Marinara Sauce is an easy-to-make tomato sauce that is perfect to top your favorite pasta or to use in recipes calling for jarred pasta sauce.

A simple base of canned tomatoes with onions and garlic is all you need. Add in a sprinkle of fresh herbs and simmer for 30 minutes!

Make it in large batches and freeze it for a great homemade sauce anytime!

Easy Marinara Sauce in the pot

Homemade Marinara Sauce is incredibly easy to make, and once you try it, you’ll say goodbye to jarred sauces! It’s perfect with meatballs or used to make chicken parmesan.

Ingredients in Marinara Sauce

Tomatoes – For the best marinara sauce, use canned crushed and whole tomatoes. Whole tomatoes will create a slightly thicker consistency compared to canned diced tomatoes. San Marzano tomatoes have the best flavor, but any variety of canned whole tomatoes or plum tomatoes will work well.

Got fresh tomatoes? They can be peeled and added to the sauce along with the canned tomatoes for fresh flavor. If you’d like to replace the canned tomatoes, I suggest making this fresh tomato sauce.

Sweetness – Tomatoes are acidic and can be tart so I add shredded carrot for natural sweetness. You can replace it with a bit of sugar (start with ½ teaspoon) to balance the flavor if you’d prefer.

Herbs – Dried herbs should be added before simmering, while fresh basil and/or parsley can be stirred in right before serving.

Variations

  • You can add other vegetables like shredded zucchini or diced celery.
  • Use this marinara sauce to make a homemade meat sauce for ziti!
  • Add a pinch of red pepper flakes if desired.
Marinara Sauce ingredients in pot

How to Make Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce is a flavorful and surprisingly easy dish to make in just 30 minutes!

  1. Finely dice onions, shred carrots, and soften in a pan according to the recipe below.
  2. Add the tomatoes and dried herbs and simmer the sauce for about 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in fresh herbs.

Simmer this marinara sauce recipe a bit longer to thicken it more.

As written, it’s perfect for pasta or added to recipes. I like it a little thicker if I’m using it on pizza or as a dip.

Add it to casseroles, serve it over pasta, zucchini noodles, or use it for eggplant parmesan.

Marinara Sauce being stirred with wooden spoon
What is Marinara Sauce?

Marinara sauce is a simple tomato-based sauce, perfect for pasta or making things like lasagna or even soups. This marinara recipe has a base of canned tomatoes with aromatics like onion and garlic and a sprinkle of herbs. Don’t let the simplicity fool you, it’s a fantastic addition to pasta, a delightful dip for snacks, or a superior substitute for store-bought sauces in all your favorite recipes.

Is Marinara Sauce the Same as Spaghetti Sauce?

Marinara sauce is a thinner sauce with very few additions, while our spaghetti sauce recipe contains meat and is simmered longer for a thicker, more robust sauce.

Is Marinara Pizza Sauce?

Marinara sauce is different than pizza sauce. Pizza sauce tends to be thicker, and our recipe has a bolder and slightly sweeter flavor than marinara sauce. If using this recipe for pizza, I would suggest simmering it a bit longer to thicken further and adding a bit of oregano and tomato paste.

Can I Substitute Marinara Sauce for Tomato Sauce?

Yes, you can use marinara sauce in place of tomato sauce.

How Long Does Marinara Sauce Last in the Fridge?

Marinara sauce will last about 5 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. For longer storage, store marinara sauce in the freezer for up to 4 months.

More Easy Pasta Sauces

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Easy Marinara Sauce in a pot
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Easy Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce is an easy-to-make tomato sauce that's perfect on top of pasta or to use in recipes calling for jarred pasta sauce.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 8 cups

Equipment

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Ingredients  

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup onion finely diced
  • cup carrot shredded
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 28 ounces whole tomatoes canned
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes canned
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup fresh basil chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Instructions 

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  • Add the finely diced onion, shredded carrot, and minced garlic to the pot. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add whole canned tomatoes (juice included), breaking them apart gently with a spoon.
  • Mix in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar if using, dried oregano, and season with ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir in ½ cup of water.
  • Simmer uncovered on low heat for about 20 minutes, or until thickened to the desired consistency. Stir in fresh basil.
  • Serve over spaghetti or enjoy in your favorite recipes.

Notes

Fresh basil is recommended and should be added just before serving.
Fresh basil can be substituted with 2 teaspoons of dried basil. If using dried, add it along with the oregano.
Sugar may be required depending on the brand of tomatoes you purchase.
Store leftover sauce in a covered container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat on the stovetop until heated through. 
5 from 180 votes

Nutrition Information

Calories: 112 | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 5g | Sodium: 310mg | Potassium: 568mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1320IU | Vitamin C: 21.5mg | Calcium: 76mg | Iron: 2.5mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Main Course, Pasta, Sauce
Cuisine Italian
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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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Comments

  1. Sounds really good, will try. I froze some of my tomatoes from last year after peeling. Could they be used instead of the crushed?

  2. Holly, I love your down home recipes! An Italian friend told me to try using a pinch of baking soda instead of sugar for tomato sauce and I’ve been using it ever since

  3. So good! I used this in lasagna! I skipped out on the whole tomatoes as I found the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste was enough. I also substituted balsamic vinegar for the optional sugar as I find that the balsamic cuts the acid better. I will defo make this again!5 stars

  4. Only issue I have is that the whole tomatoes you are putting directly in have seeds. Wouldn’t you want to take them out of the can and deseed them?

    1. Hi Rob, the seeds don’t bother us so we just add the tomatoes whole. You can remove them if you prefer.

  5. Absolutely delicious. I wouldn’t recommend changing anything. I doubled the recipe and made two lasagnas. One for dinner and one for the freezer. Yummy!!5 stars

  6. This recipe was easy and quick, and delicious!
    I followed the recipe, adding shredded carrots, and using less sugar. I love whole plum tomatoes, it gives a hearty texture to the sauce. The consistency was perfect, it clung nicely to the pasta.
    My family also enjoyed, I will be making this sauce again, but in a bigger batch!5 stars

    1. I personally do not have a lot of experience with canning so I can’t say for sure. Another reader may have some insight!

    1. We like using crushed and whole tomatoes for a lovely texture for the sauce! I find whole tomatoes, squished by hand or by spoon have the best consistency. I’ve tried canned diced tomatoes and they don’t seem to produce the same results.

    1. One is 28 ounces whole tomatoes and the other is 28 ounces crushed tomatoes. Enjoy Stewart!

  7. This is the BEST marinara sauce!!! I use it as the base for just about anything, from stuffed peppers, spaghetti, baked ziti, stuffed shells, lasagna, and more!!!!! I love the carrots and actually dice mine small and also add diced green pepper. This is seriously so much better than any of the jar sauce you can buy and it saves me money, because now I can jar my own. Thank you!!!!5 stars

  8. Holly, I found your site today and love it. I have been cooking for 20 years on my own and to the point I often no longer use recipes, unless I am looking for something new, or a new angle to something I already cool.

    This is another excellent recipe from your site – two in one day (your lasagna being the other). Agree on the carrots – to many online recipes skip this step. I grate mine instead of shred as there is no carrots left for kids to fish fore and call you out over. On the whole tomatoes, I recommend the San Marzano if you can get them. A few more dollars per can, but is a superior tomato, especially if you are sensitive to tomatoes being overly acidic. Cheaper brands (ie Hunts, etc) can be very acidic (carrots help). Not so much with the San Marzano brand.

    The only thing I did not see in the recipe was some red wine. As much as you love wine in your bio :), I’m surprised to not see it. Red wine is a perfect compliment to tomato sauce/dishes. Even if I am using store bought tomato sauce, I will use some red wine to rinse the bottle out into the pot. It highlights the tomato flavor to another level. I add about an inch per can/jar, give it a good rinse and pour into the pan. Some thicker sauces might get two wine rinses. If money is an issue or you just are not a drinker, the cheap cooking wines are good enough and better than nothing.

    On the recommended qualities, worth pointing out 1/2 cup of onions is half a medium onion and 1/3 cup shredded/grated carrot is about 1 medium carrot. May be helpful to some who don’t know their veggies by volumes.

    1. Thank you for sharing your tips on the tomatoes and the volumes Chris!! I agree, a splash of wine would be great in this.

    2. Made this sauce yesterday and swapped the water for red wine :). Cooked on stove top, made and browned ricotta meatballs(beef, veal, pork) I transferred both to the crock pot on low to marry for a couple hours before supper, absolutely delicious5 stars

    1. It all depends on what taste good to you. This is a good spaghetti sauce so it very well can be used for eggplant lasagna.

  9. One of the best ever marinara sauce recipe i have ever tried. I love this marinara sauce recipe. Thanks for sharing this recipe with all of us. 5 stars

    1. I haven’t tried this recipe with just fresh tomatoes so I can’t say for sure how the consistency or flavor would be. That being said I do sometimes peel fresh tomatoes and add them in with the whole canned tomatoes.