Quick and Easy Marinara Sauce, perfect for every Italian meal. This homemade sauce is done in as little as 15 minutes but perfect in 40.
You’ll love working with homemade marinara sauce in your kitchen and using it in favorite classic Italian recipes like Chicken Parmesan, Meat Lasagna, and this insanely popular Million Dollar Spaghetti.
Quick and Easy Marinara Sauce is a staple recipe, like Enchilada Sauce. It’s so easy, you can 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 that it’s intentionally created it to be easily scaled up or down. If you have the space, make this recipe in quadruple batches and freeze the remaining three. This means using 2 onions instead of ½ of one, and 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.
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, and fresh cooking always wins over mass cooking and bottling when it comes to flavors.
You’ll 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.
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The Best Ingredients for Marinara Sauce
The key to the recipe is to use the best ingredients you can in the marinara sauce. Here are some of our 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: Cento makes a good one, but really don’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 you should avoid 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, and is great to use when those plants are in full bloom.
- Dried Herbs: This is a pantry recipe, so 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: Better than Bouillon is a great option so you can add as little or as much as needed and adjust the strength as needed. You can even triple the strength when making pan sauces. In this case I like it because the recipe only calls for a ½ cup.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
Add more crushed red peppers to taste (up to two full teaspoons) and add a much larger amount of garlic, up to ¼ cup of minced garlic.
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.
Simmer the sauce down to a thicker consistency, uncovered instead of covered, then thin with some cream. You can also add a pinch of nutmeg since the cream adds a hint of sweetness to the marinara sauce anyway.
Yes, 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.
Yes, you can 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.
For Easy Tomato Soup, add chicken stock and some salt, pepper, fresh oregano and basil.
How to Store Marinara Sauce
- Serve: Marinara Sauce can be left at room temperature for up to 2 hours before it should be cooled and stored.
- Store: Sealed in an airtight container, homemade Marinara will last in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Freeze: Marinara Sauce freezes beautifully. After cooling, portion sauce into airtight containers or seal in strong freezer bags and store for up to 6 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight, or heat on the stove from frozen, adding a little chicken stock if needed.
- 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.
Photo used in a previous version of this post.