Classic Italian Marinara Sauce is perfect for topping traditional spaghetti and meatballs or Vegan Meatball Bowls! It's easy to make this recipe from scratch with 8 simple ingredients. And tastes so much better than store-bought sauce from a jar!
This sauce is naturally gluten free and vegan. You can use it as spaghetti sauce, dipping sauce or with your favorite pasta. It's easy to freeze, so you'll have some on hand for pasta night anytime!
The BEST marinara sauce is easy to make with high-quality canned tomatoes, garlic and spices. Just like in Italy, it's not complicated to make and it always tastes the best when it's homemade!
This marinara sauce recipe is so simple, but is guaranteed to add so much flavor to any pasta dish and all of your favorite Italian recipes. I used the sauce to top this Italian Bowl with Vegan Meatballs.
It was the perfect vegan marinara sauce to compliment this plant based bowl. Flavorful, easy to make and delicious served with broccoli, pasta and meatballs!
What you'll need
- Olive oil
- Minced garlic
- San Marzano peeled tomatoes - San Marzano tomatoes are famous for their sweetness, delicate acidity and their rich tomatoey flavor. This is what makes them THE BEST for making homemade marinara sauce. I personally prefer the Cento brand of San Marzano tomatoes. I buy it by the case on Amazon to make this marinara sauce and pizza sauce. Feel free to buy it online or pick up whatever brand your local grocery store offers.
- Dried oregano
- Sugar - you always want to add sugar to a tomato-based sauce as it balances out the acidity from the tomatoes.
- Salt - the combination of salt, sugar and acid balance out this sauce and give it the perfect flavor.
- Red pepper flakes - these crushed peppers add just a hint of spice and flavor to the sauce.
- Fresh basil leaves - added at the end of the cooking process, basil adds a bright, fresh flavor to the sauce.
Step by step instructions
- Crush the tomatoes. Because I recommend starting the recipe with whole San Marzano peeled tomatoes, you'll want to begin the recipe by hand crushing the tomatoes. Pour the tomatoes from the cans into a large mixing bowl and use your hands to crush the tomatoes. It's okay if some small chunks still exist. If you wish, you can always puree the sauce at the end so that no chunks exist.
- Saute the garlic in olive oil. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the garlic and saute for 30-60 seconds. You want the garlic to just begin to brown and become fragrant before adding the tomatoes.
- Add the crushed tomatoes. Pour the hand-crushed tomatoes into the skillet with the sauce.
- Add the oregano, sugar, salt and red pepper flakes. Stir all of the ingredients together, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add the fresh chopped basil. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Serve the sauce immediately or place in mason jars and freeze. If freezing the sauce for later, you'll want to let it cool completely in the mason jars before transferring the sauce to the freezer. You also want to leave at least 1 inch of space open at the top of the jar to allow the sauce to expand in the freezer.
Frequently asked questions
- What is the difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce? Marinara sauce is a simple tomato-based sauce that can be used as spaghetti sauce. Spaghetti sauce can also contain other ingredients such as vegetables or meat, like ground beef or sausage.
- What is the difference between marinara sauce and pizza sauce? Marinara sauce is cooked on the stove, whereas pizza sauce is generally uncooked. However, pizza sauce and marinara sauce generally contain the same ingredients, therefore marinara sauce can be used for pizza.
- How long does marinara sauce last in the fridge? This marinara sauce can be refrigerated for up to 7 days. After 7 days, it can be moved to the freezer and stored for up to 6 months.
- How do you unfreeze marinara sauce? If you've been storing the marinara sauce in the freezer, I recommend moving it to the refrigerator for 24-36 hours to defrost. If you don't have that much time, place the sealed jar of sauce in a bowl in the sink and run cold water over the jar until the sauce is thawed.
- How do you thicken marinara sauce? If you want to thicken the sauce, I recommend adding tomato paste, ¼ cup at a time, until you reach the desired consistency. The tomato paste should be added at the same time as the fresh basil.
Ways to use marinara sauce
Marinara sauce is most commonly used with pasta, but there are actually tons of different ways to use the sauce for breakfast, lunch or dinner! Make a triple batch and try it in each of these 9 delicious recipes.
- Italian Meatloaf
- Cheesy Mozzarella Chicken Bake
- Italian Meatball Soup
- Low Carb Lasagna Stuffed Peppers
- Italian Enchiladas
- Pizza Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- Creamy Italian Baked Eggs
- Pizza Zucchini Noodles with Pepperoni
- Spaghetti Squash Lasagna
More homemade sauces to try
- Harissa Tahini Sauce
- Creamy Vegan Chipotle Sauce
- Roasted Garlic Cashew Cream Sauce
- Zhoug Sauce (Spicy Cilantro Sauce)
- Whole30 BBQ Sauce
- Sweet Sesame Sauce
- 56 ounces San Marzano peeled tomatoes 2 - 28 ounce cans
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup basil leaves fresh chopped
- Pour the cans of San Marzano tomatoes in a large bowl and use your hands to crush the tomatoes.
- Add the olive oil to a large saucepan on the stove over medium heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add the minced garlic and saute for 30-60 seconds.
- Add the hand-crushed tomatoes, oregano, sugar, salt and red pepper flakes.
- Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Stir in the fresh basil and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes.
- Serve immediately or allow to cool and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- To thicken the sauce: add ¼ cup tomato paste at the same time as the basil. If the sauce still isn't as thick as you'd like, add another ¼ cup tomato paste until it reaches your desired consistency.
- The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
- The sauce can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months. It can be stored in plastic containers, freezer bags or mason jars. If storing in mason jars, be sure to leave 1 inch of space at the top of the jar for the sauce to expand.
- To unfreeze the sauce, I recommend moving it to the refrigerator for 24-36 hours to defrost. If you don't have that much time, place the sealed jar of sauce in a bowl in the sink and run cold water over the jar until the sauce is thawed.