Skip the jar of marinara sauce and make your own easy homemade Marinara Sauce recipe in less than an hour. For real!
Marinara Sauce is one of the simplest of Italian sauces. Processes and tastes can vary greatly, but it all comes down to tomatoes, garlic, onion and herbs.
Marinara Sauce Recipes
While my family recipe for spaghetti sauce takes all day long, this quick homemade marinara sauce is what I make when I’m whipping up calzones, Parmesan chicken or honeycomb pasta. You can make it ahead and freeze or can it to make sure you always have marinara on hand.
It is one of the most verstile sauces out there and can be a base for so many other variations like creamy tomato sauce, pesto laced sauce, a smooth sauce and even a soup base like minestrone soup.
As far as tomatoes go, you have two choices. One that will be a little more time than the other.
You can use fresh plum tomatoes, also known as roma tomatoes and quickly steam and skin them. Or… use canned whole tomatoes. If you find a good canned tomato that doesn’t taste metallic, you are golden!
In all honesty, while I love fresh tomatoes, it defeats the purpose of a quick marinara sauce. So I use canned tomatoes and I refuse to apologize for it. If you do choose to steam and peel your own tomatoes, here are the instructions on how to peel a tomato.
In fact, if you visit a grocery store while in Italy, you won’t find a long aisle of various sauces and flavors. They sell one canned base sauce. It is just tomato puree. And not even whole tomatoes, just tomato sauce.
A blank slate to add your favorite herbs, vegetables and seasonings. The canned sauce is also more acidic than typical American versions who tend to lean towards a sweet sauce.
The choice is yours and I’m sure will reflect how much time you have. You can also choose the texture, using an immersion blender to make the sauce smoother, or leaving it nice and chunky. Your choice again.
Pasta Sauce vs Marinara Sauce vs Pizza Sauce
You might think red sauce is all one in the same, however, pasta sauce, marinara sauce and pizza sauce all have their distinct differences.
Pasta sauce is often a little more complex with flavors and ingredients. Marinara sauce doesn’t usually have meat, while pasta sauces often contain some sort of ground meat (like a bolognese sauce for example.) Because it often has meat and other ingredients added, pasta sauce is generally thicker than marinara.
On the other hand, pizza sauce is usually thinner than marinara sauce. It needs to be thin enough to spread a thin layer onto pizza dough. As with this hearty marinara sauce, marinara has more of a texture. There is a base of onion and garlic that pizza sauce does not have.
How to Use Marinara Sauce
Use this quick and tasty marinara sauce recipe for anything that calls for tomato sauce or marinara sauce. It’s great as a dipping sauce for:
Making your own marinara sauce is easier than you think with these simple ingredients.
- Extra virgin olive oil – This is used to sauté the onion and garlic. It helps to prevent them from sticking to the pan.
- Yellow onion – When paired with the garlic and the rest of the ingredients, fresh onion provides both texture and flavor to this classic marinara sauce.
- Garlic cloves – I almost always prefer using fresh garlic rather than garlic powder when cooking. A good marinara sauce has a good balance of garlic that provides a depth of flavor unmatched.
- Whole tomatoes – You can either use canned or fresh tomatoes. If using whole tomatoes, choose about 8 large plum tomatoes. Dip whole tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds, transferring to an ice bath immediately. Skins should peel easily.
- Tomato paste – Tomato paste is concentrated and has a rich tomato flavor that really makes this simple sauce stand out.
- Fresh basil and oregano – I love that this recipe only requires a handful of ingredients, but feel free to throw in red pepper flakes for heat or a bay leaf or Italian seasoning for extra flavor.
- Salt and pepper – I prefer to use freshly ground black pepper and coarse sea salt here. Make sure you use a good quality salt for maximum flavor.
- White or red wine – For a more robust flavor, use red wine, and for a milder flavor use white.
- Balsamic vinegar – This quick marinara sauce gets an added kick and zing from a little balsamic vinegar.
How to Make Marinara Sauce
- Sauté onion and garlic. Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan. Add onions, sautéing until starting to soften. Then add garlic and continue to sauté, stirring to prevent burning.
- Add rest of ingredients. Next, add tomatoes, cutting coarsely with a paring knife, add remaining juices from can. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Simmer while stirring frequently.
- Blend. If you enjoy a chunky sauce, leave as-is and serve it up! If you want a smoother sauce, blend with an immersion hand blender, taking care to blend larger pieces, but not totally juicing it.
Storage and Freezing
This marinara recipe will keep in the refrigerator for about 7-10 days. Just make sure you have it in an airtight container.
Alternatively, you can make it ahead and freeze or can it to make sure you always have marinara on hand. It will stay good frozen for 3-4 months.
More homemade sauces:
Quick & Easy Hearty Marinara
- 2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion chopped
- 3 garlic cloves chopped
- 28 ounces whole tomatoes*
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons fresh oregano packed and chopped
- 2 teaspoon fresh basil packed and chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1/2 cup red or white wine
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions, sautéing until starting to soften, approximately 4 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring to prevent burning.
- Add the tomatoes, cutting coarsely with a paring knife, add the remaining juices from the can, but discard any large pieces of herbs like basil. Stir in the tomato paste, oregano, basil, pepper, salt, wine and vinegar. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently.
- If you enjoy a chunky sauce, leave as-is and serve it up! If you want a smoother sauce, blend with an immersion hand blender, taking care to blend larger pieces, but not totally juicing it.
- If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.