This easy marinara sauce recipe is simple to make, uses everyday ingredients, and comes together fast. It's perfect for freezing or using in a variety of recipes.
Marinara sauce is great by itself with pasta and some freshly grated parmesan cheese, but it's also a component of many other recipes (everything from pasta bakes, spaghetti and meatballs, to pizza, in sandwiches, or as a dip!), so it's nice to have a reliable recipe that you can use if you prefer to make it from scratch vs. buying a jar of it.
Marinara sauce isn't something that takes a long time to prep or cook, which may surprise some of you (before I started making it, I totally expected it to be more complicated than it actually was). It's also pretty healthy, and who can resist a good tomato sauce?
How to make a quick marinara sauce (overview):
Add the oil and garlic to a skillet over medium heat. Once the garlic starts to cook, give it about 30 seconds (be careful to not let it burn). Stir in the canned tomatoes, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, and fresh basil sprigs. Let it simmer, uncovered, for around 15-20 minutes (don't worry about being too precise). Take out the wilted basil sprigs, and season it with salt & pepper to taste. Add in a pinch of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes if needed. (Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below)
Recipe notes & tips:
- As with any recipe, this is a good base for your own tweaks/additions. You can certainly add more garlic/herbs/etc. to suit your tastes.
- You can add a splash of wine to the sauce (dry white or red) to change the flavor up a bit. White wine is my personal preference.
- You can use whole tomatoes (I recommend San Marzano tomatoes) instead of the crushed ones if you prefer. You can break them up with your hands before adding them to the skillet, or use an immersion blender when the sauce is done simmering.
- I haven't tested this recipe with fresh tomatoes, but if you do decide to go that route, you'll likely need to cook them down for a bit longer and possibly use an immersion blender at the end.
- My favorite brands for canned tomatoes include Muir Glen, DeLallo, and Mutti... they all have a place in my pantry.
- Adding a bit of sugar is a trick to bring out the sweetness of tomatoes (this is one of the reasons why restaurant sauces taste so good). Depending on the variety of canned tomatoes you choose, the sauce may end up a bit more acidic/sweeter, so taste and adjust as needed. Or leave it out altogether. Some recipes use carrots to sweeten the sauce, so you can chop one up finely and sauté it as the first step of the recipe if you prefer.
- To double the recipe, use a larger pot/Dutch oven and double every ingredient.
- Leftovers/storage: Marinara sauce will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days or you can freeze it.
Recipes that use marinara sauce:
- Simple Ground Beef Casserole
- Chicken Parmesan
- Baked Tortellini (Tomato & Meat Sauce)
- Cheesy Mozzarella Chicken Bake
- Million Dollar Spaghetti
Questions about marinara sauce? Have you ever made it from scratch? Talk to me in the comments below! Tag me #saltandlavender on Instagram if you've made one of my recipes.
Easy Marinara Sauce
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 (28 fluid ounce) can crushed tomatoes see note
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 3 sprigs fresh basil + more for serving
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar or more, to taste (optional)
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Add the oil and garlic to a deep skillet over medium heat. Once the garlic starts to sizzle, give it a stir, and let it cook for about 30 seconds (do not let it burn).
- Stir in the tomatoes, dried oregano, and red pepper flakes. Gently add in the fresh basil sprigs.
- Let the sauce simmer, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes (turn the heat way down so it doesn't splatter too much).
- Take out the basil sprigs and season generously with salt & pepper. If the sauce tastes a bit acidic, add in some sugar, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until it suits your tastebuds. I like to add some fresh chopped/torn basil on top if serving over pasta.This sauce will be quite thick (great for coating pasta). Thin it out with a splash of dry wine (white or red) or some hot pasta water if needed.
- Be sure to use good quality ingredients (this recipe uses minimal ingredients and the flavors will all shine through).
- You may use whole canned tomatoes instead of crushed. I recommend San Marzano tomatoes (and use the juices too!). You may need to blend the sauce at the end with an immersion blender to make it nice and smooth. My favorite brands of canned tomatoes include DeLallo, Mutti, and Muir Glen.
- This recipe makes a bit over 2.5 cups (around 2 3/4 cups).
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.