Welcome to Italian Cuisine 101, where we’re going back to basics with my marinara sauce recipe!
We live in a golden age of make-ahead-friendly ingredients, and I know what you’re thinking: “Kathleen, store-bought marinara tastes fine! Why would I bother making my own?”
One word: freshness.
Actually, another word too: versatility. And taste. And ease. And–
Okay, there are a lot of reasons to give pasta sauce recipes a try. I promise homemade marinara sauce recipe isn’t as daunting as you think. This will be your favorite sauce to partner to your pasta recipes!
Let’s get started!
I’ll admit; I love store-bought sauce. It’s just so convenient, right? A delicious Italian dinner with one twist of a lid. If you’re pressed for time, store-bought might still be the way to go — but if you have a little over an hour, I can give you homemade marinara sauce recipe heaven!
- Preps in a snap!
- Adaptable for all tastes
- Easy to make
- Simple but impactful flavor
From garlic to tomatoes, bay leaves to olive oil, this marinara sauce recipe incorporates nearly every Italian staple. But how these different components come together into a zesty, acidic sauce? I’m glad you asked!
Does that say carrot? Indeed, this recipe includes carrots! You’ll see carrots as a staple in many marinara sauces. They add a sweet twist alongside the tomato’s tartness, as well as pumping up the nutrient quota.
Some people say that the carrot helps tone down the acid in the tomato, but actually, most tomatoes nowadays have been naturally selected to have low acidity. If you still want to drop that acid content, the only surefire way to do so is with baking soda.
Seasoning: Fresh out of Italian seasoning? Whipping together your own is easy — and it cuts the yucky preservatives that can hide in store-bought packets. Pull together equal parts of basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, and rosemary to get your tastebuds dancing!
Veggies: Want more than carrots in your marinara sauce? I love pumping up the veggies whenever I can. Grate some fresh zucchini (but be sure to drain the excess liquid) and add it in with the carrots, or chop some mushrooms and add them in as well. Yum!
Storing Tips for Italian Marinara Sauce Recipe
I’m sure many of you see a marinara sauce recipe and think “Oh, it must be perfect for canning, just like Grandma used to do!” Well, I am heartbroken to say that this is actually not a canning-friendly recipe.
Remember when I mentioned how most tomatoes nowadays are low acidity? That means that if you can them, the acid levels won’t be high enough to nullify the risk of botulism. If you’re looking for a canning-friendly marinara sauce recipe, you’ll want to make sure to find a recipe that specifically states it was designed to be canned and has an added boost of acid, whether from lemon juice or vinegar.
But! This doesn’t mean that my marinara sauce Recipe is entirely storage-unfriendly. Far from it!
Can You Freeze This?
Yes, indeed! Be careful what type of container you use, though — if you want to freeze your marinara sauce in glass jars, be sure to leave about an inch of space near the top to allow for expansion.
But if you’re the kind of person who only wants to use small servings of marinara sauce at a time (for dips or individual-sized portions), one fun trick is to portion out your sauce into muffin tins or ice cube trays. Freeze, then pop them out and store the cubes in Ziploc bags. You’ll have smaller portions of marinara sauce ready and waiting!
Marinara Sauce Recipe Easy Make Ahead Tips
The actual prep for this recipe happens in a flash — but if you want to really get ahead of the game, pre-chop your veggies and garlic, and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
You can also make a big batch of homemade Italian seasoning (see above) and store it in an airtight container on your spice rack!
How Long Can You Keep This In The Fridge?
Once made, the marinara sauce will last you about 3-4 days in the fridge. The tomatoes, though low in acidity to be canned, will sustain safety in the fridge’s cooler temperatures.
My favorite part — customization! Get those inspirational wheels turning, and let’s dive in to make this marinara sauce recipe your own.
Can I Make Marinara Sauce Recipe Fresh Tomatoes Instead?
Yes! Got a tomato plant growing in your garden? Chop up some of that fresh fruit and add it in lieu of the canned, crushed tomatoes. For conversion, one 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes equals about 10-12 whole tomatoes.
Keep an eye out on your cooking time — since there’s extra water in fresh tomatoes, you may need to increase the simmering time, depending on how thick/thin you like your sauce.
What Other Tomato Based Pasta Sauce I Can Try?
One Italian classic sauce, bolognese, is so close to marinara that only one ingredient separates them: meat! To transform your sauce into bolognese, add ground beef or ground pork, and dig in!
Another sauce that is close to marinara is lasagna sauce. What separates these two is cream — this sauce is traditionally enhanced by the addition of heavy cream or some kind of soft, meltable cheese, like ricotta.
See? With the ability to make the marinara sauce recipe at home, you have three Italian sauce staples within your reach!
Can I Add Alcohol?
Now we’re cooking!
White wine pasta sauce is one of my favorites. Make sure to add the wine near the beginning to fully cook out the alcohol. Or opt for vodka sauce pasta, another yummy Italian classic, by adding not only vodka but heavy cream as well. Serve me up a plate, please!
Can I Add Cream Or Cheese In This Sauce?
Absolutely! Cream sauce for pasta is heaven on a plate. Adding a splash of heavy cream (okay, maybe more than a splash…) towards the end of cooking will bring a creamy twist to your sauce. Or go for a cheese sauce for pasta by adding grated parmesan near the end of cooking. Either way, you’ve got a winner!
Can I Omit The Tomatoes In This Recipe?
Not feeling tomatoes at all? Never fear — where there’s a craving, there’s a recipe!
Try a simple butter sauce for pasta. It’s as easy as it sounds, usually consisting of just butter, garlic, salt, and pepper. Oftentimes, you’ll find toasted sage leaves add a delicious pop!
Or spring for olive oil pasta sauce, which is even easier, and also tastes great on salads!
Marinara Sauce Recipe
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup carrot, finely grated
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, with juices
- 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
- 3 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup water
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion and saute, over medium-high heat, until soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add the grated carrot, salt, and pepper and saute until soft. Reduce the heat to low and add the garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer on low, uncovered, until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Thin, if need, by adding water.
- Remove bay leaf. Adjust seasoning and serve.
You’ve conquered the most basic of all Italian recipes, the marinara sauce! What’s next, you ask? Well, moving on to Italian Cuisine 102, we have:
- Lemon Pasta Sauce – a light, citrusy sauce!
- Pesto Sauce – if you love basil!
- Alfredo Sauce – creamy, all-time favorite sauce
- Carbonara Sauce – the sauce for all ages
- White Sauce For Pasta – the sauce for all season
Put it on noodles. Simmer it with meatballs. Use it as a dip for crusty bread. However you eat it, marinara sauce recipe is delicious — and being able to make it at home opens up a world of possibilities! Peel that garlic, open that bottle of wine, and indulge your Italian dreams.
What’s your favorite way to eat marinara sauce? Let me know in the comments!