Homemade Hearty Marinara Sauce

Quick and simple homemade hearty marinara sauce recipe with chucks of San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil, and lots of garlic. Throw in some homemade meatballs and you got yourself a delicious dinner. This sauce is also great as a pasta sauce, pizza sauce, dipping sauce for bread sticks or fried calamari, or for chicken parmesan.
Marinara sauce with basil in a pot.

Quick and simple homemade hearty marinara sauce recipe with chucks of San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil, and lots of garlic. Throw in some homemade meatballs and you got yourself a delicious dinner. This sauce is also great as a pasta sauce, pizza sauce, dipping sauce for bread sticks or fried calamari, or for a topping for chicken parmesan.

spaghetti and marinara sauce with basil in a bowl

Marinara sauce is a quick tomato sauce with limited ingredients. Since it’s cooked quickly rather than slow simmered all day, the flavors are kept bright and fresh. In this recipe we are using whole peeled canned tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, onions, dried oregano, and fresh basil.

This hearty marinara sauce recipe is great for a quick pasta sauce. It is also perfect served with fried calamari or breadsticks as dipping sauce, used as a pizza sauce, or to top chicken parmesan. I love it for simmering my Italian Meatballs with Beef, Pork, and Italian Sausage.

Quick tips

  • Use organic whole peeled tomatoes, San Marzano if possible.
  • Make a double batch and freeze the rest for later.
  • Cook tomato paste for a few minutes prior to adding the other ingredients. This caramelizes the paste and adds extra flavor.
  • Use fresh basil to add some bright fresh flavor.
  • Pair this recipe with my Italian Meatballs with Beef, Pork, and Italian Sausage!

Equipment

  • Dutch oven – You can use any large pot but I love my Staub Dutch oven, and use it for soups, stews, sauces, and more. Martha Stewart has a more affordable version that works well. Either way a Dutch oven is a necessity in your kitchen supplies. I recommend getting one with at least a 6 quart capacity. Invest in a heavy good quality piece and it will last you years.
  • Potato masher – Since we are using whole tomatoes, use a potato masher to break up the tomatoes to your desired consistency.
  • Garlic press – I always use fresh garlic in my recipes (and you should too!) A garlic press makes for easier garlic prep.
ingredients for marinara sauce

Ingredient notes

  • Good olive oil – I could do a whole post on the importance of using good olive oil. Most “Italian” olive oils you find are actually counterfeit. My favorite brand is California Olive Ranch Extra virgin Olive Oil.
  • Fresh garlic – I’m a big advocate for using FRESH garlic in every recipe. I know the stuff that comes pre-minced in the jar is easier, but I promise you the few minutes you spend cutting fresh garlic will be well worth the flavor payoff!
  • Tomato paste – Buy tomato paste in tubes instead of cans! A recipe usually calls for 2-3 tablespoons of tomato paste at the most, but cans contain 4 times that. You can freeze the rest (but I usually forget about it in the freezer) OR you can buy it in a tube, and use a little at a time.
  • Whole peeled tomatoes – I use high quality (organic when possible) canned tomatoes for this recipe. Buy whole peeled, San Marzano if possible. I like the Bianco DiNapoli Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes and Cento San Marzano Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes.
  • Dried oregano – I love the flavor of oregano, but fresh oregano can be very strong and overpowering. For this reason, we will be using dried oregano in this recipe.
  • Fresh Basil – Since this recipe is mainly canned tomatoes rather than fresh, I like adding fresh basil at the end to brighten up the flavor.
  • Salt – I use Redmond Real Salt in the recipes on Feeding Our Faces. This salt is unrefined, unbleached, and tastes much better than iodized table salt.

Entertaining tip: If you’re having an Italian themed dinner party or pizza party, save the cans of tomatoes to use as flower vases, or fill with fresh basil.

How to make hearty marinara sauce from scratch?

This recipe is a breeze to whip together but it’s definitely not lacking on flavor! The only prep involved is chopping the onions and mincing the garlic. 

sweating onions in a dutch oven

In a large dutch oven, sweat the onions for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Sweating onions means to cook them gently at a lower heat, softening them and releasing their juices without browning or charring them.

Add in the minced garlic and cook for another few minutes while stirring. Garlic can burn easily, causing the flavor to turn bitter. This is why you have to keep your garlic moving in a hot pan. 

onions and tomato paste in a dutch oven

Add in tomato paste and cook for another few minutes while stirring. Cooking the tomato paste for a few minutes is important, because it helps caramelize the sugars, coaxing out more flavor from the paste. If you skip this step it can leave the paste with a raw flavor.

whole peeled tomatoes and seasonings in a pot

Next add in tomatoes, water, and oregano. You can use a potato masher to break ip the tomatoes to your desired consistency. I like to leave some small chunky pieces for a heartier sauce. If you want a smoother sauce, you can blend with a hand blender.

Throw in a few fresh basil leaves, bring to a boil and reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. you can add salt and pepper to taste. 

marinara sauce with basil in a pot

If you are making this recipe with my Italian Meatballs with Beef, Pork, and Italian Sausage, add the meatballs into the sauce at this point and allow the sauce and meatballs to simmer together for 20 minutes.

Serving suggestions

I don’t think I even realized how versatile this recipe is until I started writing this post! You can repurpose this marinara sauce in so many ways. For this reason I love to make a big batch and freeze the rest for later use.

  • Pasta sauce – Mix with pasta for a quick and easy dinner. Don’t forget to reserve some pasta water to mix into your noodles and marinara.
  • Meatballs – Make this recipe with Italian Meatballs with Beef, Pork, and Italian Sausage.
  • Dipping sauce – Use as a dipping sauce for fried calamari, breadsticks, or fried mozzarella.
  • Pizza sauce – Reduce the sauce a little and use for pizza sauce.
  • Chicken parmesan – Use as a topping for chicken or eggplant parmesan.
  • Ratatouille – Pour the marinara sauce over your vegetables for a baked or stovetop ratatouille.
  • Lasagna – Combine with ground beef and use as a layer in lasagna.
  • Vodka sauce – Add in a little cream for a creamy vodka sauce.
  • Cocktail sauce – Mix with some horseradish and use for cocktail shrimp dipping.
  • Stuffed peppers – Combine with rice and ground meat as a stuffing for peppers.

With so many uses, it’s nice to have some extra marinara sauce on hand to whip up a quick dinner.

More Pasta dishes to make

jar of homemade marinara sauce

FAQs

What’s the difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce?

Marinara sauce is a quick sauce with limited ingredients. Spaghetti sauce usually contains more vegetables and seasonings and is cooked for a longer time.

What’s the difference between marinara sauce and pizza sauce?

Pizza sauce is usually an uncooked sauce, since it will be cooked on the pizza. Pizza sauce should also be less watery so it does not make the pizza watery. You can use this marinara sauce recipe for pizza sauce if you reduce it a bit.

Marinara sauce with basil in a pot.

Homemade Hearty Marinara Sauce

Quick and simple homemade hearty marinara sauce recipe with chucks of San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil, and lots of garlic. Throw in some homemade meatballs and you got yourself a delicious dinner. This sauce is also great as a pasta sauce, pizza sauce, dipping sauce for bread sticks or fried calamari, or for chicken parmesan.
5 from 54 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian-American
Servings 12 1/2 cup servings
Calories 49 kcal

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • Sweat onions for 10 minutes on medium low heat with a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add in garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring so garlic doesn’t burn. Add in tomato paste, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring. Add in tomatoes, water, oregano. Break up tomatoes with potato masher to desired consistency. Add in a few basil leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low*** and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Notes

* Use good olive oil! I like California Olive Ranch.
** San Marzano is the best, I like the Cento or Bianco DiNapoli brand. Try to use organic whole peeled tomatoes. 
***If you’re using this recipe with my meatballs, add them into the sauce at this point so the sauce and meatballs can simmer together. 

Nutrition

Calories: 49kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 2gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 504mgPotassium: 325mgFiber: 2gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 202IUVitamin C: 15mgCalcium: 58mgIron: 2mg
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5 from 54 votes (53 ratings without comment)

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