Marinara Sauce

 Homemade Marinara Sauce with rich, bright tomato flavor on your table in less than 30 minutes!

Marinara Sauce from scratch is 1000X better than jarred and perfect for all your favorite Italian meals.  It is fabulous on pasta, pizza or as a dip.  It also is make ahead and freezer friendly so you can always have Marinara Sauce at your fingertips!  I’ve included recipes for the “Best Marinara Sauce” as well as lazy day “Easy Marinara Sauce” in which you don’t have to chop a thing AKA there are no excuses not to make Marinara Sauce from scratch!

a large ladelful of marinara sauce from scratch

Marinara Sauce Recipe 

I made the most glorious Manicotti with tantalizing Marinara Sauce in preparation for Valentines Day (coming next week) but decided the Marinara Sauce deserved its very own post.

Unlike Manicotti, which is special occasion indulgent and special occasion time consuming (but SO worth it), this Marinara Sauce recipe is EVERY DAY healthy, delicious, quick and easy!

It is an Italian recipe staple along with  Shrimp Fettuccine, Macaroni and  Cheese, Pasta Al Forno and Italian Pasta Salad.that you will find yourself making all the time! Once you try homemade Marinara Sauce, you will never go back to jarred again!

What is Marinara Sauce?

Most of us have probably bought jarred marinara sauce at one time or another.  While some brands taste superior to others, they all use similar ingredient of tomatoes, onions, garlic, sometimes sofrito, basil and other herbs.  But with this Homemade Marinara Sauce recipe, you will ALWAYS enjoy superior Marinara Sauce!

a fork in a bowls of pasta with homemade marinara sauce

Why do they call it marinara sauce?

Marinara Sauce is actually derived from the word “mariner’s” or “mariner’s sauce.”  The exact origin is unknown but one theory claims it was named for the mariners who brought the newly discovered tomato back from America in the 1700s to Naples, Italy.  So, although we think of marinara as being an ancient Italian tradition, it is actually only a few hundred years old!

Are tomato sauce and marinara sauce the same thing?

Marinara is a type of tomato sauce; so they can be the same thing, but tomato sauce can also mean a lot of other complex variations.

Both Tomato Sauce and Marinara Sauce include olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and herbs but tomato sauce can also include meat stock, wine, ground meat olives and capers.

Here are a few other Italian Sauces not to be confused with marinara:

Ragu:  meat-based Italian sauce made with any type of protein (veal, beef, lamb, pork, fish or poultry), onions, carrots, celery and often pancetta with a minimal amount of tomato sauce. Heavy cream is often added.

Bolognese Ragu:  a popular type of Ragu sauce characterized by its use of beef.   I have this recipe for you coming soon!

top view of a big pot of best marinara sauce

Is there a difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce?

Technically, spaghetti sauce is anything you put on spaghetti from marinara to alfredo to Bolognese.

The typical red spaghetti sauce we think of, however, is our slang for Marinara Sauce served over spaghetti.  So now you have the best homemade spaghetti sauce masquerading as Marinara Sauce.

Best Marinara Sauce Recipe

After several comments on my Lasagna recipe, stating it was the best Bolognese Sauce they ever tasted and would be using it for all future recipes, I decided to use it as the basis of this Marinara Sauce recipe, sans meat.  The results were drool worthy.

Here are just a few more reasons I love this from scratch Marinara Sauce:

  • Better Than Store Bought.  This Marinara Sauce from scratch will have you ditching the jars.  Its brimming with fresh tomato and herb goodness with layers of complex flavors.
  • Less Expensive.  You can make double or triple for the same price as quality store brands.
  • Depth of Flavor. We aren’t shy about seasoning our Marinara Sauce for plenty of Italian flavor.  I also add soy sauce, chicken bouillon and balsamic for a depth of flavor that is undeniably delectable.
  • Customizable:  You can customize your homemade Marinara Sauce to your tastes – more tangy, less tangy, spicy, creamy. smooth, chunky, etc.
  • 15 Minute Simmer.  This Marinara Sauce only requires 15 minutes to simmer on the stove but the flavor will blow your mind!
  • Make Ahead.  You can make this Marinara Sauce days in advance and refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready to use.
  • Double or Triple.  This Marinara Sauce is easy to double or triple for future use.
  • Freezer friendly.  This Marinara Sauce freezes exceptionally well so you make a triple batch and freeze so you’ll always have homemade Marinara Sauce at your fingertips.
a spoonful of hearty marinara sauce

Marinara Sauce Ingredients

SOFRITO:

The best Marinara Sauces start with a sofrito of onions, celery and carrots sautéed in olive oil.   The carrots, and celery are OPTIONAL  If you want super quick marinara sauce, then skip them.  You can even skip the onion and use 1 teaspoon onion powder in its place.  (See Easy Marinara Sauce recipe below)

The vegetables should be finely diced so they become tender and virtually disappear in the simmered sauce.  You won’t notice their texture but you WILL notice the depth of flavor they add.

SAUCE:

  • crushed tomatoes: will often be called crushed tomatoes in puree. They provide fresh tomato flavor and texture.  I recommend the brands San Marzano and Muir Glen.  San Marzano tomatoes are usually sold “whole” so you will want to pour them into a bowl and crush them with your hands first.
  • pureed fire roasted diced tomatoes: fire roasted tomatoes boast a sweet smokiness and are far less acidic than traditional tomatoes. Their flavor rounds out the tomatoes and adds just the right smoothness (in my opinion).
  • tomato paste: adds rich, concentrated tomato flavor.
showing how to make marinara sauce by purreing tomatoes in a blender

SEASONINGS: 

Seasonings transform tomatoes into glorious Marinara:

  • Garlic: feel free to use more garlic depending on your garlic love. For lazy day Marinara, you can substitute fresh garlic with 1 teaspoon garlic, or more to taste.
  • Red pepper flakes: adds just the right kick to the Marinara Sauce but you won’t find they make your Marinara “spicy,” just flavorful.  If you want a spicier Marinara Sauce, like marinara Arrabiata, then add ½ teaspoon or more red pepper flakes.
  • Herbs: We add basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, and a bay leaf. If using fresh herbs, then stir them in the last few minutes of simmering so they don’t loose their flavor.
  • Sugar: Tomatoes are highly acidic so they need to be balanced by some sugar.  The amount of sugar will vary (even between the times you make it), depending on personal taste and the acidity of the current tomatoes.
  • More Flavor: For additional depth of flavor, I’ve added splashes of soy sauce, chicken bouillon, and balsamic vinegar for a complex savory profile.  I have tried making homemade Marinara Sauce with and without these additions and it is far superior with them.

Can You use Fresh Tomatoes?

Absolutely!  Using fresh tomatoes from your garden is a brilliant way to take advantage of their juicy freshness.  You will need the equivalent amount of canned tomatoes listed in the recipe (28 oz.  + 14 oz.).

Make sure you blanch and peel your tomatoes first, then working in batches, chop them in the food processor for a chunkier sauce or process further for a soother sauce.

Depending on how sweet or acidity your tomatoes are, you may need to add more or less sugar to the Marinara Sauce.

a wooden spoon in a big bowl of homemade marinara sauce

How to Make Marinara Sauce

Our homemade Marinara Sauce recipe only requires 15 mints prep (or less) and 15 minutes simmering.  It is exponentially more delicious than the minimal effort required!

STEP 1:  Cook Sofrito

In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions, carrots and celery and cook for 7-10 minutes or until soft.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 30 more seconds.

showing how to make marinara sauce by cooking onions, celery and carrots

STEP 2:  Add Tomatoes and Herbs

Stir in crushed tomatoes, pureed tomatoes, and all remaining Marinara ingredients.

showing how to make marinara sauce by adding basil, parsley, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper in a pot

STEP 3:  Simmer

Simmer on the lowest heat for 15 minutes. Simmer for longer for a thicker sauce or add water to thin.

showing how to make marinara sauce by simmering sauce

Step 4:  Adjust to taste

Taste and season with salt, pepper or red pepper flakes if desired.  For a tangier sauce, add additional balsamic vinegar.  For a less tangy/sweeter sauce, add additional sugar.

showing how to make marinara sauce by stirring sauce

EASY MARINARA SAUCE

The above recipe is for my favorite Marinara Sauce, but if you want the ultimate lazy day version, you can skip the sofrito, replace the onion and garlic each with powders and replace the pureed fire roasted tomatoes with tomato paste and additional water.  This is what that recipe looks like:

  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes without added seasonings
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1/2 tablespoon chicken bouillon
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar more or less to taste
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp EACH dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp EACH dried thyme, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
  • 1 whole bay leaf
a spoonful of hearty marinara sauce garnished with parsley

How Do I Make My Marinara Sauce Smooth?

Hearty Marinara Sauce is naturally chunky from the use of fresh or crushed tomatoes and often onions, carrots and celery.

I personally love the texture, but if you are looking for a smooth sauce, simply transfer the finished marinara sauce to your blender in batches, taking care you leave one corner of the lid open so the steam can escape otherwise your blender will explode.

I like to lift a corner then cover this exposed corner with a paper towel so no tomato sauce splatters through.

spooning marinara from scratch over noodles

What is marinara sauce used for?

Marinara Sauce can be used on top of spaghetti or any type of pasta, for Chicken Parmesan, Italian Meatballs, Baked Penne, Lasagna Soup, Spaghetti Squash, on top of grilled fish, chicken or meatloaf or as a dipping sauce for mozzarella sticks, pizza pinwheels, zucchini chips, breadsticks, etc.

I also like to make a Vegetable Marinara by sautéing zucchini, mushrooms and bell peppers and adding them to the sauce.  You could even add chicken, fish, or shrimp.

Can I make Marinara Sauce in Advance?

Yes!  Marinara Sauce tastes even better the next day as the flavors further develop and meld.  It makes dinner time quick, easy and DELICIOUS!

Hearty marinara sauce over pasta with Parmesan

How long will Marinara Sauce last in the fridge?

Marinara Sauce should be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  When stored properly, it will last for up to 5 days.

Can I Freeze Marinara Sauce?

Absolutely!  To freeze Marinara Sauce:

  1. Prepare Marinara Sauce recipe according to instructions.
  2. Let sauce cool completely.
  3. Transfer sauce to freezer safe airtight containers or freezer bags.
  4. Squeeze out any excess air, seal and label.
  5. Freeze Marinara for up to 3 months.
  6. When ready to use, let Marinara Sauce defrosts in the refrigerator overnight.
  7. Gently heat over the stove.

Looking for more Italian Recipes?

a forkful of noodles with the best Marinara Sauce

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

spooning marinara from scratch over noodles

Marinara Sauce

Homemade Marinara Sauce with rich, bright tomato flavor on your table in less than 30 minutes! It is fabulous on pasta, pizza or as a dip.  It also is make ahead and freezer friendly so you can always have Marinara Sauce at your fingertips!  I’ve included recipes for the “Best Marinara Sauce” as well as “Lazy Day Marinara Sauce” in the Notes without any chopping AKA there are no excuses not to make Marinara Sauce from scratch!  
Servings: 3.5 cups
Total Time: 30 mins
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins

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Ingredients

Instructions

  • In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 30 more seconds.
  • Stir in all remaining Marinara ingredients, and simmer, uncovered, on the lowest heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Simmer for longer for a thicker sauce or add water to thin.
  • Taste and season with salt, pepper, sugar or balsamic if desired. Discard bay leaf.

SMOOTH SAUCE

  • For a smoother sauce, transfer sauce to the blender in batches and puree, taking care to leave a corner of the lid open so the steam can escape or else it will explode. I cover the exposed corner loosely with a paper towel.

Notes

EASY MARINARA SAUCE

The above recipe is for my favorite Marinara Sauce, but if you want the ultimate lazy day version, you can skip the sofrito, replace the onion and garlic each with powders and replace the pureed fire roasted tomatoes with tomato paste and additional water:
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes without added seasonings
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1/2 tablespoon chicken bouillon
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar more or less to taste
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp EACH dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp EACH dried thyme, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
  • 1 whole bay leaf

 

How to store Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce tastes even better the next day as the flavors further develop and meld.  Marinara Sauce should be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  When stored properly, it will last for up to 5 days.

How to Freeze Marinara Sauce

  1. Prepare Marinara Sauce recipe according to instructions.
  2. Let sauce cool completely.
  3. Transfer sauce to freezer safe airtight containers or freezer bags.
  4. Squeeze out any excess air, seal and label.
  5. Freeze Marinara for up to 3 months.
  6. When ready to use, let Marinara Sauce defrosts in the refrigerator overnight.
  7. Gently heat over the stove.

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24 Comments

  1. Kate says

    When you include chicken bouillon, you mean the granulated type, right?

    • Jen says

      Yes. You can use powder a cube. The cubes are 1 teaspoon so you will need 1 1/2. Enjoy!

  2. Monica says

    I also love to use fresh tomatoes from my garden in the summer. I roast them slowly in the oven on a large cookie sheet. I add garlic, olive oil, rosemary, basil and thyme. Sooo good!

    • Jen says

      That sounds AMAZING! Roasted tomatoes are one of my favorite things on the planet!

  3. carolyn says

    Can the marina sauce recipe be doubled?

  4. Pasquale says

    It may taste good But it is not Marinara. Maybe American Marinara. Italians don’t use.dried herbs,soy sauce,bullion bay leaf..

    • Jen says

      I never claimed it was authentic just tastes amazing 🙂

      • Jennifer Fulk says

        I can confirm that yes it does taste amazing. Used it in your manicotti recipe. I made the original one, but tomorrow I might try the lazy day one…. feeling lazy 🙂 . Can you recommend how much onion/ garlic powder to use.? I am thinking 1 teaspoon of each? Already making the manicotti again- delicious!

        • Jen says

          Thanks so much Jennifer, I’m so pleased you loved the marinara sauce and the manicotti! Yes, it should be 1 teaspoon of each – thanks for catching that!

  5. Joanie says

    Thank you for posting this delicious looking sauce recipe! I can’t wait to try it! Why settle for bottled sauce when you can have amazing sauce?! I use Better Than Boullion Chicken flavor instead of chicken bouillon . I am wondering if you’ve ever used it and what your thoughts on using it are. It is in the soup aisle of the grocery store.

    • Jen says

      Thanks Joanie, I hope you love the Marinara Sauce! I use bouillon because that is what most people have on hand. I know better than bouillon has a lot of flavor but not quite as much sodium so if you use it, you may want to add more salt.

  6. Paddy says

    Hi Jen,
    As usual you knocked it outta the park with this sauce!
    It was quick and easy & absolutely awesome! I bought some really perfect grinder rolls I made your Italian Meatballs with this miranera sauce I buttered the inside of the bread and put just a little thyme (cause it was right in front of me) broiled a lil then made meatball grinders my family said hands down best meatball grinder they ever had!!!! Thank you Jen AGAIN!! Uda best
    -Paddy

    • Jen says

      Hi Paddy, you’re the first comment from someone whose tried my Marinara, so THANK YOU! I’m so pleased you loved it so much! I love that you made Meatball Grinders out of it – YUM! Sounds like the best way to use Marinara Sauce!

  7. Carol says

    This recipe was absolutely delicious! I was tooting my own horn on how good our dinner was! I used it with your meatball recipe.
    Due to diet restrictions I did not use the chicken bouillon or I substituted worcestershire sauce for the soy sauce. I can’t wait to try more of your recipes!

    • Jen says

      Welcome to my site Carol, I’m so happy your first venture was a hit! I hope continue to find many new favorites!

      • Carol says

        I shared this recipe with a co-worker. She and her family loved it as well. Five Stars!!

        • Jen says

          Thank you so much Carol for spreading the love! I’m so happy its a favorite!

  8. Mary says

    This is AMAZING! I have been looking for an easy/tasty marinara sauce, and this is it! Letting it cook on the stove all day before I try to make the manicotti. So excited!

    • Jen says

      YAY! I’m thrilled your search is over! Thank you so much Mary!

  9. Christina says

    The marinara sauce came out so delicious. I am using it in your manicotti recipe. I had to use stuffed shells instead of manicotti pasta because my grocery store didn’t have the manicotti. I will comment about how the stuffed shells turned out once I get them out of the oven. Thank you so much for your recipes. After trying this sauce I don’t think I can go back to jar sauces again.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Christina, I’m thrilled you loved the marinara sauce so much! I hope the stuffed shells turn out equally delicious!

      • Christina says

        Oh mylanta! The stuffed shells were absolutely phenomenal! We had it for three days because I filled a nine by thirteen pan and then a slightly smaller baking dish since I made stuffed shells instead of manicotti. The fresh homemade marinara really made a difference and I also used half ground beef and half ground pork. I strongly recommend both recipes. They are fantastic. Thanks again.

        • Jen says

          Thanks so much for the awesome review Nina! I’m so pleased you loved the marinara and manicotti filling – your shells sound amazing!

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