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November 27, 2023

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Rich with olive oil and garlic, homemade marinara sauce is meant to come together quickly, making it an everyday pleasure that’s well within reach.


cooked egg noodles in a bowl topped with homemade marinara sauce and basil

The Best Marinara Sauce Recipe Is One That Comes Together Quickly

You know we love to keep store-bought marinara in the pantry. Without it, many of our favorite 10-minute dinner recipes would not be possible. But when we’re craving a bowl of pasta with marinara sauce, we actually prefer to make the sauce from scratch. It’s quick—you’ll be surprised that from start to finish, this sauce only takes about 30 minutes! Our homemade marinara sauce recipe is one of those simple recipes that can make anyone feel accomplished in the kitchen because it feels like restaurant-quality pasta sauce. There’s no real trick to it, just a few classic Italian ingredients and about 20 minutes on the stove, and you’ve got yourself a simple supper that really satisfies. Plus! This marinara sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge, or in the freezer for up to three months. That way you can have it on hand next time you want to quickly whip up Braised Chickpeas with Chard or Chicken Parmesan.

Homemade Marinara Sauce in a jar with fresh basil and a spoon

What Is Marinara Sauce?

And while we’re at it, what is the difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce? Is there one? Yes! Fresh, classic marinara sauce is not to be confused with spaghetti sauce (also known as Sunday sauce or Sunday gravy), which is defined by and requires a long, slow cooking time. In contrast, classic southern Italian marinara sauce doesn’t need a laundry list of ingredients or an all-day cook time. Rather, true marinara should be the very definition of tomato-forward simplicity—most agree that it shouldn’t even have onions in it, and definitely not butter or meat. Does marinara sauce have chunks of tomatoes? Luckily, marinara doesn’t have a lot of rules, and you can leave the tomatoes on the chunkier side or crush them with a spoon so the sauce is fairly smooth. Marinara should vibrate with the fresh, sweetness of tomatoes at their peak (more on that in a minute), and that freshness means that you don’t want to cook it for a long time—just long enough to let the flavors meld.

Fresh basil, crushed tomatoes, salt, sugar, Italian seasoning, garlic and olive oil for homemade marinara sauce

You Only Need 6 Simple Marinara Sauce Ingredients, So Make ‘Em Count!

While you might think that the best marinara sauce would be made from fresh tomatoes (and maybe at the very peak of tomato season, that’s true) our marinara recipe calls for canned tomatoes because they’re reliably good, easy to keep on hand, and using canned tomatoes means you can make this sauce anytime you want! Plus, canned tomatoes are picked and preserved at the very peak of their ripeness, so they’re sweet and acidic and all of the good things that we want the tomatoes for our marinara to be. If you’re going all in on your homemade marinara sauce, we suggest looking for San Marzano tomatoes at the grocery store. This is an Italian variety of tomatoes prized for their sweetness. Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make this easy pasta sauce:

  • Extra virgin olive oil. Homemade marinara sauce is one of the few examples of a recipe where, even though the oil is cooked, you want to use good-quality extra virgin olive oil. Because the sauce only cooks for about 20 minutes, and because it calls for quite a lot of oil, the flavor of the olive oil really defines this simple sauce.

  • Fresh garlic. And lots of it!

  • Canned, crushed tomatoes. Use a good-quality canned, crushed tomato—there’s a lot of variation brand-to-brand, and in a recipe like this where the tomatoes are the star, quality really matters. While we’re often big fans of the fire-roasted varieties, marinara sauce is not the place for those. For homemade pasta sauce, just get a big can (or jar) of classic, plain, crushed tomatoes.

  • Fresh basil.

  • Dry herbs. Either Italian seasoning or a blend of dried oregano and thyme.

extra virgin olive oil and roughly chopped garlic in a pot
canned crushed tomatoes, fresh basil, salt, Italian seasoning, garlic and olive oil in a large sauce pan
canned crushed tomatoes, fresh basil, salt, Italian seasoning, garlic and olive oil mixed together in a large sauce pan
Homemade Marinara Sauce in a pot with a wooden spoon

How to Make Marinara Sauce

If you’re new to making tomato sauce from scratch, you might be surprised to learn just how incredibly easy it can be. Most of the ingredients come right from the pantry, and you won’t need any special equipment—in other words, this is a nearly-effortless marinara sauce recipe you can make just about anytime, anyday. Here’s how to make pasta sauce magic!

  1. Quickly warm the fresh garlic in the olive oil—for about 30 seconds, or until you can smell its beautiful scent.

  2. Carefully add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, Italian seasoning and fresh basil. We don’t call for any spice, but if you want to add a little heat, toss in a pinch of red pepper flakes or Italian seasoning here.

  3. Simmer the sauce for about 20 minutes, until the flavors have unified and it has thickened a bit. If you want to serve it immediately with pasta, this is the time to boil your pasta of choice.

  4. Take out the basil leaves—this is easiest to do if you’ve left them on the stalk—and adjust the salt to taste.

  5. Serve! Or cool and refrigerate or freeze for the next time you get a red sauce craving. How long will homemade marinara last in the fridge? We suggest using homemade marinara sauce stored in the fridge during the week after it was made. It can be stored in the freezer for up to three months. Future you will be so happy that you put some away in the freezer!

Homemade Marinara Sauce being stirred in a pot with basil
Homemade Marinara Sauce in a pot

Homemade Marinara Sauce, That’s Amore!

We think that a bowl of noodles covered in marinara sauce is a meal in itself, but if you’re wondering what to serve with homemade marinara sauce, we’ve got some ideas. Start your meal with a platter full of Roasted Red Peppers, or Italian Chopped Salad. Then move on to a pasta dish featuring the homemade marinara sauce. If you’re following the courses of a traditional Italian meal, you will serve a secondo, or second course, after the pasta. Grilled meat like our Grilled Rib Eye Steak with Italian Salsa Verde or simple Baked Salmon would both make a great second course. Vegetables are often served as side dishes, or contorno, and Roasted Zucchini with Parmesan or Roasted Asparagus are both simple and delicious options. You could also use this marinara sauce in any of our pasta recipes that call for jarred sauce, like Easy Stuffed Pasta Shells, Baked Rigatoni, Spaghetti and Meatballs or Vegetable Lasagna. And this Meatball Sub Sandwich would definitely love a dose of homemade marinara.

Homemade Marinara Sauce in a bowl with a spoon and fresh basil

Tools You’ll Need:

More Delicious Tomato Sauce Recipes to Try

Now that you have homemade marinara sauce under your belt, we encourage you to try these other sauces from our recipe collection:

cooked egg noodles topped with Homemade Marinara Sauce in a bowl with basil

We’re So Proud Of You!

Look at you, making marinara sauce from scratch! You’re just like a real Italian nonna! This sauce is such an easy win (and you know we love those), and we’re dying to hear how you like it. If you make it, let us know how you like it! Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

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Homemade Marinara Sauce

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  5 min
  • Cook Time:  25 min
  • Calories: 129


  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or roughly chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ¼ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves


  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once the oil is glistening, add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar, salt, Italian seasoning, and basil leaves.

  2. Increase the heat to medium high and bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 20-30 minutes. Discard basil leaves, taste and season with salt.

  3. Use immediately or cool completely and store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories129
  • Protein3 g
  • Carbohydrates11 g
  • Total Fat10 g
  • Dietary Fiber3 g
  • Cholesterol0 mg
  • sodium274 mg
  • Total Sugars1 g

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Alena

    Do you think I can half this recipe, if I only have a 14 ounce can of crushed tomatoes? Would the cook time change?

    Yes, you can definitely half the recipe. The cook time should be the same. I recommend using a smaller sauce pan.

  • Christopher

    This sauce (we call it Napoletana in South Africa) is superb! Over pasta or as a base for Bolognese, and it is especially good with TMP’s Eggplant Parmesan (or Parmigiana di Melanzane)

    Thanks Christopher, we are so glad you loved it!

  • Linda

    This is a great sauce that cooks up in a matter of minutes. No need to ever buy bottled marina again.

    Thanks Linda, that is so great to hear!

  • Jenn

    This was AMAZING! I can't believe how fast and simple it was to make such a great sauce. The fresh basil was so good in it. I served it over penne noodles.

    Thanks Jenn, we are so happy you loved it!