Quick and Easy Marinara Sauce, perfect for your favorite Italian meal. This homemade marinara sauce is done in as little as 15 minutes but perfect in 40. Five different add-in options for more flavors!
We love working with homemade marinara sauce in our kitchen and using it in our favorite classic Italian recipes like Chicken Parmesan, Meat Lasagna, and our insanely popular Million Dollar Spaghetti.
Marinara Sauce: A Kitchen Staple
Quick and Easy Marinara Sauce is a staple recipe of mine, like my Enchilada Sauce. I usually make batches of it and keep it in the freezer for quick pasta meals.
The best thing about this homemade marinara sauce, aside from being a base recipe, is that it is such an easy recipe to make. You can also adapt it easily for any other needs.
One of the easiest things about this recipe is I intentionally created it to be easily scaled up or down. I always, without fail, make this recipe in quadruple batches and freeze the remaining three. This means I’m usually using 2 onions instead of ½ of one. I’m using 2 cups of broth instead of half of one cup.
The thing about pantry staples is you’ll always be glad when you have them in your back pocket for quick weeknights that catch you unprepared. If you get home and nothing is planned you can thaw this sauce quickly, add to frozen meatballs or rotisserie chicken along with some pasta and you have a quick, healthy, and most importantly, homemade meal.
Homemade Marinara Sauce Saves Money!
For many years, I used to spend hours making marinara sauce or I would end up using a jar but it wasn’t until I started toying with quicker recipes that I realized I was wasting time and lots of money (good jarred marinara is not cheap!).
Even using high-quality ingredients in this easy marinara sauce makes a delicious homemade marinara that costs just a few dollars.
The most important part, no matter how much you spend on the jarred sauce, this sauce will taste better. It always will. Fresh garlic will always win, fresh cooking always wins over mass cooking and bottling when it comes to flavors.
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The Best Ingredients for Marinara Sauce
The key to the recipe is to use the best ingredients you can in your recipe. I list out some of my favorites below if you aren’t sure.
- Crushed tomatoes/Tomato Puree – I usually use San Marzano, but Cento and Muir Glen are also great options if they’re more readily available for you. If you’re using a brand that may be more inexpensive, taste the crushed tomatoes first, you may need a hint of sugar to tame the acidity or maybe a small addition of white wine vinegar if the taste is bland.
- Tomato Paste: I use Cento but really I wouldn’t stress the tomato paste. I even sometimes use giant glass jars of tomato paste from ethnic grocery stores.
- Fresh Garlic: If there are three places I don’t like shortcut products it is in jarred garlic, jarred ginger and bottled lemon juice, they NEVER replicate the fresh flavors well.
- Fresh Herbs: add them in at the very end or you’ll lose all the flavor benefits. Fresh Basil and oregano are great flavors for this recipe, I use it often when my plants are in full bloom.
- Dried Herbs: This is a pantry recipe, so I think dried herbs are great in this recipe, they add great flavor, they simmer well with the tomatoes and they freeze well. Just be sure your herbs have not been in your pantry longer than 6 months or they may have lost their flavors. Dried herbs may seem like they’re preserved but they do have a shelf life.
- Chicken Stock: I use Better than Bouillon so I can add as little or as much as I need and I can adjust the strength as needed. Many times I’ll triple the strength when making pan sauces. In this case I like it because my recipe only calls for a ½ cup.
Six Options to Adjust this Easy Marinara Sauce
There are multiples ways you can play with this base marinara sauce to fit your recipes and tastes. That’s what’s great about this easy marinara sauce. It’s lovely on its own but a versatile base for different flavor profiles.
- Delicious meat sauce: swap chicken stock for beef stock. Brown your beef well, remove, brown your onions and garlic in a mix of the beef fat and olive oil. For a “sausage” flavor using straight ground beef, add some fennel seeds to the pot too.
- Angry red marinara sauce: Add more crushed red peppers to taste (I’ve done up to two full teaspoons) and add a much larger amount of garlic, I use up to ¼ cup of minced garlic.
- Vodka Sauce: Add a ½ cup heavy cream and a ¼ cup of vodka. Omit the herbs. This is best served with shrimp or chicken. Also top with healthy amounts of parmesan cheese.
- Creamy marinara sauce: simmer the sauce down to a thicker consistency, uncovered instead of covered, then thin with some cream. I also sometimes add a pinch of nutmeg since the cream adds a hint of sweetness to the marinara sauce anyway.
- Fresh Marinara Sauce: use fresh whole tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil – go for a really juicy tomato, as ripe as you can find. Hard, Roma type tomatoes won’t make for amazing flavors, this type of fresh Marinara sauce is best made towards the end of summer when ripe red tomatoes are most available.
- Simpler, fresher flavors: sometimes I’ll use half the crushed tomatoes and add in fresh roasted garlic tomatoes. I usually do a couple of pints of grape tomatoes and skip the garlic in the base recipe since the garlic roasts on the grape tomatoes.
- Easy Tomato Soup: add chicken stock and some salt, pepper, fresh oregano and basil.
What to serve with this Marinara Sauce:
We love adding this sauce to classic Italian recipes but it is just as easy to serve with easy pastas like Lasagna Soup, Stuffed Shells and Stuffed Peppers. You can even make it easy and serve it with easy things like tortellini, ravioli or meatballs and spaghetti for a quick meal.
- Add the olive oil and onion to the pan and sauté on medium low until very lightly browned.
- Add the garlic and let cook for 15 seconds or so until you can smell the garlic.
- Add in the rest of the ingredients and simmer, covered, on low for 30 minutes.