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!
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!
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!
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.
Marinara Sauce Ingredients
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
STEP 2: Add Tomatoes and Herbs
Stir in crushed tomatoes, pureed tomatoes, and all remaining Marinara ingredients.
STEP 3: Simmer
Simmer on the lowest heat for 15 minutes. Simmer for longer for a thicker sauce or add water to thin.
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.
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
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 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 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp EACH dried thyme, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
- 1 whole bay leaf
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.
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!
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:
- Prepare Marinara Sauce recipe according to instructions.
- Let sauce cool completely.
- Transfer sauce to freezer safe airtight containers or freezer bags.
- Squeeze out any excess air, seal and label.
- Freeze Marinara for up to 3 months.
- When ready to use, let Marinara Sauce defrosts in the refrigerator overnight.
- Gently heat over the stove.
Looking for more Italian Recipes?
- One Skillet Cheesy Meaty Penne
- Skinny Fettuccine Alfredo
- Parmesan Meatballs and Orzo
- Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta
- Million Dollar Mac and Cheese
Want to try this Marinara Sauce Recipe?
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