Homemade marinara sauce is surprisingly easy to make from scratch. Plus, it is ready in less than 30 minutes! Made with high quality tomatoes, garlic, and oregano, this recipe is gluten-free, vegan, and filled with flavor.
You may think it's intimidating to make your own sauces from scratch. But I'm telling you now, this recipe is straightforward and simple.
This marinara sauce is chunky and rich, with hints of garlic and oregano. Using high quality tomatoes brings this sauce from 'meh' to amazing - so spring for those San Marzano tomatoes!
Enjoy your homemade marinara sauce over cooked pasta, or in your favorite Italian dish. Lasagna, baked ziti, meatballs, or chicken parmesan are all great dishes made with marinara.
Ingredients and substitutions
To make a homemade marinara sauce, the most important ingredient is the tomatoes. Look for San Marzano tomatoes. They are whole tomatoes in tomato juice, in a 28 ounce can. Look for a can that says "DOP" or "DOP certified" - this roughly translates to "protected designation of origin" and ensures you're getting the real deal.
Try looking for Cento brand San Marzano Tomatoes - the can has a bright yellow label.
Dried oregano can be substituted with fresh oregano at a 1:3 ratio. 1 teaspoon of dried oregano would be substituted with 1 tablespoon (or 3 teaspoons) of fresh chopped oregano.
Olive oil can be substituted with butter. Keep in mind the recipe will no longer be vegan if using butter.
Best tomatoes to use
So what's all this focus on San Marzano tomatoes? Why are they so important?
San Marzano tomatoes are arguably the best canned tomatoes one can buy. They are a variety of plum tomato and grown in Italy - similar to the Roma tomato in the US.
They're slightly sweet with an intense tomato flavor and low acidity. If you're going to make a sauce with very few ingredients (like a marinara sauce), your main ingredient should be of the highest quality.
I can't stress this enough - using cheap or inferior tomatoes in this recipe will give you an inferior-tasting sauce. Spring for the San Marzano tomatoes. You won't be disappointed!
Ways to use marinara sauce
Marinara sauce is an incredibly versatile staple to keep on hand in your kitchen.
Substitute for jar of store-bought sauce. This recipe makes about 3 cups, or 24 ounces of sauce, similar in size to a store-bought jar. Use this sauce next time a recipe calls for a jar of marinara.
Pour over a bowl of cooked pasta for a quick weeknight meal.
Add to your next lasagna, baked ziti, or pesto mozzarella chicken. Or, add to your next homemade pizza for a chunky, rustic pizza sauce.
Looking for a meat sauce? Try my homemade spaghetti sauce which contains ground beef.
Make ahead and freeze
Homemade marinara sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days.
Marinara sauce can also be frozen in a tightly sealed, freezer safe container for about 3-4 months. Sauce can be frozen in freezer bags, tupperware containers, or glass mason jars.
If storing in glass jars, make sure you leave about ½ inch of space at the top of your jar. Your sauce will expand slightly as it freezes, and the space ensures your jar doesn't explode in the freezer!
When you're ready to enjoy your sauce, transfer from the freezer to the refrigerator the night beforehand.
Sauce can be reheated in a saucepan over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, or until warmed through.
Homemade Marinara Sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 28 ounces canned san marzano tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- In a saute pan over medium heat, add olive oil. When hot, add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add canned tomatoes, then add about ½ cup of water to tomato can, swirl around to get any extra tomato juices, and add to the pan. Season with salt, red pepper flakes, and oregano.
- Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low (or as low as you can go without losing your simmer), and cook for 20 minutes. As your sauce cooks, continually smash the whole tomatoes with your spoon, slowly breaking them apart, until no large chunks remain.
- Remove from heat and serve.
- This recipe makes about 3 cups, or 24 ounces, of sauce.
- For a smooth sauce: use an immersion blender, or carefully transfer cooked sauce to a blender and blend until smooth. Make sure to remove the feeder cap of your blender lid and cover lid with a towel to allow steam to vent safely. For your safety, never fill a blender more than half full with hot food.
- Leftover marinara sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, or stored for 3-4 months in the freezer. Thaw frozen marinara in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat over medium-low heat on the stove top for up to 15 minutes.
- Dried oregano can be substituted with 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano.