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Marinara Sauce

The best marinara sauce is always a homemade marinara sauce. The flavors are bursting and fresh. And yet the recipe itself is so simple and easy – just 5 ingredients.

Marinara sauce adds vibrancy to any dish that it’s added to. It’s amazing on my Italian Meatloaf, Pork and Fennel Meatballs and Zucchini Noodles. And it’s great as a dipping sauce for veggies or my Baked Zucchini Fries.

Marinara sauce in a white bowl next to two spoons and fresh basil.

It’s time to make marinara sauce at home, my friends. I know it’s easy to grab a jar at the store but making it at home really does make a difference. Those simmering flavors meld together beautifully for a tomato sauce that’s enormously flavorful and super versatile in the kitchen.

If you’ve ever traveled Italy, you know why Italian recipes are such standouts. Most authentic Italian recipes 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.

Marinara Sauce Ingredients

While marinara sauce is a tomato sauce, not all tomato sauces are marinara sauce. Case in point, my bolognese sauce is a tomato sauce but not a marinara sauce, because it has meat. Make sense?

Marinara sauce is simple and made from a few key ingredients, including:

  • Crushed Tomatoes: Crushed tomatoes rather than whole tomatoes creates a smooth marinara sauce (which I prefer). But I’ll share some variations below.
  • Onion: One small onion that’s finely diced and sautéed adds natural sweetness and a beautiful aroma.
  • Garlic: I’m such a lover of fresh garlic and mince 4 garlic cloves in this recipe.
  • Thyme: Fresh thyme has a gentle yet pronounced flavor that screams Italian recipe, especially over a long simmer.
  • Basil: Fresh basil is delicate and sweet so added right at the end to maximize flavor.

Marinara sauce in a white bowl next to fresh basil.

How to Make Marinara Sauce

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

Here’s how you make this marinara sauce in three easy steps:

  1. Add the diced onion to a large pot with the olive oil and sauté until translucent. Then add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds more (you don’t want to add the garlic sooner as it can easily burn).
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt and thyme and simmer for 20 minutes. The sauce will slightly thicken and the flavors will meld together.
  3. 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 strongest right after it hits the heat) and enjoy!

Zucchini fries dipped in marinara sauce.

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 marina 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.

Marinara Sauce Recipe (1-Minute Video)

I hope you enjoy this marina sauce from scratch! And I’d love to hear what you make with it in the comments below.

For a healthy spin on more Italian recipes check out my Basil Pesto, Zucchini Noodle Caprese, Sweet Potato Gnocchi and Limoncello Prosecco.

Marinara sauce in a white bowl on a white tablecloth next to fresh basil.
5 from 7 votes
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Marinara Sauce (Only 5 Ingredients)

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan
Everyone needs an easy marinara sauce recipe. One that’s simple, yet flavorful. A marinara sauce that adds vibrancy to any dish that it’s added to. Here's what I think is the best marinara sauce recipe!
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  • 28 oz whole, peeled and crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, finely diced (approx 1 cup)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil


  • Heat the oil in a medium sized pot on high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds more.
  • 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.
  • Remove the sauce from the heat, stir in the basil and enjoy.

Lisa's Tips

  • This recipe makes approximately 4 cups of marinara sauce. 


Calories: 41kcal, Carbohydrates: 6g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 2g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 215mg, Potassium: 218mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 3.5%, Vitamin C: 14.7%, Calcium: 4%, Iron: 6.5%
Course: sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Best Marinara Sauce, How to Make Marinara Sauce, Marinara Sauce, Marinara Sauce Recipe
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This recipe was originally posted November 2014, but updated to include new information.