If you’ve only ever used jarred marinara sauce, please, I’m begging you, stop! This pasta sauce is so easy to make, takes about 30 minutes, and tastes a million times better. The flavor is that of a ripe fresh tomato.
Now before we begin, I know there are a trillion or so recipes for homemade marinara sauce out there in the world and I’m sure many of them are delicious. But since the point of this little recipe website is to share with you my best recipe for whatever it is you’re craving, I think it is important that I show you my method for making this classic spaghetti sauce.
If you’ve never made tomato sauce from scratch, you are in for a treat. Yes, it does take longer than opening a jar—I will give you that—but not much longer and is so much better for you than those high fructose corn syrup laden sugar bombs that they sell as pasta sauce.
So here is my recipe. You can use it for pasta, pizza, over meatballs, on chicken parmesan, in lasagna, or even as a dip for breadsticks the possibilities are endless. Oh, and it keeps in the fridge or freezer beautifully.
What is Marinara Sauce?
I’ve traveled quite extensively throughout Italy and I’ve got to be honest, I’ve never heard an Italian call this sauce Marinara sauce. It is usually simply referred to as tomato sauce. That being said, according to Paesana the Italian food company, Marinara refers to “seafaring” not because the dish contains fish or seafood but because it was a sauce commonly made by sailors out at sea.
Generally, a marinara recipe is a simple combination of onions or garlic (or sometimes both), tomatoes (usually canned), olive oil, and herbs. It is easy to make and loved by everyone.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Yellow onion
- Crushed tomatoes. You could also use canned whole tomatoes.
- Dried oregano
- Kosher salt
- Spaghetti or your favorite pasta
- Fresh basil and parmesan, for serving
How To Make It (Step-by-Step Instructions)
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and the teaspoon of salt. Let cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the onions soften but aren’t brown.
Add tomatoes, then take the can the tomatoes came in and fill halfway with water. Stir the water in the can so it collects any leftover tomato juices. Pour this into the sauce and add the oregano. Bring to a boil then reduce so it is barely simmering. Let simmer while you make the pasta.
Meanwhile bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Once it is boiling, add the spaghetti and cook a few minutes less than what the package says. Drain.
Taste the sauce and add more salt if needed. Add drained spaghetti to the sauce and stir coating the pasta in the sauce. Let sauce return to a simmer to finish cooking the pasta.
Serve in big bowls with thinly sliced basil or chopped Italian parsley and grated parmesan cheese on top. Enjoy!
What Makes This The Best Marinara Sauce
- Transports you to Italy in less than 30 minutes.
- Extra olive oil amps up the richness and the healthy monounsaturated fats.
- Six simple ingredients. A simple homemade tomato sauce means you’ll never buy store-bought again!
- Vegan and gluten-free (the sauce, that is).
- Extremely easy on the budget. All the ingredients total up to about $20 and that’s if you buy the fancy olive oil and tomatoes.
Marinara Sauce FAQ’s
How do I make it super smooth? I don’t mind the small bits of onion in the sauce but if you want it perfectly smooth, you can run it through the blender before serving. Just be very careful when blending hot liquids.
What kind of tomatoes should I buy? The best that you can afford. Because there are so few ingredients in this sauce it is important to use really high quality ingredients. I always use canned San Marzano tomatoes from Italy. Bianco de Napoli, San Marzano, and Mutti are my favorite brands.
Mine tastes too acidic. What should I do? If your sauce doesn’t taste amazing, my first guess would be you didn’t add enough salt. Add another 5 finger pinch and taste again. If it still tastes acidic or sour, try adding a couple tablespoons of tomato paste or even a pinch of sugar.
The lovely thing about this marinara sauce recipe being so simple is there are lots of ways you could spin it to make it your own. You could:
- Add red pepper flakes to make it spicy.
- Brown a pound of ground beef or ground pork or even ground turkey with the onions and garlic for a quick meat sauce.
- Grate a carrot, a beet, and/or zucchini for some extra veg. Saute these grated vegetables with the onion and garlic.
- Add the rind of a piece of parmesan to the sauce as it simmers for extra richness.
- Pour in a glug or two of red wine before adding the tomatoes.
More Dinner Recipes To Try!
- Penne with Spicy Vodka Sauce
- Ginger Hoisin Tofu Stir-Fry
- The Best Lemon-Broiled Cod
- The Best Vegetable Biryani
- Chipotle Beef and Bean Enchilada Casserole (from our sister site, ¡Hola! Jalapeño)
- Vinegar and Spice Baby Back Ribs
- Tangy Green Tomato Chili (again, from ¡Hola! Jalapeño)
Super Simple Marinara Sauce Is A Superhero
When it comes to the dinner table, that is. When you try it, let me know how it went! Share a photo and tag me on Instagram using @katesbestrecipes so that I can see (don’t forget to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating)! Also, sign up for my weekly recipe newsletter so you never miss a thing.
Spaghetti with The Best Marinara Sauce
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepan, pot or skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and garlic and teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned.
- Add crushed tomatoes (juices and all). Fill the can the tomatoes came in halfway with water. Stir the water around in the can to capture any leftover juices then pour the water into the pot. Add the oregano and stir to combine. Bring sauce to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add spaghetti and cook a few minutes less than the package instructions say. Drain.
- Taste the sauce and season with more salt if needed. Add spaghetti into the pot with the sauce and stir to coat the pasta in the sauce. Return to simmer and let pasta finish cooking a minute or two in the sauce.
- Serve in big bowls with lots of thinly sliced basil and grated parmesan cheese.
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