How to Make Marinara Sauce

5 from 4 votes

Learn how to make easy, three-ingredient marinara sauce. Tomatoes, an onion, and garlic are all you need to cook a flavorful, healthy homemade marinara!

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Learning how to make your own marinara sauce is easy and ensures you’ll never have to rely on a jar of the bottled stuff with added sugar. My homemade marinara sauce calls for only three ingredients but you can make a multitude of additions for a sauce as simple or fancy as you want. Let’s get started.

Marinara Sauce in a pot

Why is homemade marinara better? Well, it turns out that even if you’re buying organic, there may be extra unnecessary ingredients (like sugar or milk), which can translate to unnecessary extra calories and fat. And, instead of using extra virgin olive oil, some use oils like soybean oil, which are full of unhealthy fats like omega-6s.

What I love about this marinara sauce recipe

  • Vegan
  • Only three ingredients
  • Makes your kitchen smell great
  • Tastes way fresher than supermarket sauces
  • Its sweet, fresh tomato-forward taste shines through

Ingredients to make marinara from scratch

  • Crushed Tomatoes: Use a large, 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, they cook quickly and create a silky sauce
  • Onions: I use one small, sweet onions here. Other types can be substituted. Cut in small dice
  • Garlic: Three cloves, minced

How to make basic marinara sauce

  • Start with a small saucepan over low-medium heat, sweat the diced onions for about 4 minutes. Keeping the heat at medium-low is crucial so the onions release their sweet juice without burning. You can add olive oil here for extra flavor, but it’s not necessary.
  • Next, add garlic.
side by side shot of chopped onions in a pot next to chopped onions in a pot with garlic
  • Cook until garlic is lightly golden brown, about 4 more minutes.
  • Then add crushed tomatoes, stir well to combine, and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
side by side shot of onion in a pot and onion with tomato sauce in a pot
  • You’ll have beautiful vibrant homemade marinara sauce that yields about two cups
two pots side by side with marinara sauce in them

Marinara sauce recipe variations

While this recipe provides a base for an easy, simple marinara sauce, feel free to customize by

  • Add fresh tomatoes: Throw some chopped fresh tomatoes alongside the crushed or use whole canned tomatoes for a more textured sauce. Break up the whole tomatoes as the sauce cooks.
  • Add more heat: Add regular black pepper, hot red pepper flakes, or whatever type of heat you like – more garlic at the start of cooking or a squirt of Sriracha at the end.
  • Add spices: Salt to taste. Fresh or dried – basil, oregano, marjoram, and Italian parsley are all traditional marinara flavorings.
  • Add olive oil or butter: Bump up the richness by sweating your onions in a few tablespoons of olive oil or butter.
  • Add cream: Some heavy cream (or even plain Greek yogurt) will give your sauce a more opulent silkiness.
  • Add cheese: Grated Parmesan, Romano, or dollops of ricotta all work.
  • Add additional vegetables: Finely minced carrots, some mushrooms, diced red peppers may not make it a traditional marinara, but they will be good.
overhead shot of marinara sauce in a pot

Tips for making homemade marinara

  1. Use pasta water to thin the sauce. If you’re making fresh pasta with your homemade marinara, be sure to scoop out a little water before draining your pasta as stand by. If your sauce gets too thick, you can then thin it out with pasta water.
  2. Don’t rush cooking the onions. A slow heat makes a difference bringing out their sweetness and building a tastier, more flavorful base.
  3. Experiment until you find the flavors and tomato texture (chunky v. smooth) you like best. This a great base recipe that is very easy to build on as suggested above to personalize it.
  4. Check out my post on how to cook pasta. That way you can top your homemade marinara with perfectly cooked pasta every time.

Recipes with marinara sauce

pasta with marinara sauce

Frequently asked questions

How long will my homemade marinara last in the fridge?

Four days is considered its optimal fridge life. If you freeze, use within six months for best taste and texture.

How do you thicken marinara sauce?

There are many ways to thicken the sauce. If you want to keep the ingredients minimal and not lose any flavor, I recommend just cooking it a little longer. This way the extra moisture evaporates, thickening the sauce naturally.

Can you freeze marinara sauce?

Yes, you can freeze the sauce for up to 6 months. Make sure to cool the sauce completely, then use a ladle to transfer the sauce to freezer-friendly bags or containers. The 2 cup portion from this recipe is perfect for 4 servings for future use.

What is the difference between marinara sauce, pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce?

They often contain identical ingredients, but while you can use your marinara sauce on pizza, sauce specifically made for pizza does not need to be simmered because it cooks with the pizza. Spaghetti sauce usually indicates long simmering and additional ingredients like meat.

spaghetti and tomato sauce

Make your own easy marinara sauce and say buon appetito to fresh flavor for pasta and other dishes!

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How to Make Marinara Sauce

Learn how to make easy, three-ingredient marinara sauce. Tomatoes, an onion, and garlic are all you need to cook a flavorful, healthy homemade marinara!
5 from 4 votes
Servings 4 servings
Course Sauces
Calories 96
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 30 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 sweet onion small diced
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

Instructions

  • In a small saucepan over low-medium heat, sweat the onions for about 4 minutes.
  • Add garlic, and cook until lightly golden brown, about 4 minutes.
  • Add crushed tomatoes and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes. Yields about 2 cups.
  • Serve over your favorite pasta or in other dishes.

Notes

Storage: Four days is considered its optimal fridge life. If you freeze, use within six months for best taste and texture.
Nutritional Data: The information below is an automated estimate for ¼ of the amount of the total cooked marinara sauce without the pasta.
Photo Credit: Erin Jensen

Nutrition

Calories: 96kcal, Carbohydrates: 22g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 278mg, Potassium: 710mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 13g, Vitamin A: 442IU, Vitamin C: 24mg, Calcium: 91mg, Iron: 3mg

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overhead shot of marinara sauce in a pot

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Comments

  1. Yumna, thank you for the simplicity of this recipe … I plan to make it my staple! Question: In TIPS — “Use pasta water to thicken the sauce. If you’re making fresh pasta with your homemade marinara, be sure to scoop out a little water before draining your pasta a stand by. If your sauce gets too thick, thin it out with pasta water.” — this sounds confusing: does the pasta water thicken or thin the sauce? (yes, I’m new to this sort of recipe!)