Simple Marinara Sauce

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Classic Marinara Sauce is just 3 ingredients with optional herbs. It takes 20 minutes to cook, with just 5 minutes of hands on time. It’s beyond easy, so tasty, and it’s budget friendly as well. Try this homemade Marinara Sauce tossed together with freshly cooked pasta, my Almond Flour Chicken Parmesan. Or use it in my Simple Vegetable Pasta Bake, Gluten Free Lasagna, or for your next pizza night.

Straight down view of Marinara Sauce in a white skillet with basil leaves on top.

I have nothing against jarred pasta sauces by any means. In fact they’re one of my favorite conveniences. However conveniences usually come with a higher price tag. For instance my favorite jarred marinara sauce is $10, but I can make it homemade for just $3!

So if you’re looking for incredible flavor that’s budget friendly too, try making your own homemade sauce. Classic marinara is just 3 ingredients – canned tomatoes – olive oil – and garlic. Sometimes you’ll also find onion in marinara sauce recipes. But I prefer to stay classic, and keep them out for a simpler flavor.

You can also add an optional herb to the mix for a touch of flavor. Oregano is probably the most common and a classic, but I love adding a sprig of basil while it simmers. Either way you go, the herb is just a hint of flavor here. Marinara sauce is all about the combination of tomato and garlic.

It’s the simplest of all tomato sauces you can make. And I think that’s what makes it so great for so many different dishes. So I hope you enjoy making this classic sauce, and be sure to check out the meal prep tips below as well.

Side view of Marinara Sauce in a white skillet topped with sprigs of basil.

Ingredients & Substitutions

All the ingredients for Marinara Sauce on a wood cutting board, garlic, tomatoes, olive oil, sea salt, and a sprig of basil.
  • Tomatoes – I use either canned whole tomatoes or diced tomatoes for this recipe. Lately I’ve been using fire roasted tomatoes for a different flavor. Quality matters here, the better your tomatoes, the better the sauce will be. I like to use Muir Glen, and if you stock up on sales, you can buy them for as low as $2.50 per can.
  • Olive oil – is part of the flavor of this sauce, and it’s used to sauté the garlic as well.
  • Garlic – freshly minced garlic is everything here because this simple sauce is all about the garlic and tomato combo. Speed things up with a garlic press rather than using jarred garlic.
  • Sea salt – to taste brings out the flavor of this sauce.
  • Herbs – oregano is the classic choice in marinara. But if you have a sprig of basil around, it’s a more subtle flavor and very tasty.

How to make this recipe step by step

Blended tomatoes in a blender container.

Step 1: Start by blending the tomatoes in a blender until your desired consistency is reached. If you love a smooth sauce, blend until smooth. Or leave it slightly chunky if desired!

Sautéing garlic in olive oil in a white skillet.

Step 2: Next sauté the garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until fragrant, about 30-45 seconds.

Adding the tomatoes to the sautéed garlic along with the sprig of basil.

Step 3: Then pour in the blended tomatoes and add the optional herb. If you’re using a sprig of basil, submerge it in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer without stirring it. This allows the liquid to rise to the surface so the sauce doesn’t splatter so much.

Removing the basil sprig from the finished marinara sauce.

Step 4: Simmer the sauce on low heat until it thickens and most of the surface liquid is gone, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the herb sprig if using, and season to taste with sea salt.

Finished Marinara Sauce in a white skillet topped with sprigs of basil.

Ways to serve this

FAQ’s

Does Marinara Sauce have onions in it?

Classic marinara sauce does not have onions in it. It’s a sublime combination of garlic and tomatoes. Tomato sauces for pasta have onions, marinara does not even though you’ll find plenty of recipes that include them.

What is the difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce?

Marinara is very simple with just 3 ingredients: olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes. Spaghetti sauce includes the same 3 ingredients along with onion and ground meat like ground beef or Italian sausage.

What pasta is best with marinara sauce?

Spaghetti is the classic pairing with marinara sauce, but just about any pasta shape works pretty well. We prefer strands rather than shapes like spaghetti, linguine, and bucatini rather than penne, fusilli, farfalle etc. This is just a matter of preference though, marinara twirls together perfectly with spaghetti, but you can use what you have on hand.

Storing leftovers

  • Storing – any leftovers can be kept in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Be sure you place this sauce in a non-reactive container like glass because metal containers will ruin the taste of your sauce.
  • Freezing – you can freeze this sauce in airtight containers for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge before using it. If you freeze this sauce in plastic freezer bags like a Ziplock, be sure to place the frozen sauce in a dish to catch any leaks as it defrosts.
  • Reheat – reheat the sauce over medium heat stirring until heated through.
Close macro view of Marinara Sauce with a wooden spoon in it.

Tips & Tricks

  • Make a double or even quadruple batch as part of your meal prepping. Then freeze the sauce in portioned containers. 3-4 cups is perfect for 1 pound of freshly cooked pasta.
  • Fire roasted tomatoes are very unconventional but very tasty, so be sure to try them sometime!
  • Don’t skimp on the quality of the canned tomatoes! Cheap canned tomatoes are always sour and lacking in flavor. But good quality brands will make a fantastic sauce that doesn’t need any sugar to take the edge off.
Marinara Sauce tossed together with spaghetti and topped with basil.

I really hope you enjoy this homemade Marinara Sauce! If you do get a chance to make this recipe, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Finished Marinara Sauce in a white skillet topped with sprigs of basil.

Simple Marinara Sauce


Author: Kari Peters
Total Time 25 mins
Yield: 6 servings
Course: Sauce

INGREDIENTS  

  • 2 tbsp olive oil - extra virgin
  • 2 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1 sprig basil - or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 28 ounce can whole tomatoes - (San Marzano or Muir Glen) can also be diced tomatoes, regular or fire roasted are both tasty here.
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt - more or less to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Blend the whole tomatoes in a blender until they're the consistency you desire. We like a slightly chunky marinara sauce.
  • Place a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and sauté the garlic until fragrant, but not browned, about 30 seconds.
  • Add the blended tomatoes along with the sprig of basil or oregano, and stir to combine.
  • Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Try not to stir so the sauce doesn't splatter. As it simmers undisturbed, a layer of liquid will rise to the top which helps to keep the splattering to a minimum.
  • Simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove the basil sprig if using, then season to taste with sea salt and serve as desired.

NOTES

This recipe makes about 3 cups of finished Marinara Sauce, but it will vary a bit depending on the rate of evaporation.
Category: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: Best Marinara Sauce Recipe, Classic Marinara Sauce, Easy Marinara Sauce Recipe, Homemade Marinara Sauce

nutrition facts

Serving: 0.5cupCalories: 65kcal (3%)Carbohydrates: 6g (2%)Protein: 1g (2%)Fat: 5g (8%)Saturated Fat: 1g (6%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gSodium: 383mg (17%)Potassium: 253mg (7%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 3g (3%)Vitamin A: 158IU (3%)Vitamin C: 13mg (16%)Calcium: 43mg (4%)Iron: 1mg (6%)
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This post was originally published in 2013, but has been updated in 2022 with new photos, tips, and information.

5 thoughts on “Simple Marinara Sauce”

    • Yes you should be able to make large batches to can, just follow the canning guidelines for tomato sauces. If you make really large batches, make sure to stir as it simmers occasionally to prevent sticking. Really large batches cook for much longer and can burn on the bottom depending on the quality of your stockpot. I hope this helps and let me know if you have any more questions or how it goes as well!

      Reply
  1. You should try Eden Organic crushed tomatoes in a glass jar so no BPA from the lining of the can that leaches in to the tomatoes : )

    Reply

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