This homemade marinara sauce is a blend of tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil and herbs, all simmered together to make a fresh and flavorful sauce. A quick and easy way to make your own pasta sauce that tastes way better than the store bought version!
My family loves Italian food and we eat it at least once a week! Some of our favorite dishes include baked chicken parmesan, pasta puttanesca, and any dish that contains this from-scratch marinara sauce.
I use marinara sauce in so many different recipes, and while there’s nothing wrong with jarred sauce, homemade marinara is the way to go. This recipe delivers so much flavor, has a short ingredient list and minimal prep time.
Marinara Sauce Ingredients
This recipe contains basic ingredients such as olive oil, onion, garlic, San Marzano tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and fresh basil sprigs.
How do you make homemade marinara sauce?
Start by cooking olive oil, onions and garlic in a pan. Add canned tomatoes, dried herbs, fresh basil and seasonings. Let the mixture simmer over low heat until the sauce has thickened. Remove the basil sprigs from the sauce and discard. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for later use.
Tips for the perfect sauce
- Since this is such a simple recipe, the quality of the ingredients really count. Look for a high quality extra virgin olive oil and use Italian canned tomatoes. I really prefer to use San Marzano tomatoes as they have the best flavor and texture. Keep an eye out for tomatoes with a “D.O.P” on the label, which guarantees that the tomatoes are authentically San Marzano.
- This sauce stays fresh in the refrigerator for 4 days and can be frozen for up to 2 months. I often make a double batch so that I have extra to put in the freezer! Thaw frozen sauce in the fridge overnight, then reheat on the stove until it’s warmed through.
- If you prefer a smooth sauce, you can use an immersion blender to puree the mixture after it’s cooked.
- You can chop the tomatoes or crush them with your hands, just be sure to save all the juice in the can for the recipe!
- This recipe makes a chunkier sauce. If you prefer a smooth sauce, simply puree some or all of the cooked sauce before you serve it.
I recommend using canned tomatoes as they tend to have a more consistent flavor than fresh tomatoes. I find that fresh tomatoes can be mealy in texture and are sometimes underripe. If you want to use fresh tomatoes you can. Simply peel the tomatoes by cutting an X in the bottom of each one, then place the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds. Transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of ice water and let them sit for 5 minutes. The skins should easily peel off. After the tomatoes are peeled, coarsely chop them, then proceed with the recipe.
Spaghetti sauce tends to be a meat sauce and is a thick sauce. Marinara sauce is a little thinner, and traditionally contains just tomatoes, olive oil and basil with some seasonings.
The word marinara means “seafaring” in Italian. This sauce typically does not contain seafood, but was a preferred dish of Italian sailors, which is how it got its name.
Homemade marinara sauce flavor variations
This sauce is a basic recipe with a classic flavor profile that can be used in a variety of dishes. That being said, it’s fine to add other ingredients to customize the sauce to your tastes.
- Protein: Feel free to add some meat for a heartier sauce. You can use 1 pound of ground beef, ground turkey or Italian sausage, just be sure to cook and crumble the meat before it goes into the sauce. You can also add some cooked pancetta for a little richness and extra savory flavor.
- Herbs: While this recipe calls for fresh basil, other herbs are great in this sauce including parsley, oregano and thyme.
- Veggies: Add extra color and texture with sauteed veggies including spinach, carrots, zucchini and mushrooms.
- Flavorings: Amp up your sauce with a little red wine, freshly grated parmesan cheese, a spoonful of pesto or some sliced olives.
There are endless possibilities when it comes to this sauce. Use it in pasta, casseroles, over chicken or as a dipping sauce. However you serve it, homemade marinara sauce always gets rave reviews!
Ways to use marinara sauce
- Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
- Eggplant Lasagna
- Classic Stuffed Shells
- Spinach Lasagna
- Pasta al Forno
Homemade Marinara Sauce Video
Homemade Marinara Sauce
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3 cup onion finely diced
- 2 1/2 teaspoons garlic minced
- 28 ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes coarsely crushed or chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 sprigs fresh basil
- Place the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
- Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes and all their juices from the can, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, fresh basil and 1/4 cup water.
- Stir to combine. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes or until sauce has started to thicken. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
- Remove the basil sprigs and discard. This makes a chunky sauce. If you prefer a smooth sauce, you can puree some or all of it in a blender. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Since this is such a simple recipe, the quality of the ingredients really count. Look for a high quality extra virgin olive oil and use Italian canned tomatoes. I really prefer to use San Marzano tomatoes as they have the best flavor and texture. Keep an eye out for tomatoes with a “D.O.P” on the label, which guarantees that the tomatoes are authentically the San Marzano variety.
- This sauce stays fresh in the refrigerator for 4 days and can be frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw frozen sauce in the fridge overnight, then reheat on the stove until it’s warmed through.