Easy and quick to make marinara sauce is one of those staple recipes that you should know how to make. It can be used in so many dishes and the right recipe elevates your dish to another level. You need only 6 ingredients to make this amazing tomato sauce and it’s done in just 20 minutes!
What is marinara sauce?
Marinara sauce is a quick and simple Italian tomato sauce. It uses just a couple of ingredients and can be served as a pasta sauce or a dipping sauce.
What is the difference between spaghetti sauce and marinara? Marinara sauce is vegetarian/vegan sauce that is made with only a couple of ingredients and needs to be cooked for only 15 minutes. Spaghetti sauce, on the other hand, uses more ingredients, like carrots, celery, wine, ground meat, and needs to be cooked for a longer period of time (I have a recipe for vegetarian spaghetti sauce).
Why this is a great recipe
- It’s quick to make – it’s ready in under 25 minutes! Yes, it’s possible to achieve great flavor after such a short time, given that you’ll use great tomatoes.
- It’s so delicious – I seriously could eat it by the spoonful!
- If you’ll use great tomatoes, there is no need to add sugar to your sauce.
- It can be easily doubled or tripled and then you can can it or freeze it.
- It’s better than store-bought and less expensive.
You only need 6 ingredients to make the marinara sauce: tomatoes, olive oil, onion, garlic, oregano (dried), and basil (fresh or dried).
A few words about the tomatoes, since it’s the most important ingredient of this recipe:
To be honest, a good recipe for the marinara sauce is not really that important (it’s so simple to make!) – the most important is choosing great tomatoes. If your tomatoes are not of good quality, no matter what recipe you’ll choose, your marinara sauce will only be mediocre.
You can choose fresh tomatoes when they are in season. They should be ripe and smell aromatic. Using canned tomatoes is more convenient and they make an excellent marinara sauce.
How to choose the right tomatoes: Simply open up a can and taste your tomatoes. They should be aromatic and sweet, so sweet that you don’t feel the need to add sugar to your sauce. If your tomatoes taste sour, that means they are not great, choose another brand next time.
What I’m using: I swear by Mutti “Finely chopped tomatoes Polpa”. This is NOT a sponsored post, it’s truly the brand that I really love (it’s an Italian company). If you can’t find them in your grocery store, you can order them on Amazon, I’ve also seen them on Walmart website. They are just so sweet on their own, you won’t even think of adding sugar to your sauce.
I’ve seen many websites recommending San Marzano tomatoes. I can not speak to that – although I live in Austria which is Italy’s neighboring country, I haven’t seen canned San Marzano tomatoes in any grocery store here! (only small fresh San Marzano tomatoes that look similar to cherry tomatoes). This type of tomatoes is grown in the Campania region of Italy, but I bet you can get great Italian tomatoes from all regions of Italy – maybe that’s why this particular type of tomatoes is not that popular here (in comparison to the US), just because there are many other great Italian tomatoes that are sold. I don’t think that the San Marzano type is so superior.
Crushed tomatoes vs diced tomatoes vs whole tomatoes: I prefer to use crushed tomatoes – they give the best consistency. You can also use diced or whole tomatoes but you need to blend the sauce a bit, break down the tomatoes with a spatula while they cook, or cook them longer (about 45 minutes) otherwise the sauce will be too chunky (in my opinion, I prefer it more on the smooth side, with small chunks).
As for the other ingredients for your sauce, they should also be of good quality to make the best marinara sauce possible, but none of them are as important as the tomatoes. I like to add fresh basil to my sauce if I have some on hand, it really perfumes the sauce. It’s important to add it at the end and don’t cook it. If you don’t have it, just use dried basil. Do NOT substitute garlic powder for fresh garlic.
What you could also add: I think this recipe is perfect as it is but you could also add some red pepper flakes to add a touch of heat to the sauce.
Step by step instructions
STEP 1: Cut 1 small onion into small cubes, chop 3 cloves garlic very finely. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat, add the onion and cook for about 3-4 minutes, until soft and translucent.
STEP 2: Add the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano (and 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil if you’re not using fresh basil leaves), cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
STEP 3: Add two (14-oz/400ml) cans (or one 28-oz can) crushed tomatoes, bring to a boil, partially cover with a lid, and simmer (cook over low heat) for 15 minutes.
STEP 4: Add 3-4 leaves of fresh basil, blend the sauce with a hand/immersion blender (I’m blending it only partially, not until completely smooth), and season with salt and pepper to taste. If you don’t want to blend your sauce, finely chop basil and add to the sauce.
That’s it, enjoy!
How to season your sauce: If you feel that your sauce is lacking something in flavor, the usual culprit is not enough salt and pepper. Another reason could be that the sauce is too sour because your tomatoes were not of great quality. If that’s the case, try to add 1-2 teaspoons of light brown sugar to the sauce and choose another brand of tomatoes next time!
Marinara sauce uses
- serve it with pasta, zucchini noodles, or spaghetti squash
- serve it with meatballs
- serve it as a dipping sauce, for example with zucchini fries, breadsticks, mozzarella sticks, chicken strips, or pull-apart bread
- you can use it as a pizza sauce or a sauce for calzone
- use it as a sauce for vegetarian lasagna (this recipe calls for a more labor-intensive, my best vegetarian spaghetti sauce, but you can substitute it for marinara, which is much quicker to make)
- make chicken parmesan (you can use my breaded chicken cutlets recipe for that) or eggplant parmesan
- use it to make stuffed shells
- serve it with gnocchi
- use it to make slow cooker sausage and peppers or this one-pot cheesy pasta
Keep it in the fridge for up to 6 days. Freeze it for up to 6 months.
You can also can your marinara sauce, check out this guide for canning instructions.
Did you make this recipe? RATE THE RECIPE or tell me in the COMMENTS how you liked it! You can also add a photo of your dish. It would make me very happy and will help other readers. Thank you!!
Quick & easy marinara sauce recipe
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- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 (14 oz/400ml) cans crushed tomatoes, good quality! or one 28-oz can
- 3-4 large basil leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cut the onion into small cubes, chop the garlic very finely.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat, add the onion and cook for about 3-4 minutes, until soft and translucent.
- Add the garlic and oregano (and dried basil if you’re not using fresh basil leaves), cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil, partially cover with a lid, and simmer (cook over low heat) for 15 minutes.
- Add finely chopped basil, blend the sauce with a hand/immersion blender (I’m blending it only partially, not until completely smooth), and season with salt and pepper to taste. If you don’t want to blend your sauce, finely chop basil and add to the sauce.
- The most important thing for this recipe is to find great tomatoes. My favorite brand of tomatoes is Mutti “Finely chopped tomatoes Polpa” (not sponsored).
- Do not substitute garlic powder for fresh garlic.
- You can also add some red pepper flakes to add a touch of heat to your sauce.
- How to season your sauce: If you feel that your sauce is lacking something in flavor, the usual culprit is not enough salt and pepper. Another reason could be that the sauce is too sour because your tomatoes were not of great quality. If that’s the case, try to add 1-2 teaspoons of light brown sugar to the sauce and choose another brand of tomatoes next time!
- Calories = whole recipe. This is only an estimate!