Meet the marinara recipe of my dreams! I’ve always been intimidated by marinara, maybe because I love it so much that I was afraid of messing it up. I finally faced my fears and tried making marinara every which way. This version is my favorite, no contest.
This homemade marinara sauce offers rich and lively tomato flavor, and it could not be easier to make. You’ll need just five basic pantry ingredients: good canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, dried oregano and olive oil.
The best part? You don’t even have to chop the onion and garlic. Just crank open a can of tomatoes, halve an onion and peel some garlic. You’re ready to go!
This sauce offers lovely, authentic Italian flavor after a 45-minute simmer. I tried to take shortcuts to make it even faster, but no amount of tomato paste, spices, salt or sugar will make up for lost time.
Bottom line: It’s impossible to achieve enchanting, long-simmered marinara flavor in under 45 minutes. So throw those ingredients in a pot, pour yourself a glass of wine and boil water for pasta. Dinner is almost ready.
After trying many variations on marinara sauce, I adapted this recipe from Deb’s tomato sauce with onion and butter, which was originally sourced from Marcella Hazan’s 1992 cookbook, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.
I love that tomato sauce, but it doesn’t pass for marinara since it’s missing herbs, garlic and olive oil. So, I added dried oregano and two whole cloves of garlic (which you’ll smash against the side of the pan at the end).
I traded a reasonable amount of olive oil for the butter (you really don’t need to use a ton of olive oil here for rich flavor). I also added a pinch of red pepper flakes for a little kick, but those are optional.
What else should you know about this marinara? Unlike most store-bought sauces, it’s free of added sugar. Since it’s made with five wholesome, healthy ingredients, you can load up your pasta with as much sauce as you’d like. Tomatoes are good for you!
This marinara recipe yields two cups of sauce and freezes well, so you might as well double the recipe. Just cook it in a bigger pot. And, it makes an incredible pizza sauce. I made pizza with it and my friend remarked that it tastes like real-deal Italian pizza.
Please let me know in the comments how you like this sauce! It’s a new staple in my kitchen, and I hope it becomes a go-to recipe for you as well.
Super Simple Marinara Sauce
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 2 cups
- Category: Sauce
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
This marinara sauce recipe is the best! You’ll only need 5 basic ingredients, and it’s so easy to make. No chopping required! Recipe yields 2 cups sauce (enough for 8 ounces pasta); double if desired.
- 1 large can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes*
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
- 2 large cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional, omit if sensitive to spice)
- Salt, to taste (if necessary)
- Optional, for serving: Cooked pasta, Parmesan cheese, chopped fresh basil, additional olive oil
- In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the tomatoes (with their juices), halved onion, garlic cloves, olive oil, oregano and red pepper flakes (if using).
- Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of oil float free of the tomatoes. Stir occasionally, and use a sturdy wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes against the side of the pot after about 15 minutes has passed.
- Remove the pot from the heat and discard the onion. Smash the garlic cloves against the side of the pot with a fork, then stir the smashed garlic into the sauce. Do the same with any tiny onion pieces you might find. Use the wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes to your liking (you can blend this sauce smooth with an immersion blender or stand blender, if desired).
- Add salt, to taste (the tomatoes are already pretty salty, so you might just need a pinch). Serve warm. This sauce keeps well, covered and refrigerated, for up to 4 days. Freeze it for up to 6 months.
*Tomato note: Using high quality tomatoes is key here. I recommend Muir Glen tomatoes. They’re organic and the cans are BPA-free.