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Learn how to make delicious homemade marinara sauce from scratch. This simple, essential sauce cooks in 20 minutes.
If you’re looking to add more home cooking to your life, I say go straight to making marinara sauce from scratch.
It’s a fact that homemade marinara sauce is in the top 3 of the most versatile foods you could ever learn how to cook, especially when it comes to making family meals on the fly.
Why you should make homemade marinara sauce from scratch
Marinara sauce is as easy as can be to make. I’m talking a basic, simple marinara sauce made with just 4 ingredients.
Think about it — how many jars of pasta sauce have you bought over the years? Yes, of course prepared sauce saves time. But dollar for dollar, it’s absolutely more economical to make a double batch of sauce from scratch. They will keep perfectly in the fridge and freezer!
Also, many brands of jarred marinara sauce are over-processed, and contain stuff you really don’t want or need in your life, like excessive amounts of sugar, corn syrup and sodium.
Other unnecessary ingredients include soybean oil (not so good) and “natural flavors,” whatever that means.
Ready to make your sauce? Let’s keep things easy-peasy for this recipe.
Ingredients for marinara sauce:
You need four ingredients to make delicious homemade marinara sauce (not counting salt):
- Canned tomatoes
- Olive Oil
This sauce so quick to make it can be simmering away in a pot while the water boils for the pasta.
What’s the difference between marinara sauce and tomato sauce?
The difference between the two types of tomato sauces is based on the time they each take to cook and ingredients.
- Marinara is typically a plain tomato sauce that cooks in a short time without meat.
- Traditional sauces — think ragù — are usually slow-cooked and simmered for hours, with meat like beef, veal and pork.
The best tomatoes to use to make marinara sauce:
I grew up in an Italian family and have been testing and tasting canned tomatoes for a lonnnng time.
One thing any grandma will tell you is that because basic marinara is such a simple sauce with few ingredient, it makes sense to use high-quality canned tomatoes.
You can drive yourself crazy deciding which tomatoes to buy
Imported Italian? Authentic San Marzano tomatoes? Or how about non-Italian San Marzano tomatoes, grown in California?
It gets confusing.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you need imported tomatoes to make a good sauce.
Canned tomatoes don’t necessarily have to be grown in Italy to be good. When judging canned tomatoes, look for them to be without hard (unripe) or yellow spots.
They should appear bright red in color, not dark, maroon red (I think those taste pasty and overcooked). Also check that they smell fresh and fruity, not metallic.
Along with whole tomatoes, tomato puree (also called strained tomatoes or passata) packed in glass jars like this one rounds out the marinara and adds a good saucy texture.
More marinara sauce tips:
Serve marinara as a sauce for chicken, fish and pasta or make a batch of Classic Italian Meatballs.
Double the recipe and store the sauce in glass freezer containers to make life easier.
Optional seasonings to add to the sauce when sweating the onions:
- Crushed red chili pepper, if you like your sauce with a hint of heat
- Dried oregano
- A teaspoon of sugar — depending on the ripeness of your canned tomatoes, adjust the sweetness level with a pinch of sugar.
- Stir in some fresh torn basil leaves when the sauce is done, if you like.
Easy Homemade Marinara Sauce
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup (80 g) finely chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or pressed
- 1 (28 ml) 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
- 1 24-ounce (708 ml) jar tomato passata or puree
- Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar, optional
- Put the oil and onion in a large saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook and stir until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes (try not to brown it). Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute, until fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and 1 or 2 teaspoons salt and the sugar to the pot. Bring to a simmer, using a wooden spoon to break the tomatoes into smaller pieces (or use an immersion blender for a smoother texture, if you prefer).
- Cook 20-25 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve with pasta or meatballs.
Hey, I’m Karen
Creator of Familystyle Food
I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about making cooking fun and doable, with easy to follow tested recipes and incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.