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This easy homemade Marinara Sauce recipe can be made with fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes for a delicious and versatile addition to just about any Italian-inspired meal. Best of all, it’s a healthy dinner that’s ready in about 20 minutes!

Front shot of bowl of pasta with homemade marinara sauce recipe on top

If you’ve ever grown tomatoes in a garden, then you can probably relate to the overwhelming feeling when your plants all ripen at exactly the same time.

While there’s nothing better than a sweet, juicy, bright-red homegrown tomato, the task of trying to enjoy buckets and buckets full of tomatoes before they all go bad can be daunting, at best.

For years I have been working on my own recipe for homemade marinara sauce, since I seem to encounter the same happy “problem” of too many ripe tomatoes each summer.

A jar of tomato sauce solves so many problems because it can be kept in the freezer for a few months, it can be used in a variety of dishes (like pizza, lasagna, and spaghetti), and it takes advantage of other garden fresh herbs as well. Win-win-win.

What is marinara sauce?

Marinara is a simple sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, herbs and onions. In Italy, an Old World marinara sauce recipe (alla marinara) properly refers to a sauce made with tomatoes, basil, oregano and sometimes olives, capers and salted anchovies, which may be used with spaghetti, meat or fish (source).

Marinara sauce and tomato sauce are not necessarily the same thing. While marinara is a quick sauce made with just a handful of basic ingredients, tomato sauce is more complex, often includes more vegetables, and is simmered for a longer time.

Overhead shot of a pot of easy marinara sauce recipe with a wooden spoon for stirring

How to make an easy homemade marinara sauce recipe:

The reason that I love this particular recipe most of all is because it’s fast and easy. If you use a can of really good tomatoes (like San Marzano), the sauce only requires about 5 minutes of prep!

Ingredients for homemade marinara sauce:

  • Butter
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Fresh tomatoes or canned, crushed tomatoes
  • Basil and oregano
  • Sugar (optional)
  • Salt and pepper

First, sauté onion and garlic in butter in a large pot.

Diced onion and garlic in white pot

Stir in tomatoes, add herbs, sugar, salt and pepper, and simmer over low heat (partially covered) until thickened.

If you’re using fresh tomatoes, you will probably want to puree the sauce to a smoother consistency. If you use a can of crushed tomatoes, you can skip this step!

Jar of homemade marinara sauce recipe

What goes with this marinara sauce recipe?

If you’re wondering how to serve this dish, you’ve got plenty of options! The versatile sauce is great tossed with just about any type of pasta — from spaghetti to tortellini, ravioli or penne. Add Italian sausage, ground beef or shrimp to your pasta for a heartier entrée. You can use the sauce on pizza, in lasagna, or in pizza quesadillas, too!

On the side, pair your marinara sauce with:

Overhead shot of easy tomato basil marinara sauce served over pasta

Cook’s Tips and Recipe Variations:

  • This recipe yields about 2 cups, which is enough for one family dinner, one casserole, or one large jar. If you’re like me and you’d rather have more to keep on hand, just double the ingredients and proceed with the same cooking instructions.
  • Use the best tomatoes! If you can get your hand on sweet, ripe, fresh local tomatoes, those are wonderful. There’s a lot more work involved in using the fresh tomatoes, though — you’ll need to peel, seed and dice. As a result, I make this sauce year-round with a large can of crushed tomatoes (canned San Marzano tomatoes are the best)!
  • This marinara can be left chunky, or you can use a blender (or handheld blender) to puree the sauce to reach your desired consistency.
  • How long does marinara sauce last? Store the sauce in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • Can you freeze marinara sauce? Yes! Make a double batch and freeze a jar for a later date. It will last in the freezer for at least 3 months (and probably longer).
  • The small amount of sugar called for in the recipe gives the sauce that subtle sweet finish that balances the acid in the tomatoes. The sugar is optional, though! You can omit it if you’re using fresh tomatoes that are naturally very sweet and flavorful.
  • Once the sauce is finished, adjust seasonings to suit your tastes. Add salt, pepper or additional herbs. If you like a spicy marinara, add crushed red pepper, to taste.
  • This kid-friendly marinara sauce recipe is made without wine. If you like a richer, bolder flavor, add 1/2 cup of red wine to the sauce. You may need to simmer the sauce a bit longer to get it to reduce and thicken.
  • For a briny addition, stir in some capers or olives!

Homemade marinara sauce in a white cast iron pot

More easy pasta sauces that you might enjoy:

Front shot of bowl of pasta with homemade marinara sauce recipe on top

Marinara Sauce Recipe

5 from 3 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings 2 cups
Calories 107 kcal
This easy homemade Marinara Sauce recipe can be made with fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes for a delicious addition to any Italian-inspired meal!

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons (about 2 cloves) minced garlic
  • 1 lb. fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped; OR 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried basil)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (or ½ teaspoon dried oregano)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional, but definitely our preference)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  • In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for about 3-5 minutes (or until soft). Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 more minute.
  • Stir in the tomatoes and reduce heat to medium low. Add basil, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper.
  • Simmer, partially covered, stirring regularly, until sauce is thickened (about 10-15 minutes).
  • Taste the sauce, and add additional salt, pepper and herbs if desired.
  • If using fresh tomatoes, use a handheld stick blender, a food processor, or a large blender to puree the sauce until smooth. If using canned crushed tomatoes, you can skip this step.

Notes

  • This recipe yields about 2 cups, which is enough for one family dinner, one casserole, or one large jar. If you're like me and you'd rather have more to keep on hand, just double the ingredients and proceed with the same cooking instructions.
  • Use the best tomatoes! If you can get your hand on sweet, ripe, fresh local tomatoes, those are wonderful. There's a lot more work involved in using the fresh tomatoes, though -- you'll need to peel, seed and dice. As a result, I make this sauce year-round with a large can of crushed tomatoes (canned San Marzano tomatoes are the best)!
  • This marinara can be left chunky, or you can use a blender (or handheld blender) to puree the sauce to reach your desired consistency. 
  • How long does marinara sauce last? Store the sauce in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • Can you freeze marinara sauce? Yes! Make a double batch and freeze a jar for a later date. It will last in the freezer for at least 3 months (and probably longer).
  • The small amount of sugar called for in the recipe gives the sauce that subtle sweet finish that balances the acid in the tomatoes. The sugar is optional, though! You can omit it if you're using fresh tomatoes that are naturally very sweet and flavorful.
  • Once the sauce is finished, adjust seasonings to suit your tastes. Add salt, pepper or additional herbs. If you like a spicy marinara, add crushed red pepper, to taste.
  • This kid-friendly marinara sauce recipe is made without wine. If you like a richer, bolder flavor, add 1/2 cup of red wine to the sauce. You may need to simmer the sauce a bit longer to get it to reduce and thicken.
  • For a briny addition, stir in some capers or olives!
Recipe adapted from The Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/2 cupCalories: 107kcalCarbohydrates: 11.6gProtein: 2.2gFat: 5.8gSaturated Fat: 3.7gCholesterol: 15.5mgSodium: 77mgFiber: 4.1gSugar: 7g
Keyword: easy marinara sauce, marinara sauce recipe
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Blair Lonergan

This post was originally published in July, 2017. It was updated in September, 2019.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. This looks so good! I love that you gave the option to use fresh tomatoes or the canned kind. Love that flavor!

  2. I was just wondering if I would be able to can this? I know you said I could freeze it, but I was looking for something I can do that would have a longer shelf life.
    Thank you

    1. Hey, Kathy! Yes, you can definitely can this sauce! I didn’t share any specific canning instructions because I am no expert in that regard and I know that there are very specific requirements necessary in order to keep food shelf stable. Are you experienced with canning? If so, you probably already know how to do it. If not, then I would suggest looking online at other canning instructions for tomato sauce. This process would generally be the same.

      In one of my canning books, the instructions for tomato sauce include:
      – washing the jars and lids and preparing a hot water bath in a canning pot;
      – Put 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid in each jar.
      – Spoon hot tomato sauce into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace at the top;
      – Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars clean; put put a flat lid and ring on each jar until finger tight;
      – Return jars to water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch;
      – Bring to a boil and boil the jars for 35 minutes to process.
      – Remove jars to a folded towel and do not disturb for 12 hours.
      – After 1 hour check to make sure that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each. If it can be pushed, then it’s not sealed properly and should be refrigerated immediately.

      Hope that helps!

      1. 5 stars
        I just wanted you to know yesterday I canned 12 quarts!! They turned out so good!! Thank you for the great recipe and the tips on canning.
        Thank you!

        1. Wonderful, Kathy! I’m so glad that you love the sauce — and now I’m jealous of your stash! 🙂 I need to make another batch this weekend!

  3. 5 stars
    This recipe was amazing and I can’t wait to make it again! I was just wondering if the sauce isn’t my desired thickness shall I add tomato paste? Or do you have a preferred method to making the sauce thicker.

    1. Hi, Skyler! You can definitely add some tomato paste, but that will also give the sauce a richer flavor (not necessarily bad, but it will be different). The other good way to thicken a sauce like this is to just let it simmer uncovered over low heat for a longer period of time (stirring occasionally). The steam will evaporate and the sauce will thicken the longer it cooks down. You can just keep an eye on it and leave it on the stove until it reaches your desired consistency.

      Finally, if you really want it thicker sooner, is to make a cornstarch slurry by whisking together a small amount of cornstarch with an equal amount of cold water. Add the slurry to the sauce, bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered until it thickens. Start with a very small amount of cornstarch, and add more if necessary.

      So glad that you enjoyed it!

  4. 5 stars
    Blair, I am obsessed with your vegetable lasagna recipe and I always make it with this sauce! We usually get the veggies at the farmer’s market and it’s just amazing!

    For this recipe, when I double it to four cups, it still says 1 28 oz can of tomatoes. Does it really only need one or did it not compute correctly? Let me know, I can’t remember what I did last time!!!!

    Thanks!

    1. Hey, Erin! I’m so happy to hear that! That calculator on the recipe card is automated, and I think that sometimes it just doesn’t work quite right (probably because the 28-ounce can isn’t listed in the ingredient list, since it says “or”). So frustrating, I know. Anyway, if you want to double the recipe to make 4 cups of sauce, you’ll need 2 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes.

      Glad that you love it as much as we do! 🙂