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Easy Homemade Marinara Sauce

4.58 from 21 votes

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Skip the processed sauce and learn how to make simple 15-minute homemade marinara sauce from scratch, an essential sauce for spaghetti or any pasta shape.

Photo of a bowl of crushed canned tomatoes on a surface, a wooden spoon, red pepper flakes and dried spaghetti.

If you’re looking to add more home cooking and simple pasta recipes to your life, I say go straight to making marinara sauce from scratch.

It’s a fact that homemade pasta sauce is in the top three of the most versatile foods you could ever learn how to cook, especially when it comes to making family dinners on the fly.

Why you should make homemade pasta sauce from scratch

Marinara is a basic pasta sauce that’s as easy as can be to make and takes about 20 minutes to cook. I’m talking a basic, simple marinara sauce made with just 4 ingredients:

Another good reason to make your own marinara sauce? 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.

Think about it — how many jars of pasta sauce have you bought over the years? Yes, prepared sauce saves time. But dollar for dollar, it’s absolutely more economical to make a double batch of sauce from scratch. It will keep perfectly in the fridge and freezer!

Ingredients for marinara sauce:

Ready to make your sauce? Let’s keep things easy-peasy for this recipe. You need four ingredients to make delicious homemade marinara sauce (not counting salt):

  • Canned tomatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic
  • Onion

Other unnecessary ingredients include soybean oil (not so good) and “natural flavors,” whatever that means.

Photo of a bowl of spaghetti and pasta sauce with a fork.
Homemade pasta sauce is quick and so tasty with spaghetti.

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 for pasta 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 ingredients, 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.

Photo showing cans and bottles of tomatoes, beans and pasta sauce ingredients.
Canned and jarred tomatoes are a pantry essential.

I recommend buying canned whole plum tomatoes or crushed tomatoes to make homemade tomato sauce. I’ve found this widely available brand to be most consistent in quality and priced right.

Are Italian canned tomatoes best?

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 rounds out the marinara and adds a nice saucy texture.

More marinara sauce tips:

Photo of a saucepan with tomato sauce with chopped basil leaves on top.

Seasonings for marinara sauce

Here are some ideas for adding more flavors to your sauce:

  • 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.
  • Butter is not traditional, but it adds a very tasty rich flavor to the sauce. Stir in a tablespoon or two into the hot sauce.
  • Stir in some fresh torn basil leaves when the sauce is done, if you like.

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How to Make Easy Homemade Marinara Sauce

20-Minute Homemade Marinara Sauce

Karen Tedesco
Plain and simple 20-minute marinara sauce is the basic recipe you’ll want to make over and over! This recipe makes enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta.
Print Pin
4.58 from 21 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Sauces
Cuisine Italian
Servings 5 cups

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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 15-20 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if you like. Serve with pasta or meatballs.

Karen’s Notes and Tips

  • The sauces freezes well for about a month. Double the recipe and store in individual containers.
  • If you prefer a smoother sauce, puree to the desired consistency with a food processor or handheld stick blender.
  • Serve with my homemade Classic Italian Meatballs!

Nutrition

Calories: 61kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 30mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 2IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 1mg
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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.

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