and gluten-free, which means you can use it on just about anything.
Are marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce the same?
Both marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce are tomato-based sauces, but they have slight differences. Marinara is made with just fresh or canned whole tomatoes and Italian seasonings. Spaghetti sauce, still made with tomatoes and seasonings, usually contains added ingredients like vegetables or meat.
- Canned Tomatoes – I prefer to use San Marzano tomatoes for the sweetest flavor. However, any type will work here.
- Olive Oil
- Garlic – Or, try swapping in this roasted garlic or air fryer garlic for a sweeter more complex flavor.
- Basil – I use 1 large sprig of fresh basil. Or, you can add in a pinch of dried basil.
- Salt + Sugar
- Red Pepper Flakes – This is optional. Omit for less heat. Or add in more if you like a spicy marinara sauce.
How to make homemade marinara sauce
Just like most Italian recipes, start by sautéing garlic in a saucepan with oil. Add the tomatoes and all of the seasonings. You’ll need to simmer the sauce for about 30 minutes to let all of the flavors mingle together.
Once it’s done simmering, use a sturdy spoon to crush the now soft tomatoes. Add salt and sugar and season to taste. It’s best enjoyed with fresh Parmesan and basil on top!
In Italian, marinara means “seafaring.” It’s said that marinara sauce was given its name because it was most often consumed by Italian merchants who were out at sea. Not because it was eaten with seafood. Since the ingredients in this tomato-based sauce don’t spoil as quickly as meat or fish, the leftovers could be consumed for a longer amount of time.
If your marinara sauce is watery, it may be due to the type of tomatoes you are using. To fix this, simply increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring often, until the sauce has thickened.
- Spicy: Add another pinch of red pepper flakes.
- Herby: Add a sprig of fresh rosemary, sage, or thyme into the sauce as it cooks. Make sure to remove them before serving or blending.
- Roasted Garlic: Try swapping in some roasted garlic for the regular garlic cloves.
- Cheesy: Add half of a cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
- Sweet Onion: Saute a minced onion before adding the garlic.
Once the sauce is ready, leave it to cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Store it in individual sealed airtight containers or jars in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Marinara is also freezer friendly. Pour it into a freezer-safe container or sealed bag and freeze for up to 3 months. You can reheat it from frozen or leave it to thaw in the fridge.
How to use it
Classic marinara sauce can turn almost any dinner into a warm and comforting dish with plenty of oomph!
- Keep it simple and serve the sauce over cooked pasta with grated Parmesan and chopped basil. Or, for a low carb alternative, try it on this slow cooker spaghetti squash.
- Dress up a crispy baked chicken, meatballs, or poached fish in the homemade sauce.
- Use it as pizza sauce on this homemade pizza or on zucchini pizza boats.
- It’s perfect for lasagna! Replace the boring store bought pasta sauce with homemade marinara in my Zucchini Lasagna Rolls or Crostini Lasagna Appetizers.
- Use it for chicken parmesan my Air Fryer Eggplant Parmesan.
- Use it in this Tortellini in Cream Sauce recipe.
- Use it as a dipping sauce for Sausage Bites, Zucchini Fries, Pasta Chips or Toasted Ravioli.
More pasta sauce recipes
- Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce
- Fra Diavolo Sauce
- Rose Sauce
- Kale Pesto
- Butter Roasted Tomato Sauce
- Broccoli Pesto
- White Bolognese Meat Sauce
- Arugula Pesto
Did you try this easy marinara sauce?
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PS – Need a way to preserve that extra basil? Try my method for how to freeze basil.
Easy Marinara Sauce
For Serving (optional):
- Cooked Pasta
- Grated Parmesan
- Chopped Basil
- In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute about 30 seconds, until fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes (with their juices), basil sprig, oregano, sugar, salt, and red pepper flakes (if using).
- Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat. Then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and continue to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, and using a sturdy spoon to crush the tomatoes as they cook.
- Remove and discard the basil sprig. Season with additional salt and sugar, to taste. (If you prefer a smooth sauce, you can also purée it with an immersion blender, blender or food processor until it reaches your desired consistency.)
Note: This recipe was originally published in 2020. It was updated in 2022 to add new information. The recipe remains unchanged. Enjoy!