How to make the Best Easy Marinara Sauce

Learn how to make the best authentic Italian marinara sauce from scratch with this simple recipe - 5 minutes prep time and healthy whole food ingredients only.  The best simple weeknight dinner - can be made ahead of time and store in the fridge or freezer! Refined sugar-free as well #italianrecipes #Sugarfree #easyrecipes #sauce

Learn how to make the best authentic Italian marinara sauce from scratch with this simple recipe – 5 minutes prep time and healthy whole food ingredients only.  The best simple weeknight dinner – can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge or freezer! 

overhead shot of a small bowl with marinara sauce with a silver spoon

I feel, as a lover of food in general, and pasta in particular, there just GOTS to be one really good marinara sauce recipe in your repertoire.

Oh, marinara – that sounds like one of those “simmer on low heat for at least 12 months” kinda recipes. I mean, there has to be a reason why everyone goes for the store-bought version, right?

Now, if I told you can get that lovely, authentic Italian flavor in under an hour? YES, it can be done, you guys. After some experimenting, I found a way to reduce the cooking time to 45 minutes only. And those are pretty much hands-off, a couple of stirs here and there – DONE!

With a prep time of 5 minutes, this marinara is really exceptionally easy to make, too, so it’s perfect for busy weeknights. All you need to do in terms of prep work is chopping an onion and dice some garlic.

The marinara recipe only needs the most basic pantry ingredients: good canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, dried oregano, fresh basil and olive oil. That’s it!

overhead shot of a bowl of pasta with homemade marinara sacue and grated parmesan cheese

What is the difference between marinara sauce and pizza sauce anyway?

Marinara sauce and pizza sauces are mostly prepared the same way, but there is one significant difference. While marinara uses tomatoes that have been cooked ahead of time (so, canned tomatoes) , pizza sauce is typically made using raw tomatoes.

Pick the right canned tomatoes:

Marinara sauce is one of those simple recipes that have minimal ingredients so we want to go for the highest quality we can afford. We are still talking about canned tomatoes here so the difference in price between a mediocre and a really good product might be only a dollar!

Canned tomatoes are the superior choice to fresh ones as they are typically picked and packaged at their peak ripeness, providing you with full flavor. Read labels carefully to get the can of tomatoes that is just right for you; unseasoned, salt-free.

overhead shot of a small bowl of homemade marinara sauce with a spoon on the side

I really like cooking with canned whole San Marzano tomatoes. They’re a type of Italian plum tomato and I find that they have the best flavor. It’s definitely worth the extra bucks. If you can’t find canned San Marzano tomatoes, use any Italian-style whole canned tomatoes instead.

How to make Marinara Sauce from scratch:

photo collage demonstrating how marinara sauce is being prepared in a sliver pot

Step 1 – Heat olive oil in a large pot – ideally with a thick bottom – over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add onion and cook until softened, about 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Add garlic and chilli flakes and cook for another minute or so until fragrant.

Step 2 – Add canned tomatoes, with the juices. Bring to a strong simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer very gently for 45 minutes. Stir from time to time, crushing the tomatoes with the back of the spoon or with a potato masher every time you stir.  After about 30 minutes of cooking, stir in basil sprigs. Basil is a fragile herb so adding it towards the end helps preserve its flavor.

Step 3 –  When the sauce is ready after about 45 minutes, scoop out the basil. Taste it and adjust salt if needed – I added 1/4 teaspoon but it might not be necessary for you depending on the brand you are using (canned tomatoes are already salted).

overhead shot of a pot of marinara sauce with a wooden spoon

Step 4 –  This sauce is chunky. If you prefer a smooth texture, blitz the sauce with an immersion blender or using a blender. The sauce is ready to be used straight away. If not, bring it room temperature and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in flattened freezer bags in the freezer for up to 6 months.

How to store the marinara sauce in the fridge?

Bring the sauce to room temperature and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. The sauce can also be frozen. To freeze, bring to room temperature, transfer to freezer bags and flatten the bags, taking the air out.

Freeze them flat first and when they’re hard enough, you can store them straight. They will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight (or in the microwave if you used glass containers instead of plastic bags)

What to use marinara sauce for?

Pasta is only the beginning. There are so many recipes you can make using your homemade marinara. It makes an amazing  base for tomato soup, meatballs or neat balls. Or ratatouille. Yes, that lovely French layered veggie dish – some recipes use a vegetable puree in the pan before laying out the beautiful thin cuts of vegetables.

Tips:

  • Don’t be tempted to reduce the cooking time, it really is necessary to let the sauce simmer for that long to get the best flavors. Shorter is just not as good 🙂
  • The sauce makes 2 1/4 cups of sauce which is enough for 10 oz / 300 grams pasta and can easily be doubled.
  • You can leave out the chili flakes if you’re sensitive to heat
  •  For the tomatoes, it’s important to use whole canned tomatoes – go for the highest quality you can find.
overhead shot of a small bowl with marinara sauce with a silver spoon
5 from 1 vote
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How to make the best Easy Marinara Sauce

Learn how to make the best authentic Italian marinara sauce from scratch with this simple recipe - 5 minutes prep time and healthy whole food ingredients only.  The best simple weeknight dinner - can be made ahead of time and store in the fridge or freezer! Refined sugar-free as well.

Course Condiment, side
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword easy marinara sauce, marinara sauce from scratch,, simple marinara sauce
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4
Author Marie

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion very finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 large garlic minced finely
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes you can leave out if you’re sensitive to heat
  • 1 28- oz can whole tomatoes use the highest quality you can find
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 large fresh basil sprigs
  • salt to taste - optiona

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot - ideally with a thick bottom - over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add onion and cook until softened, about 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Add garlic and chili flakes and cook for another minute or so until fragrant.
  2. Add canned tomatoes, with the juices. Bring to a strong simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer very gently for 45 minutes. Stir from time to time, crushing the tomatoes with the back of the spoon or with a potato masher every time you stir. Don’t be tempted to reduce the cooking time, it really is necessary to let the sauce simmer for that long to get the best flavors. Shorter is just not as good 🙂
  3. After about 30 minutes of cooking, stir in basil sprigs. Basil is a fragile herb so adding it towards the end helps preserve its flavor.
  4. When the sauce is ready after about 45 minutes, scoop out the basil. Taste it and adjust salt if needed - I added 1/4 teaspoon but it might not be necessary for you depending on the brand you are using (canned tomatoes are already salted).
  5. This sauce is chunky. If you prefer a smooth texture, blitz the sauce with an immersion blender or using a blender.
  6. The sauce is ready to be used straight away. If not, bring it room temperature and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in flattened freezer bags in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Recipe Notes

  • Don’t be tempted to reduce the cooking time, it really is necessary to let the sauce simmer for that long to get the best flavors. Shorter is just not as good 🙂
  • The sauce makes 2 1/4 cups of sauce which is enough for 10 oz / 300 grams pasta and can easily be doubled.
  • You can leave out the chili flakes if you’re sensitive to heat
  •  For the tomatoes, it's important to use whole canned tomatoes - go for the highest quality you can find.

If you tried this crash course on how to make marinara sauce don’t forget to rate the recipe below and let me know how it went in the comments – I love hearing from you! You can also follow me on InstagramPinterest and Facebook for more deliciousness and behind-the-scenes!

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11 Comments
  1. I had no idea that homemade marinara sauce was so easy to make!! Thanks for this simple recipe. The whole family will enjoy this one!

  2. Mm such a great marinara sauce recipe! I had no idea about the difference between marinara sauce and pizza sauce – if I had guessed I would have thought it was the other way around. Always great to learn new things! 😀

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