This homemade marinara sauce is guaranteed to make your house smell like an Italian grandmother moved in and started cooking for you.
This recipe for marinara sauce includes red wine, garlic, onions, crushed red pepper, Italian herbs, and plenty of fresh basil and parsley. The sauce requires only about 15 minutes of hands-on time but should simmer for at least 2 hours. Or, cook it in the Instant Pot in for homemade marinara in under an hour.
"WOW!! Oh my gosh. I am (what I consider to be) a fairly decent at-home chef of sorts. I had a previous sauce recipe that I had stuck with for several years. It was my staple. I had a feeling to switch it up while I was making lasagna today, and boy am I glad I did!! PLEASE - do yourself a favor and try this sauce! It blows every store bought sauce out of the water and seriously explodes with flavor every bite. I cannot thank the author enough for publishing this. Everyone who has tried it LOVED it and it really stepped by cooking game up when making Italian dishes. Thank you again! Incredible recipe!!!! Seriously drooling for more just talking about it!" -Elke
I know of no better way to draw my family (and probably at least a couple of my neighbors) to the dinner table than with a big pot of this classic homemade marinara sauce simmering away on the stovetop. It will make your house smell sooooo good.
It’s incredibly rich and thick, and packed with flavor that’s both complex and comforting. While a long simmer builds maximum flavor, making this homemade marinara sauce is super simple to prepare. Make it once and you may never go back to store-bought pasta sauce!
Ingredients Needed to Make This Recipe
- Yellow onions. Yellow onions are my favorite kind of onions to use in marinara sauce because their flavor is not overpowering and they add a subtle sweetness to the sauce.
- Fresh garlic.
- Dried Italian seasoning. Use any kind of dried Italian seasoning blend like this one from McCormick.
- Crushed red pepper flakes. Use as much or as little red pepper to add the level of heat that's perfect for you.
- Salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Salt and pepper are a given, but what's up with the sugar? Adding a small amount of sugar to this sauce brightens the flavor of the canned tomatoes giving the sauce a stronger sun-ripened-fresh-tomato flavor.
- Extra virgin olive oil.
- Canned crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, or whole San Marzano plum tomatoes
- Dry red wine. I usually use Chianti, but Cabernet, Merlot, and Cab Franc are also good choices. Choose a wine that's good enough to drink not only because you might actually want to drink the rest of the bottle but because the flavor of the wine will influence the flavor of the sauce for better or for worse.
- Worcestershire sauce. The "secret" ingredient in this marinara sauce! Worcestershire adds a level of complex umami flavor to marinara. It's one of the reasons this sauce is so good!
- Fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley and basil. Handfuls of fresh herbs added at the end of cooking give this sauce a bright, fresh flavor.
Which Tomatoes are Best for Marinara?
I almost always use canned tomatoes to make marinara because canned tomatoes are always "in season" and they cut down on prep time significantly. There are two kinds of canned tomatoes I like to use in marinara: fire-roasted crushed tomatoes and San Marzano whole plum tomatoes.
Crushed tomatoes require nothing more than opening the can and dumping them into the saucepan. They will create a smooth sauce without any chunks. I usually use crushed tomatoes when making meatballs in marinara, classic lasagna with sausage, or when I plan to use the sauce to make homemade pizza.
Whole tomatoes create a chunkier sauce, something I prefer when making Ricotta Stuffed Shells or when I plan to do nothing more with this sauce than ladle it over bowls of fresh homemade pasta. When using whole tomatoes, use your hands to squeeze the tomatoes with your hands to break them up.
How to make Marinara with Fresh Tomatoes
The easiest way to prep fresh tomatoes for marinara is to grate them. Here's what to do:
- Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally.
- Squeeze out the seeds and discard. (You can also opt to leave the seeds in the sauce.)
- Press the cut side of the tomato against the large holes of a box grater and grate tomato flesh into a bowl. Discard the leftover skins or save them for your next batch of homemade vegetable stock.
- Proceed with the recipe as written, using the grated tomato flesh in place of the canned tomatoes.
You'll need about 18 pounds of tomatoes to make a full batch of this marinara sauce recipe. But, the recipe is easy to scale up or down based on how many tomatoes you have.
- 5 pounds of tomatoes = about 4 cups of grated tomato flesh
- This recipe calls for four 28 ounce cans of tomatoes which equals 14 cups
- So, for 14 cups of grated tomato flesh, you'll need about 18 pounds of tomatoes
- To cut this recipe in half, you'll need about 9 pounds of fresh tomatoes
How to Make Marinara on the Stovetop
Add the onions, garlic, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, sugar, salt, and pepper to the bowl of a food processor.
Process the vegetables and herbs until everything is very finely chopped.
Cook the herbs and vegetables in some olive oil to release all their flavors and soften the garlic and onion.
Add about ¼ of the tomatoes and let them cook down until they are dark red and concentrated.
Add the red wine, Worcestershire sauce, and the rest of the tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer for 1 ½ - 2 hours.
Tip: Partially cover the pan to allow excess water to evaporate AND prevent sauce from splattering out of the pan and making a mess of your kitchen.
After the sauce has been simmering for a while, it will be thicker and much darker in color. Taste it and add more salt and pepper if you like.
Stir in the fresh herbs and the sauce is now ready to serve!
How to Make Marinara in the Instant Pot
For easy marinara sauce in under an hour without sacrificing the flavor of a long, slow stovetop simmer, make it in the Instant Pot! Here's how:
Follow steps 1-3 in the recipe card to chop the veggies in the food processor, cook them, then add some of the tomatoes and cook them down a bit. BUT, instead of using a saucepan use a 12-inch skillet.
Scrape that mixture into the bowl of your Instant Pot and add the wine, the rest of the crushed tomatoes, and the Worcestershire sauce.
Cook the sauce at high pressure for 30 minutes with a natural release.
NOTE: You can use the sauté setting on your instant pot to cook the veggies and tomato sauce instead of doing it in a skillet on the stovetop. I usually prefer to use the stovetop to sauté instead of my instant pot because the stovetop gives me much greater control over temperature. But, either one will work!
Taste for seasoning and dinner is served!
Yes! Use a dry white wine that's crisp and clean like a sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio.
If you'd like to make marinara sauce without adding any wine, just leave it out and proceed with the rest of the recipe as written. There's no need to replace it with anything.
Feel free to increase this recipe for as much marinara sauce as your pot will hold!
One word of caution if you're cooking this sauce in an Instant Pot: One recipe is the maximum amount that a standard size Instant Pot will hold so if you want more than 11 cups of sauce, make it in successive batches.
Yes! Add the meat with the onion mixture in step #2, cooking it until it's browned, then proceed with the recipe.
Another option is this recipe for Bolognese Sauce - a tomato-based sauce packed with ground beef and bacon.
Yes! Follow the recipe to cook the chopped vegetables and one can of tomatoes in a skillet on the stovetop. Scrape that mixture into the bowl of your slow cooker, and add the wine, the rest of the crushed tomatoes, and the Worcestershire sauce. Cook the sauce on low for 4-6 hours.
Yes! Add a teaspoon or two of dried basil and parsley along with the Italian Seasoning. Or, sometime supermarkets will have basil or parsley paste - fresh herbs that are concentrated and in a tube. It's usually in the produce section in the same area where they stock small containers of fresh herbs. If you're using the paste, add about a tablespoon, taste, and add more if you like.
Yes! Make sure to sterilize jars and lids and then fill the jars while the sauce is hot, leaving about ¼ of an inch of space at the top of the jar. Process the jars submerged in boiling water for at least 45 minutes.
I usually set the jars upside down on a kitchen towel after removing them from the boiling water. This may not be necessary but it is a bit of added insurance that the jars will seal.
How to Store and Freeze Marinara Sauce
This recipe makes quite a bit of sauce in the hopes that you'll have some left over. The sauce will keep well in the refrigerator for up to a week and will freeze for up to 3 months.
Besides dressing up a plate of pasta, there are so many delicious ways to use homemade marinara - see the list of delicious recipes below???
So, in my mind, having leftover marinara is the goal.
- Store marinara in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. One word of caution - this sauce will stain certain containers so if that matters to you, store it in a glass bowl or zip-top bag.
- Store marinara in the freezer for up to 3 months. I usually portion it out into freezer bags, adding about 3 cups of sauce per bag. Allow the sauce to thaw in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter top for 4 or 5 hours. You can speed up the process by defrosting it in the microwave or by heating it on low heat in a saucepan. If thawing/ heating in a saucepan, stir it frequently to ensure the bottom of the sauce is not burning.
Ways to Use Marinara Sauce:
My favorite way to use marinara sauce is spooned over homemade spaghetti noodles with a generous sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese. But, here are some other delicious recipes that include marinara:
- 2 large yellow onions, peeled and cut into quarters
- 12 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 4 tablespoons of dried Italian seasoning
- 1 - 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper (depending on how spicy you want your sauce to be)
- 1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt (more to taste)
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground black pepper (more to taste)
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Four 28-oz cans of crushed tomatoes OR whole peeled San Marzano plum tomatoes
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ¾ cup chopped fresh basil
- Add the onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, sugar, salt, and pepper to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Pulse until the ingredients form a paste.
- Heat olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion mixture to the hot oil and cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes.
- Add one of the cans of crushed tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently, until thick and darkened in color – 5-10 minutes.
- Stir in the wine, the rest of the crushed tomatoes, and the Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil and cook, partially covered to avoid splatters, over medium low heat for an 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Stir in the fresh parsley and basil.
- Homemade marinara sauce can also be made in the Instant Pot! Scroll up for instructions.
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Serving Size:About 1 ⅓ cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 268Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1281mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 10gSugar: 21gProtein: 8g