Marinara Sauce


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Nothing outshines a fresh batch of this homemade marinara sauce. Bonus — it’s super easy to make with just 5 simple ingredients! 

A big pot of homemade marinara sauce
Photo: Gayle McLeod

This is a friendly reminder to make your own marinara sauce! Sure, it’s easy to grab a jar at the store, but making it at home really does make a difference. The flavor is just… fresher. And fresher always equals better. 

In my homemade marinara sauce — tomatoes, onion, garlic, thyme, and basil meld together beautifully for an easy recipe that’s enormously flavorful and super versatile in the kitchen. Just check out my ways to use it below! 

Ingredients for marinara sauce on a table

Marinara Sauce Ingredients

The reason why I love Italian recipes so much is that they prioritize a handful of fresh, ripe, simple ingredients. It’s about celebrating the deliciousness that Mother Nature serves up with no fuss but tons of flavor! Here’s what you’ll need. 

  • Crushed Tomatoes: Crushed tomatoes rather than whole tomatoes create a smoother marinara sauce (which I prefer). But I’ll share some variations in the next section below.
  • Onion & Garlic: The ultimate aromatic duo to give your marinara sauce depth of flavor.
  • Thyme & Basil: Fresh thyme and basil have a gentle yet pronounced flavor that give a nod to the Italian roots of this recipe, especially over a long simmer.

Find the printable recipe with measurements below

The Best Tomatoes for Marinara Sauce

I prefer canned organic crushed tomatoes as they’re easy to find and make for a smooth sauce. Can you use canned whole tomatoes? Of course. If you use canned whole tomatoes just squish them between your hands or use a spatula to break them down while they cook. The texture will be a bit chunkier, but if that’s what you prefer, go for it.

You can also make marinara sauce from fresh whole tomatoes, it just takes a bit longer. Dice the tomatoes up and add them to your pot. They’ll take a bit longer to break down and you might want to use an immersion blender to make them smoother, but it’s always fun to see which texture you prefer best.

How to Make Marinara Sauce

The great thing about this recipe is that after the chopping is done, you have time to enjoy a glass of wine or aperol spritz while the marinara sauce simmers. And if we’re going to be true Italians with this recipe, we must relax and enjoy the process, right?

Cook the aromatics. Cook the onion with a bit of olive oil. Then add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Don’t cook for too long otherwise, the garlic can burn!

Cooking onions in a pot for marinara sauce

Add the tomatoes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, salt, and thyme, and let the sauce simmer for 20 minutes. The sauce will slowly start to thicken as you stir occasionally.

Marinara sauce ingredients in a pot

Stir in basil. Remove the sauce from the heat, stir in the basil (you don’t want to add it earlier as basil is delicate and its flavor is most potent right after it hits the heat), and enjoy!

Stirring basil into marinara sauce

Ways To Use Marinara Sauce

Meatballs with marinara sauce on a plate

Storage Tips

  • To store for the week: Make a batch to store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. I like to use these glass jars, but any container will work!
  • Freeze for later: If you plan to use this in the near future, you can freeze it for up to 3 months! When you’re ready to use, thaw it in the fridge overnight. 
A jar of marinara sauce

Marinara Sauce Recipe Video

For some visual guidance, watch how I make this marinara sauce in the video below!

More Classic Sauces

These homemade sauces are the key to elevating your meals! 

Once you make this marinara sauce, you’ll never buy them again! Give this recipe a whirl and let me know your thoughts and how you used it in the comment box below.

A white pot of homemade marinara sauce

Easy Marinara Sauce

5 from 36 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan


Nothing outshines a fresh batch of this homemade marinara sauce. Bonus — it’s super easy to make with just 5 simple ingredients!



  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 (28-ounce can) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, finely diced (approx 1 cup)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped


  • Heat the oil in a medium-sized pot on medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds more.
    Cooked onions in a pot for marinara sauce
  • Add the can of crushed tomatoes, salt and thyme. (Don't add the basil as it will overcook). Once the tomatoes have started to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the sauce has slightly thickened.
    A pot of marinara sauce ingredients
  • Remove the sauce from the heat, stir in the basil and enjoy.
    A big pot of marinara sauce

Lisa’s Tips

  • This recipe makes approximately 4 cups of marinara sauce. 


Calories: 56kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 0.3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 205mg | Potassium: 323mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 268IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 44mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Best Marinara Sauce, How to Make Marinara Sauce, Marinara Sauce, Marinara Sauce Recipe
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

This recipe was originally posted November 2014, but updated to include new information. 

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About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Hey, mine is simmering as I type. I’m putting mine over chicken parm. With a side of angel hair pasta. Thanks5 stars

  2. Can this be canned? If so, how long for a water bath? And how far up does it need to go on the jar? Thank you!

  3. I made this recipe for baked ziti with cheeses only…no meat.
    It is easy, Excellent! It was done in about 25 min, low simmer. Took it to a Pot Luck. Everyone enjoyed it.5 stars

  4. Really easy straightforward recipe to follow using ingredients already in cupboard and fridge. I did end up adding about a teaspoon of sugar just for balance. We had with arancini balls..delicious! Thank you for a yummy recipe5 stars

  5. I made it with just 3 fresh roma tomatoes so adjusted the ingredients, threw them in a food processor to create a purée. Also only had dried basil and thyme and added oregano. It still came out SO good! Idk if anyone has been to tapas restaurants and gets tomato bread as an app, this tastes JUST like that and I love tomato bread. I simmered it for 25 min, also forgot to sauté the onions and threw all the ingredients in the pot and then simmered. Put it on pita bread with fresh mozzarella and turkey pepperoni. Threw it in the toaster oven for 12 minutes. My new fave quick easy light dinner. Now just to get gluten free pita bread :) thank you!5 stars

  6. Lisa, I’m not sure I’ve ever written to say how much I appreciate your recipes. Simple to make and always healthy. I recommend you often to friends. My mother was Italian so I’ve made her Marinara Sauce all my married life, but this recipe is simple and comes out beautiful. Thanks for giving us healthy options and variations.5 stars

  7. This is not easy marinara sauce. Easy is made with the spices in your cupboard, NOT going to the store to buy a plethora of fresh vegetables.

    1. Easy also means good. There’s absolutely nothing difficult about using “fresh” anything. If you’d rather use dried, then do so. Just use about a third of what this recipe calls for. And, by the way, make sure you use “fresh” dried herbs.

    2. Since all these herbs grow in my backyard, it is easy to go pick a handful. But Lisa would tell you that dried herbs are always an option, so don’t sweat it. Use whichever you have.

    3. Jeffrey, Jeffrey, Jeffrey, it is easy, if you don’t have fresh, use dried, if that’s still to hard for you, I suggest you buy a bottle or two and keep them in your pantry , that’s easy too.

  8. Such a simple recipe and so good! I’ve used it over ground Beefalo and over chicken. Great way to get more vegetables.5 stars

  9. This was so simple and tasty that I made a double bath for the freezer. We’re pasta eaters so fresh marinara with lasagna or pasta always makes everything taste fresher. Love this recipe.5 stars

    1. Hi Deborah – I always recommend doing what’s best for your body, so if you need to omit the onions that’s what’s best!

  10. This marinara is delicious! I used 2 cans diced tomatoes and blended it (all i had) and used Italian seasoning instead of fresh thyme. I was afraid it was going to be too acidic so i added 1 tbsp sugar and will cut that in half next time. Another winner Lisa! Thank you!5 stars

    1. Hi Laura – I’m actually working on a roasted bell pepper sauce in the future! But yes, you can sub them, but they’d need to be blended.

    2. This recipe was simple and tasted great! I added fish pieces fir just a few minutes at the end and it was beautiful.
      Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  11. Hello! I am wondering what the recipe is for whatever it is you’re using to dip in the marinara sauce. Is that zucchini? Could you please share the recipe? Btw this marinara sauce is astounding!5 stars

  12. What is the best way to keep the sauce to use for different things in the future? Small mason jars in the freezer? Or can it or something and leave in the pantry or refrigerator? How long does it last in the refrigerator?5 stars

    1. Hi Kristen – If you are to keep this for future use, I would store in an airtight jar or freezer safe bag and place it in the freezer. Otherwise, if you store it in the fridge, it will last for up to 3-4 days :)

  13. Hi Lisa, this recipe is more a Neapolitan style tomato sauce (alla napoletana) as it has basil (the original one doesn’t have thyme). Sugo alla marinara is made with oregano.
    Both are delicious!

  14. I heard about this recipe for the first time and it seems interesting I am going to try this.5 stars

  15. We grow a garden just for sauce making. This year the garden consists of plum tomatoes, basil, oregano, garlic,  eggplant and onions. In NJ we harvest late summer/early fall and jar sauce for the year. 

    I agree, no sugar!  Fresh herbs keep the sauce from going bitter. 

    Your recipe is just the way we enjoy fresh sauce. 

    1. Oh, I’m so jealous! I want a sauce garden, that sounds amazing! Agree on not needing sugar in this recipe. I’m all about letting those fresh flavors shine. Enjoy!

  16. I always prefer home-made dips/sauce. The difference is pretty clear the moment it reaches ur mouth! Thanks for this pone!5 stars

  17. Thank you for sharing a simple and to the point sauce recipe, so glad to see that you have not added sugar to your sauce. Never in all of my Grandmother’s years did she use sugar to mask sour/bitter tomatoes. She used our homegrown tomatoes and they were always organic and right off the vine. In this day and age, there are some really good organic tomatoes that are so sweet and wonderful. Great recipe.5 stars

    1. Agree! You definitely don’t need sugar in marinara sauce and it’s amazing to me how many recipes call for it. If you use fresh ingredients it’s best to let those flavors shine! :)

    2. Could I use fresh tomatoes from my garden as a substitute for a jar of crushed bought tomatoes?

  18. I love this recipe for marinara sauce. So easy and with only a few ingredients. Perfect for dipping or over my pasta.5 stars

    1. Thanks Stephanie! It really is a versatile recipe and a great way to get a dose of healthy tomatoes and herbs on a variety of recipes. Enjoy!

  19. I love a good marinara sauce, it’s so simple and delicious to make! I’ll have to try your recipe soon, saved and pinned for later!5 stars

    1. Awesome! That’s great you pinned it so you have it for the future. I hope you enjoy the recipe Michelle!