This classic Italian marinara sauce adds the perfect, traditional taste to any recipe that calls for a tomato-based sauce. Once you learn how to make this marinara recipe with canned tomatoes, transform a quick week-night pasta supper into a gourmet meal in less than 25 minutes.
Authentic marinara sauce is a tomato-based sauce that is made with an array of simple ingredients -usually canned tomatoes, aromatics and fresh herbs. Simmering for twenty minutes should be sufficient to break down the tomatoes and create a homemade sauce with delicious flavors. It can be used in any recipe that calls for a tomato-based sauce.
Serve it over your favorite pasta or use it in layered casserole dishes like eggplant parmigiana.
Marinara sauce is a common condiment in Italian cuisine, and because of that, there are many different variations depending on ingredients used, personal interpretations, etc.
The key is to keep experimenting until you find the perfect combination of ingredients and discover what you really enjoy. For example, you can start the whole process with a soffrito, and end it with a splash of red wine. While the sauce is simmering, you can also add a pinch of sugar for added sweetness.
Although there are many ways to make a tasty marinara sauce, the main ingredient is usually canned tomatoes.
Why use canned tomatoes
Like all Italian cooking, the strength of the dish is in the quality of the ingredients.
Choosing high-quality canned whole tomatoes can actually help you make a better-tasting sauce. If the option is available, purchase whole San Marzano tomatoes packed in their own juices and not tomato sauce. These are a little sweeter and have a better flavor.
Look for tomatoes packed in Italy as they will be of superior quality. If available in your region, make sure to purchase tomatoes that have been certified DOP. If you are interested, Serious Eats has a great article on the DOP tomato.
These high-quality canned tomatoes are available year-round and their standard of quality is tightly regulated. Not only does this make the whole process quick and simple, but your sauce has a consistent quality.
What do I need to make the best marinara sauce?
As far as accessories are concerned, it would help if you had a cutting board, a sharp knife, a wide skillet and a wooden spoon.
Wait until you see how easily this Italian marinara sauce recipe comes together with just a few simple ingredients!!
A quick recipe search will provide you with infinite variations of a marinara sauce from scratch. I prefer this simple marinara sauce best because it relies on so few ingredients. As always, feel free to experiment as there is no right or wrong way of making a delicious marinara sauce, it is all a question of taste.
Let’s prep the garlic
Crush 2-3 cloves of garlic with the side of your knife. Remove the papery skins and chop off the tips. Give them a rough chop and set them aside.
Open up that can of tomatoes
You need 1 can of San Marzano whole canned tomatoes (28 ounces/796 mL ) packed in their own juices and not tomato sauce (as these will be a little sweeter).
Time to turn on the heat
Use a large wide skillet to heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the crushed garlic and as an option, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. Sauté for about one minute or until lightly toasted. You know it’s time to add the tomatoes when the aroma of the garlic hits the air.
Simmer the canned tomatoes
Add the San Marzano whole canned tomatoes (28 ounces) to the sautéed garlic, turn the heat back up to a medium-high. We are looking for a vigorous simmer. Stir occasionally for the next 15-20 minutes. Use the back of a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes while simmering in the saucepan. You can also use a potato masher.
During this time, the tomatoes will thicken as the liquid evaporates. (This 15-minute window allows you more than enough time to get your pasta cooked -just in case you were planning on having pasta).
The grand finale, add the basil
When you are about to finish cooking the sauce, add 2 sprigs of fresh basil followed by seasoning to taste.
(If you were making a pasta dish, you would throw in the al dente pasta in this pan along with a ¼-½ cup of the starchy pasta cooking water. A couple of shakes and swirls and voila… gourmet pasta dish).
Effortless and uncomplicated.
An easy pasta sauce recipe in just a few simple steps.
What is a marinara sauce used for?
This tomato-based sauce makes a great dipping sauce for baked zucchini sticks, these garlic knots, or better yet this recipe for pizza rolls! It also contributes a great flavor to this delicious side dish of Italian-style green beans.
How long does marinara sauce last in the fridge?
Store this homemade marinara sauce safely in an airtight container, in the refrigerator for up to five days. For optimal safety, re-heat sauce to 145°F/62°C before using it.
Pizza sauce vs. marinara, what’s the difference?
One key difference is that authentic pizza sauce is uncooked, while most pasta sauces are usually cooked. Second of all, oregano is always used in pizza sauce whereas a marinara sauce typically does not include this fragrant herb.
Recipes using marinara sauce
This easy, tomato-based sauce makes a great starting point for your favorite comfort foods such as these zucchini lasagna rolls and this tortellini recipe.
Regional variations and family recipes will definitely play an important factor in determining everyone’s favorite marinara sauce.
Made with fresh tomatoes?
Whole or crushed tomatoes?
Chunky or pureed?
With or without onions?
Addition of carrots or other vegetables?
Sugar, honey, wine?
I could go on, but I think you get the point. There is no right way to make this sauce. Let your taste buds be your guide.
I have just shared with you my Mom’s marinara sauce from scratch. You can never go wrong with simple, wholesome and good quality ingredients.
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★★★★★ If you have made this marinara recipe, I would love to hear about it in the comments below and be sure to rate the recipe!
Italian Marinara Sauce Recipe
- 2 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- 3 cloves garlic crushed and coarsely chopped
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 1 28 ounce San Marzano, whole canned tomatoes 796 mL
- 2 sprigs fresh basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- There are only four basic ingredients for this authentic marinara sauce -canned tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and fresh basil. Make sure to use the freshest ingredients to make the best homemade marinara sauce.
- When cooking the garlic, make sure it doesn’t turn dark brown because this will give the sauce an acrid taste.
- To make a sauce with a smoother consistency, use a handheld blender or food processor.
- If you find this quick pasta sauce tastes acidic, try adding a few pinches of sugar to balance out the taste.
- The addition of a whole carrot while this simple pasta sauce is simmering helps reduce the acidity.
- Add basil towards the end of cooking to maximize its flavor, as it is sensitive to overcooking.
Total yield is 2 cups of marinara sauce.
1 serving = 1 cup of sauce.
Please keep in mind that the nutritional information provided below is just a rough estimate and variations can occur depending on the specific ingredients used.
This post was originally published on September 11, 2016 and republished on August 23, 2021 with updated content. Thanks for sharing!