Homemade Marinara Sauce, Delicious and Versatile

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Have you ever entered an Italian restaurant and had your mouth immediately start watering? Have you ever wanted to bring that smell home? You’re in luck! Today we are going to talk about marinara sauce, pasta’s BFF (in my opinion). A delicious, basic, marinara sauce is a great versatile recipe to have in your back pocket.

Homemade Vs Jarred

You might be asking yourself: why do I need to make marinara? The sauces in the stores have been getting better for years. This is true, there are several sauces in the store that are amazing, Rao’s Homemade being one of my favorites, but that particular sauce is kinda pricey for a jarred sauce. Making your own sauce lets you control the cost, flavor and ingredients.

The Basics of Homemade Marinara Sauce

Ingredients You’ll Need

All marinara sauces are made of some basic ingredients: tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, onions, herbs, spices and a bit of sugar to cut the acid. Sounds simple, right? Good news, it is! Now it can get incredibly complicated, you can roast the tomatoes, or boil them develop flavors however you want, but that is completely unnecessary for a delicious all purpose marinara.

Let’s Talk Tomatoes

Many chefs will argue that canned tomatoes are superior to fresh since they are vine ripened and canned at peak ripeness and freshness. Off season tomatoes are just not the best. To make marinara sauce you are going to want a good quality canned tomato, diced, stewed, crushed or whole will all work. San Marzano tomatoes are pretty much the gold standard for making great marinara. If San Marzanos don’t fit in your budget (or you have another kind), use any canned tomato you like.

But I Want To Use Fresh

If you do want to use whole fresh tomatoes, that is an option too. Fresh tomatoes are going to require a little bit of work before you get the sauce started. There are two methods for this: oven and stove top.


First there is the oven method, which is really two methods- if you have the right tools. Simply preheat your oven to 450, place whole tomatoes on baking sheet and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the tomatoes are bright red and the skins are a bit shriveled. Let the tomatoes cool and gently remove the skins with your hands.

The second method using the oven develops a lot more flavor, but requires either Herculean patience, a special tool, or a carefree “I don’t mind skins in my sauce” attitude. First you are going to quarter your tomatoes (or halve.. or leave whole if they are small) while preheating your oven. Toss your tomatoes in olive oil with several garlic cloves. Spread out in one layer on a baking sheet, season lightly with salt, pepper, dried oregano and some chopped basil. Roast 20 to 25 minutes, the tomatoes should be bright red and developing some char. After baking you can either let your tomatoes cool and remove the skins with your hands (and crush them as well), use a food mill to crush the tomatoes and garlic while removing the skins, or just say “yep, don’t care” and use them in your sauce as is. I’m not here to judge.

Stove top:

The stove top method is uses boiling water. You are going to need a pot of boiling water and a large bowl of ice water. Gently lower several tomatoes into boiling water and let them boil for 30 seconds, or until the skins start to shrivel and peel back. Remove them from the water and put them in the bowl of ice water. Let them sit in the ice bath for about 5 minutes. The skins should be easy to remove. Then simply crush or dice the tomatoes and use them in your sauce. Cutting a small X in the skin at the bottom of the tomato, before boiling, can help.

Not going to lie, I am far too lazy to use either of these methods so I will personally use canned every time.

Other Ingredients

Yes, tomatoes really are the star of this recipe, but the other ingredients are also important.

  • Onions: You can use any color of onion you want, but yellow is recommended. The onions should be finely chopped for this recipe.
  • Garlic: Whole cloves of garlic that you mince (or use a garlic press, or grate) yourself will yield the best flavor, but jarred minced garlic will work as well. If you have to use garlic powder cut back the amount, ¼ teaspoon of granulated garlic powder is the equivalent of one clove of garlic.
  • Olive Oil: You can use regular, but extra virgin olive oil is preferred. I would not substitute vegetable oil for this ingredient personally, but if you have to, vegetable oil will work. Vegetable oil just won’t add much flavor to the sauce.
  • Basil: Basil is one of the major flavors of marinara sauce. Fresh is preferred- to get the nicest looking basil simply roll the leaves up and slice them thinly. It works amazingly. Add the fresh basil after you have finished cooking the sauce, and removed from the heat. If you have to use dried basil remember to use far less (½ to 1/3 the amount) and I would recommend adding the dried basil at the same time as the garlic to allow the flavors to meld and develop.
  • Other herbs and spices: This recipe calls for salt, pepper, and oregano, but it is highly customizable. You can add as much or as little of any herb that you like. If you want a bit of kick you can add crushed red pepper.

I Need To Cook This How Long?

I have seen many people on the internet posting “15 minute marinara” or “cooks in 10 minutes” and while that will make a sauce, it simply isn’t long enough. To truly let the flavors come together you want to simmer at least 30 minutes. There are recipes out there that call for simmering a marinara sauce for hours- usually someone’s grandma’s recipe. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the guts to disagree with anyone’s Italian Grandma. If this is you, listen to her. I’m off track, my point is, at least 30 minutes, longer is better, if your sauce starts to get too thick, add a little water.


Marinara sauce is the perfect jump-off point for so many dishes: spaghetti, meat sauce, lasagna, chicken (or beef) parmigiana. It can even be used as the base for ratatouille (the dish, not the Disney movie) or be used in place of pizza sauce on your favorite homemade pizza. I also use marinara as a dipping sauce for mozzarella sticks or garlic bread. In the past I have put it on an Italian Omelet in my restaurant (my naming skills have no equal, I know), basically you can add it to almost anything you want.


Marinara sauce is one of those things that freezes well, so when I make a batch, I make a double or triple batch. No matter how much sauce you made, it will keep well in the fridge for about 7 days. It can be frozen in Ziploc type bags in meal sized portions for future use. Just remove from the freezer and defrost in the fridge overnight for use. You can totally just thaw the sauce in a pan on your stove, but I am going to assume most of you are not savages, unlike myself.


Well, what are you still doing here reading? Go make your house smell amazing and make some marinara sauce. I promise you all you will find in this section is my true opinion of the movie Ratatouille… Just kidding. You’ll find this fabulous link back to our homepage. Go make the sauce, and remember cooking is fun!

Marinara Sauce

Delicious, simple marinara sauce, great for any pasta night
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6


  • 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • ½ cup yellow onion finely chopped about 1/2 medium onion
  • 3 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes 28oz San Marzano
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup fresh basil finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp sugar optional


  • Place saucepan over medium heat, add 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Add ½ cup yellow onion once the oil is hot, cook until soft and starting to brown (about 5 minutes), stirring frequently
    2 tbsp olive oil, ½ cup yellow onion
  • Add minced garlic and stir continuously until garlic is fragrant about 1 minute
    3 cloves garlic
  • Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, oregano, salt, and pepper. Bring to a light boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for at least 30 minutes. Stirring occasionally
    1 can crushed tomatoes 28oz, ½ tsp dried oregano, ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp ground black pepper, 1 to 2 tbsp tomato paste, 1 tsp sugar
  • Remove from heat and stir in fresh basil
    ¼ cup fresh basil
  • Add sauce to pasta, or whatever you want, and enjoy!


1.  You can use 1 tsp store bought minced garlic in place of one clove of garlic, 3 tsp for this recipe
2.  If you are using dried basil, reduce the amount to about 1 1/2 to 2tbsp, and add the basil with the oregano and the other ingredients
3.  Try adding the dried oregano (and dried basil if you are using dried) to the oil and onions with the garlic, it creates a great fragrance for the sauce.
4.  To add a bit more depth of flavor you can try adding 1/2 cup of good red wine (don’t use port or fortified though) to deglaze before adding the tomatoes and seasonings.  Let the wine cook for a few minutes to heat the alcohol off before adding the tomatoes.
5.  If your sauce is chunkier than you like, use an immersion blender to smooth it out.
Keyword Easy Marinara, Marinara, Pasta Sauce

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