Homemade Marinara Sauce

Published July 29, 2019

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 This Homemade Marinara Sauce is so easy to make and it’s so much better than the bottled stuff! The recipe includes mildly sweet San Marzano tomatoes, chopped onion, an abundance of garlic, fresh basil, as well as rich olive oil and a dab of butter.

Serve over spaghetti or tortellini with Parmesan for a simple, tasty dinner!

Marinara sauce tossed with spaghetti in a pasta bowl.

Easy Marinara Sauce Recipe

What does summer really mean? If you’re lucky, it means you have an abundance of fresh basil growing in your garden so you need to find lots and lots of different things to do with it. I finally have a garden — er, well it’s more of a little box garden but it’s a garden all the same.

So I’ve grown peas, tomatoes, pumpkins, basil, cilantro, oregano, and thyme and I’m still waiting on the green onions and rosemary (those two haven’t thrived like everything else. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I tried to grow way too much in a fairly small space. At least I kept the tomatoes and pumpkins growing elsewhere on their own).

I’ve grown herbs in my windowsill for many years, but they’ve just never thrived the way they do in a garden. I’m loving being able to go out and just snip what I need as it keeps growing!

One of my favorite things to do with fresh basil is make homemade marinara sauce. I fall head of heals for a good marinara sauce and it’s so easy to make a good batch at home from scratch!

I used to go all out and make the fresh tomato marinara sauce. I’d have to boil and peel the fresh tomatoes, then seed them, and then crush them — it was a lengthy, tedious process.

Then I realized the canned San Marzano tomatoes are just as good for marinara sauce, and life got a whole lot easier. Really though, canned tomatoes are where it’s at in my opinion. It’s like how it goes with canned pumpkin — you just get consistent results with the canned San Marzano tomatoes.

This marinara sauce recipe is very easy to prepare, yet the end results are truly so delicious! You’d think with its fairly short list of ingredients it couldn’t be this tasty but oh how it is!

Toss it with pasta, add a fair sprinkling of shredded Parmesan and final touch of fresh basil ribbons and you’ve just reached dinner goals!

Just don’t forget the fresh crusty Italian bread of some kind (even if it’s store bought) and some good olive oil and freshly cracked pepper to dip it in. Good carby meals like so are some of my favorite!

Ingredients needed to make marinara sauce shown here including canned San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, butter, parmesan, basil, onion, and salt.

Marinara Sauce Ingredients

You only need a handful of basic ingredients for this recipe:

  • Canned San Marzano tomatoes
  • Butter
  • Yellow onion
  • Garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Fresh basil
  • Shredded Parmesan or Romano

Crushing tomatoes by hand in a glass mixing bowl. Showing how to make marinara sauce.

How Make Marinara Sauce From Scratch

  • Crush tomatoes: Pour tomatoes into mixing bowl, then crush with your hands.
  • Saute aromatics: Melt butter in saucepan, then add diced onions and sauté until softened.

Sautéing onion and garlic in a large white pot.

  • Add garlic and sauté for a minute.
  • Add remaining sauce ingredients and simmer: pour in tomatoes and olive oil, then season with salt and add in fresh basil.

Adding crushed tomatoes and fresh basil to pot.

  • Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened.
  • Remove basil with tongs, then serve marinara sauce.

Marinara sauce in a pot after simmered.

Can I Add Meat?

You can definitely add ground beef or Italian sausage or even ground turkey to this recipe (about 1 lb total. Brown it first, then simmer with the sauce). If I do add meat, I usually cut the fats in half (1.5 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp olive oil).

Can I Freeze Marinara Sauce?

Yes, homemade marinara sauce freezes incredibly well for up to 3 months. I prefer freezing it in smaller jars so I can thaw exactly what I need in the future. It makes a delicious lunch!

To thaw marinara sauce, simply place it in your fridge overnight then reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.

What Should I Serve It With?

  • Pasta! (Any kind)
  • Cheese tortellini
  • Spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles
  • Chicken parmesan
  • Use it as a dip (for pizza, bread, breadsticks, garlic knots etc).

Mound of marinara sauce over spaghetti

Tips for the Best Marinara Sauce:

  • Use only fresh garlic, not bottled, for best flavor.
  • Use San Marzano tomatoes for best flavor. If you can’t find them, canned Roma tomatoes work too.
  • Fresh basil is highly recommended here. Dried basil has quite a different flavor and it won’t be as good.
  • Don’t skip the butter, just a few dabs adds a delicious light richness.
  • For more flavor, simmer it with a parmesan rind.
  • Add red pepper flakes if you like a little heat.
  • If you like a smooth sauce, puree with an immersion blender after simmering.

Marinara sauce served tossed with spaghetti, parmesan and fresh basil. Shown in a white pasta bowl.

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Marinara sauce tossed with spaghetti in a pasta bowl.
5 from 4 votes

Homemade Marinara Sauce

The best marinara sauce! It's so easy to make and it's so much better than the bottled stuff! Don't be tempted to omit the butter, it adds a delicious light richness to the sauce. Serve over spaghetti or tortellini for a simple, tasty dinner. Makes about 7 cups.
Servings: 8
Prep10 minutes
Cook35 minutes
Ready in: 45 minutes


  • 2 (28 oz) cans San Marzano Tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
  • 5 - 10 cloves garlic minced (depending on how garlicky you like it)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt, then more to taste
  • 4 sprigs (20g) fresh basil
  • Shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese and chopped basil, for serving


  • Pour tomatoes into a medium mixing bowl then crush all of the tomatoes well with your hands, set aside.
  • Melt butter in a large pot slightly over medium heat. Add onions and saute until softened, about 8 minutes. 
  • Move onions over to one side of the pan, add garlic to opposite side and saute 1 minute, or until lightly golden and fragrant. 
  • Pour in tomatoes and olive oil. Season with salt, add basil and submerge. 
  • Bring just to a light boil then reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce has reduced and thickened slightly, stirring occasionally, abou 15 - 25 minutes. 
  • Using tongs, remove basil and discard. Serve sauce warm with pasta and top with Parmesan or Romano cheese and basil.


  • Homemade marinara sauce freezes incredibly well. I prefer freezing it in smaller jars so I can thaw exactly what I need in the future. To thaw marinara sauce, simply place it in your fridge overnight. 
Nutrition Facts
Homemade Marinara Sauce
Amount Per Serving
Calories 154 Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Fat 11g17%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Cholesterol 11mg4%
Sodium 471mg20%
Potassium 469mg13%
Carbohydrates 13g4%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 6g7%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 740IU15%
Vitamin C 26.5mg32%
Calcium 88mg9%
Iron 2.4mg13%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.
Recipe originally published May, 2016. Photos have been updated.