Have You Ever Wondered How to Make Marinara Sauce?

What is Marinara Sauce?

Marinara sauce is a staple in any home. It is quick, easy, and tasty. The real question is, how to make marinara sauce? 

Homemade marinara is almost as fast and tastes significantly better than even the best supermarket sauce. Better yet, it is made with basic pantry ingredients. 

Though the exact origin of the sauce is lost in time, it likely originated in the south of Italy around Naples or Sicily. This was after 16th-century explorers first introduced tomatoes to Italy. From humble beginnings, marinara sauce has made its way into the homes and hearts of many.

Marinara sauce’s primary ingredient is tomato. It is a delicious, refreshing, and quicker alternative than your average tomato sauce. It can be tossed with pasta, simmered with eggs, or slathered onto pizzas. 

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Marinara vs. Pasta Sauce

Marinara sauce is simple but delicious. It is made with garlic, crushed red pepper, and basil. This is what provides its characteristic flavor. It easily comes together in an hour. 

Marinara sauce can be made with any type of tomato. Varieties of plum or paste tomatoes work best. For a classic version, low-acid San Marzano tomatoes can also be used. 

As marinara sauce is not complex in flavor, it works perfectly with various pasta and pizzas. As a result, it is often used as a staple in many Italian recipes. 

On the other hand, tomato sauce is thick, rich, and complex. It can take hours to make a decadent tomato sauce. Moreover, it contains more ingredients than marinara sauce. This can include onions, carrots, salt pork, flour, and butter, among other elements.

Tomato sauce requires hours of simmering to allow the mixture to thicken. This lengthy process allows the flavors to deepen and become sweet. 

The rich flavor and texture of tomato sauce make it better for smothering foods, in the same way you would with gravy. It is often used over pasta, biscuits, or meat dishes such as chicken cacciatore. Unlike marinara sauce, tomato sauce is rarely used on pizza. 

What Does a Good Marinara Sauce Recipe Entail?

A good marinara sauce recipe is both simple and rewarding. It should be a recipe that offers lovely, authentic Italian flavor in less than an hour.

The following recipe is fantastic as it: 

  • It only requires five basic ingredients that you can find at any supermarket or even already in the pantry. 
  • Is super simple to make. 
  • Free of added sugar, unlike many store-bought marinara sauces.
  • Healthy and full of tomatoes. 
  • It does not require hours of simmering. A good marinara sauce recipe should not taste super rich and complex. It should be light and bright in flavor. 
  • Freezes well; simply double the recipe for future dinners. 
  • Flexible- use this sauce on pizza, pasta, biscuits, anything! 
Fresh Tomato Marinara Sauce

An Italian Marinara Sauce Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes 

Cooking Time: 45 minutes 

Total Time: 50 minutes 

Recipe Yield: 4 servings

Nutritional Information

  • Serving size = ½ cup marinara sauce 
  • Calories: 99
  • Total fat: 7.5g 
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 228 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 8.6 g
  • Dietary fiber: 4.2 g
  • Sugars: 5.5 g
  • Protein: 1.8 g  

Equipment Needed

  • Medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. (This is ideal, but any saucepan can be used (if this type of saucepan is unavailable).
  • Wooden spoon 
  • Fork 
  • Cooking knives
  • Chopping board


  • 1 large can (28 ounces/1.06 kg) of whole peeled tomatoes 
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved 
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled but left whole 
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Salt to taste 

Keep in mind that this recipe is not set in stone, and it is just one way to make marinara sauce. You can add many ingredients to alter the recipe and even make it your own!

These Ingredients Include

  • Different herbs
  • Choice of protein
  • Mushrooms
  • Red wine
  • And many more

Though it would not technically be a marinara sauce anymore, it will still taste amazing and be a fun chance to experiment in the kitchen. This is all without having to worry too much about perfectly cooking ingredients or keeping too close of an eye on the pot.


  1. Combine the tomatoes (with juices), onion, garlic cloves, olive oil, oregano, and red pepper flakes in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. 
  2. Add a small amount of water to prevent bubbling. This will loosen the tomato mixture and allow it to simmer into the smooth consistency that marinara sauce is known for.
  3. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, rolling simmer for about 45 minutes or until droplets of oil float free of the tomatoes. 
  4. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. Use the spoon to crush the tomatoes against the side of the pot after 15 minutes. 
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and discard the onion. 
  6. Smash the garlic cloves against the side of the pot with a fork, then stir the smashed garlic into the sauce.
  7. Do the same with any small pieces of onion. 
  8. Use the wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes. 
  9. If desired, blend the sauce with an immersion blender for a smoother finish. 
  10. Add salt to taste. 
  11. Serve warm over pasta, pizza, or any other dish. 
  12. Serve with fresh basil if desired. This will add a lot of fragrance. If wanting more flavor, add it while the sauce is simmering. 
  13. This sauce keeps well in the fridge for up to 4 days. Alternatively, freeze it for up to 6 months. 

Our Tips on Picking the Right Tomatoes for the Job

Picking the right tomatoes will make all the difference. As mentioned, plum or paste tomatoes will work best. For a sweeter flavor, low-acid San Marzano tomatoes can also be used. They also provide a cleaner taste and can be easily found at the supermarket. 

When using canned tomatoes, whole tomatoes can provide a better flavor and texture. Crushing them up as they cook will allow for the best-desired size. If preferring a smoother sauce, canned or crushed tomatoes will do. 

If you do not have access to a variety of tomatoes, using whichever freely available types will work in a pinch. However, it is essential to note that the recipe might need some tweaking for optimal flavor if there is a need to use tomatoes other than the varieties suggested in this article.

San Marzano tomatoes

What is the Difference Between Marinara Sauce and Spaghetti Sauce?

Marinara sauce is very similar to spaghetti sauce. Spaghetti sauce is a version of marinara sauce! Spaghetti sauce usually contains additional ingredients such as meat or vegetables. This allows it to be explicitly used for pasta dishes. It also brings in a variety of different flavors. 

Marinara sauce is designed to highlight the quality of the ingredients. While spaghetti sauce can become excruciatingly complex, simplicity is often key with marinara sauce.

Can you Substitute Marinara Sauce for Tomato Sauce?

As both sauces use tomatoes as their base, it is possible to substitute marinara sauce for tomato sauce. In fact, using marinara sauce can easily make dishes vegetarian-friendly. It is also an excellent method to make weeknight dinners quickly. 

However, marinara sauce is not as rich, flavorful, or thick as tomato sauce, instead choosing to be more refreshing and less heavy. This will ultimately change the flavor and texture of the finished dish.