Marinara sauce is an quick and simple tomato sauce perfect to toss with your favorite pasta, or to use as a tasty dipping sauce for breadsticks or pizza. My delicious homemade marinara sauce recipe features lots of robust flavor from a good kick of garlic, herbs, and even a hint of red wine, and it's simmered up in only 30 minutes!
A Best Friend to Pasta, Pizza and Breadsticks
There are so many foods I love that taste just a little better with a side of zesty marinara sauce.
Whenever we get pizza, or enjoy warm, soft, buttery breadsticks, it's a must for us to have a little ramekin of marinara for dipping. It's what takes the breadsticks over the top and makes 'em extra delicious! 😉
Even when I crave a very simple, quick and easy bowl of hot pasta, some of my homemade marinara pairs deliciously poured over top. Sprinkle on a flourish of fresh basil or parsley and some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and you've got a complete picture perfect meal.
Whatever foods we love to enjoy with this zesty and irresistible red sauce, nothing beats an easy, homemade marinara prepared from scratch with fresh ingredients that add lots of bold flavor!
How to Make Marinara Sauce with Simple Ingredients
A basic marinara sauce really only needs these main ingredients: tomatoes, fresh garlic, onions, olive oil, and seasoning, but I like to add a couple more, as you'll see below.
For the tomatoes, I like to use a couple of varieties: organic, canned, crushed tomatoes for the base, and a couple of smaller cans of finely diced tomatoes (drained of juices) to give a bit of texture. However, if you're a fan of a smoother marinara, then opt for all crushed tomatoes—the choice is yours!
I also like a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste to add some even richer tomato flavor.
Along with copious amounts of garlic and onion, I also like to add a small splash of red wine (optional) to create a little earthy depth and aroma, plus a small pinch of red pepper flakes for mild kick.
I sprinkle in dried herbs to the simmering sauce, and finish the marinara with a flourish of fresh herbs for added color and flavor.
Here's a peek at my marinara sauce recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- To a large skillet or medium size pot, I add a generous drizzle of olive oil, some finely diced onion, and allow it to become golden. Next, I add my pressed garlic cloves, dried herbs, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt and pepper, stirring for a few moments, or just until aromatic.
- Next, I add a spoonful of tomato paste, and stir to blend and cook for a moment; then, pour in my splash of red wine (optional), allow it to bubble up, and then add in my canned tomatoes.
- I add another good pinch of salt and pepper, and allow the sauce to gently simmer for about 20 minutes.
- To finish the marinara sauce, I add in a flourish of fresh herbs, taste to see if any additional salt/pepper is needed, and serve immediately, or allow it to cool and store it in my fridge or freezer.
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: 5 ½ cups sauce (or 1 quart plus 1 ½ cups)
Nutrition Info: 92 calories (per ½ cup serving)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
- Olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- Black pepper
- 8 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- 1 tablespoons Italian seasoning
- Pinch or two red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ¼ cup red wine
- 1 (28 ounce) can organic. crushed tomatoes
- 2 (14.5 ounce) cans organic, finely diced tomatoes, drained of excess juices
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- Place a large skillet or pot over medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil; once hot, add in the diced onion, plus a pinch or two of salt and pepper, and saute for a few minutes until the onion begins to become golden-brown.
- Add in the garlic, the Italian seasoning and the red pepper flakes, and stir to combine and incorporate for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant; add in the tomato paste, and stir to combine.
- Next, pour in the red wine (if using), and allow it to vigorously bubble up and reduce for about 30 seconds; then, add in all of the canned tomatoes, plus some more salt (you will need quite a bit—at least 1 teaspoon, or to taste) and pepper.
- Bring the sauce to a vigorous simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid half askew to allow for some venting, and simmer the marinara sauce for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- To finish the marinara sauce, sprinkle in the chopped parsley off heat, check to see if any additional salt/pepper is needed, and serve as desired. (If freezing, allow the marinara to completely cool before storing it in ziplock bags or glass jar.)
Tips & Tidbits for my Marinara Sauce:
- Good quality, canned tomatoes: It's up to you whether you'd like your marinara to be slightly chunky, or completely smooth. I'm into a slightly chunky marinara, so I opt for a combo of both crushed and diced tomatoes, but you can use all crushed tomatoes to keep things super smooth. Either way, opt for organic, if possible.
- Garlic galore: Since garlic is what brings lots of flavor to the marinara party here, I kind go a little heavy-handed on it. Because I give it a quick sizzle in the olive oil first, it helps take some of the bite out of it, so it's not super strong. But feel free to use a clove or two less if you prefer a slightly milder flavor.
- Red wine, for aroma: I only use a few tablespoons of red wine here, but feel free to omit it altogether, if you prefer—no substitutions needed.
- Dried and fresh herbs, for double flavor: I like to use the dried herbs to infuse the sauce as it simmers, but finish the sauce with fresh herbs to help keep their color and flavor intact. I like Italian seasoning, which is basically a great, dried blend of Italian herbs in one bottle, and finish with fresh parsley, or even basil.
- How to freeze marinara sauce: If you'd like to have marinara sauce prepped and on hand for future use, simply allow it to cool completely, then pour into a freezer container or ziplock bags, and freeze. Then, when ready to use, allow the sauce to thaw in the fridge for a day or so, and gently reheat.
Hungry for some recipes that work great with some marinara sauce? Check out these Crispy Arancini, this Fried Calamari, this French Bread Pizza, or these Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs!
Huge success - five stars! First time making my own marinara sauce and it turned out beautifully 🙂 Only difference was that I used two 28oz cans of whole tomatoes that I diced before adding and the bunch of basil I had on hand. Thank you for the recipe!
The Cozy Apron
Hi Sam, job well done on the substitutions/additions—so glad you enjoyed! (I wonder if you'll ever go back to jarred/store-bought now that you've made your own and tasted the difference!) 😉
Ingrid, last spring I commented on the Crispy Chicken Meatball recipe to let you know how much we've loved having that marinara sauce over the years (btw, my partner's 7-year old niece calls it "Meesa's Special Sauce" and has helped me make it make several times!). I just wanted to drop by here and say that I finally got around to making this marinara, and it may top the meatball one, ha--it's just so good! I added a small amount of brown sugar since I didn't have the best quality tomatoes, but otherwise, I didn't change a thing. I used the marinara with your Calzones yesterday (I'll pop over to that recipe shortly to leave a comment), and tonight, I'm using it for your Chicken Parmesan since I have so much of it. Your sauces are just always superb. Love, Melissa
The Cozy Apron
Yay, so glad to read that Melissa! 🙂
It makes me so happy you're enjoying my marinara sauces, and have even had your precious little niece help you in preparing it. How wonderful that you're taking time to share with her in this way!
Thanks, as always, for letting me know you're enjoying my recipe so much. It makes my heart smile!
Dearest Ingrid, You've come to my rescue again! I found a really lovely recipe for Beef Braciole (I love the stuff, but I've never made it before), and even though the recipe offered its own marinara suggestions for the beef rolls to simmer in, I opted to make a batch of your marinara instead (sorry, not sorry 😉 ). Absolutely delicious. It was such a treat on this cold, snowy day. Love, Melissa
The Cozy Apron
So happy you’ve been enjoying this marinara recipe so much, Melissa! ♥️
Hope you stay warm & cozy, cooking up delicious dishes that inspire you & warm your belly!
can I make this sauce the night before for the next day?
The Cozy Apron
Absolutely, Jackie! It will taste even more complex and delicious with one or two days "under its belt", so to speak, to allow for flavors to meld.
Hope you enjoy!