Homemade Marinara Sauce

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This sauce is the foundation of so many amazing Italian dishes.

We use this amazingly flavorful classic Italian sauce so often, we usually double the recipe and then freeze what we don’t need. It puts your spaghetti and meatballs over the top and is also the perfect dipping sauce for fried mozzarella, calamari, or zucchini.

An overhead view of a large oval Dutch oven filled with fresh marinara with a wooden spoon inserted in the middle.

How To Make Homemade Marinara Sauce

This sauce only has six ingredients, and two of them are salt and pepper.

But, folks, it’s that simplicity that makes this creation sing in beautiful Italian arias.

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The Ingredients You Will Need

Just a quick swing by the grocery store to pick up a handful of ingredients is all you need to prepare this classic sauce.

Here’s What You’ll Need

Tomatoes – Canned San Marzano tomatoes are highly recommended. Make sure the can says “Certified.”
Oil – Olive oil is definitely the best
Garlic – You’ll use a lot of it, but it’s not too much, we promise
Herbs – Fresh basil and parsley are a must
Seasoning – Salt and pepper is all you need

A large glass bowl filled with Italian tomatoes in juice surrounded by a pepper grinder, an olive oil holder, parsley, garlic, and a container of salt.

Tips for Perfect Homemade Marinara Sauce

Lightly Brown the Garlic – You’ll be sautéing ¼ cup of minced garlic in a ¼ cup of olive oil. This may seem like a lot, but cook on medium-low for about 5 minutes, until the garlic is nice and golden, and the taste is mellowed. Whatever you do, don’t let the garlic burn! If it’s turning a dark brown, turn off the heat!

Mise en Place – After the garlic has turned a nice golden, it’s time to add the herbs and the salt and pepper. But they only cook for 30 seconds, and then it’s important to immediately start adding the hand-crushed tomatoes. If you don’t have everything ready to go (Mise en Place), then you run the risk of burning the herbs, and that’s not good.

Cool the Sauce – The marinara definitely gets better and better after it has time to sit and cool and for the ingredients to truly meld. After the simmering is done, let the sauce cool completely in the pot. If not using the same day, then place it in a container with a lid and refrigerate for up to 5 days. It just gets better with time!

EXPERT TIP: As the garlic is being sautéed, stir it frequently. If sticking to the end of your spoon or spatula, just use the edge of a knife to scrape it back into the pot. Remember, don’t let the garlic turn a dark, dark brown and burn! If this happens, you’ll need to start over.

An overhead view of an oval Dutch oven containing minced garlic that has been browned in olive oil with a wooden spatula off to the side.

How To Use Marinara Sauce

Homemade marinara sauce has so many purposes. It takes classic Italian dishes to the next level, but is also the perfect dipping sauce for appetizers, too.

Here are a few Italian dishes that absolutely are made even better with homemade sauce.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Baked Ziti
Lasagna Bolognese
Eggplant Parmesan
Shrimp Marinara
Pasta Pomodoro
Eggplant Rollatini with Ricotta
Chicken Parmigiana
Meatball Sub Sandwich
Sausage and Peppers Hero
Fried Calamari with Marinara

EXPERT TIP: Be sure to let the canned tomatoes drain completely before adding them to the pot. You’ll want to hold onto the liquid and add in during the final simmering of the sauce. It’s okay if some of the sauce goes into the pot with the tomatoes.

Tomato juice being poured from a glass measuring cup into a blue Dutch oven filled with simmering marinara sauce.

This sauce is so versatile and so authentically delicious, we often make a double batch and then freeze half of it for future use.

It freezes beautifully.

And did we mention how much it will elevate your favorite Italian dishes, including Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs? Just look at this!

A close-up view of a white bowl filled with a serving of spaghetti and meatballs with parmesan cheese shredded over the top.

Homemade marinara sauce is easy to prepare and it truly is a game changer for taking your Italian dishes to the next level.

Be sure to let the sauce cool off after simmering. It’s important to let those flavors meld.

And the smell in your house when the sauce is simmering is incredible.

A person lifting up a wooden spoon filled with homemade marinara over a Dutch oven filled with the same.

Ready to make the best Italian gravy this side of Tuscany? Go for it!

And when you do, be sure to take a photograph of it, post it on Instagram and tag @HowToFeedaLoon and hashtag @HowToFeedaLoon!

A person lifting up a wooden spoon filled with homemade marinara over a Dutch oven filled with the same.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Homemade Marinara Sauce is a must for when you want your favorite Italian dishes to be the very best they can be. The sauce can be made up to 5 days in advance and freezes beautifully.
4.73 from 11 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: how to make marinara sauce, Marinara, San Marzano
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 67kcal


  • 3 28 oz cans tomatoes whole, San Marzano are the best
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup garlic finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp basil fresh, chopped
  • 2 tbsp parsley fresh, chopped
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper


  • Drain the tomatoes in a colander set in a large bowl for 5 minutes. Reserve the tomato liquid.
    3 28 oz cans tomatoes
  • In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and cook it; stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until it is golden brown. It should turn golden brown, but don't let it burn!
    ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ cup garlic
  • Add the basil, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cook the mixture for 30 seconds.
    3 tbsp basil, 2 tbsp parsley, 1 tsp Kosher salt, ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Add just the tomatoes (not the juice...hold onto the juice). Break the tomatoes up with your hands as you add them to the pot.
  • Increase the heat to high, and cook them for 5 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the reserved tomato liquid.
  • Increase the heat to high and bring the sauce to a boil.
  • Boil if for 12 minutes, until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom to prevent burning.
  • Turn off the heat and let rest for at least an hour.


See the video near the top of the blog post for visual guidance. If you liked the video, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. 
Keep an eye on the garlic as you sauté it. You want it golden, but not dark brown or black. If this happens, you'll need to toss it and start again. Medium heat works well.
The prepared sauce will keep covered in the fridge for up to 5 to 6 days and will freeze beautifully for up to 2 months. 


Calories: 67kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 0.3g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 292mg | Potassium: 26mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 0.1g | Vitamin A: 127IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 11mg | Iron: 0.2mg
Tried this recipe? Take a Picture!Mention @HowToFeedALoon or tag #HowToFeedALoon!

POST UPDATE: This recipe was originally published in August 2014, but was updated with improved tweaks to the recipe with new tips and photography and a fabulous new video in March 2023! 



  • 5 stars
    This sauce is absolutely divine! I’ve been searching for a long while for the perfect marinara and this is it!
    I love serving with penne and Italian sausage, penne and pancetta, spaghetti and meatballs. I add a teaspoon of fennel seeds and it is wonderful!
    Thank you for this fabulous recipe!

    • Hi Jan! Yay! We are thrilled you are happy with the marinara sauce recipe! We make a batch quite often and freeze in smaller portions. It’s so versatile and really elevates so many classic Italian dishes. Sounds like your dishes are AMAZING! And we LOVE the addition of fennel! One of our favorite seasonings! Thank you so much for sharing and for the GREAT review. That honestly means so much to us! xoxo Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    Popping in to testify! This marinara is perfection. Truly. Made it for the eggplant rollatini recipe. I’m a bolognese kinda gal, but this was…wow! The taste, the aroma. And all with such nominal work and ingredients. Can’t wait to make more.

    • Hi Kelly! We are so so happy you “popped” in! We are even happier that you had such great success with the marinara! Isn’t it the best? And really puts that eggplant rollatini over the top! Thanks so much for sharing and for the GREAT review. That means so much to us! Please stay in touch! Best, Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    This is a WOW! Absolutely delicious! Lived in Bella Napoli (Naples, Italy) for three years. Learned to truly appreciate Italian sauces (marinara, bolognese, amatriciana, puttanesca, etc.). This is a keeper, so easy to make, and brought me back to … Bella Napoli!!!

    • Hi Mark!! We are so so happy you loved the marinara! We make big batches of it and freeze it all the time! Anything we can do to bring you back to Bella Napoli is what we live for (and we’re jealous, too!). Thanks as always for sharing and for the great review. You know how much that means to us! Kris & Wesley

  • Hey Kris…this is a great recipe made even better by using a pressure cooker to cook the sauce. The recipe doesn’t change, but the flavor does. I did 30 minutes o low pressure….spectacular!

  • Hi Kris, and Loon!
    My family is Irish and Italian. Grew up in Rhodesia Island and had tons of great home made Italian dishes, still good today. But your Marinara looks wonderful, I’ll fix a batch. How much sauce is in a single recipe? I want to cook more than one recipe so I can freeze some in Quart freezer bags.
    Thanks, Tom

    • Hi Tom! It makes about 1 quart. We often double it and freeze it in several freezer bags. Hope this helps and please let us know if you make the marinara and what you think! All the best, Kris & Wesley

  • Just made this, doubled your recepie, taste delicious, the only thing is that it has a acidity flavor, how can I correct it. Thank you!!!!

    • Sorry for the delayed response, Cristina! If you’re tasting some acidity, it’s most likely from the tomatoes. That actually will lessen as the marinara rests. If you still feel like it’s a little acidic, add a tsp or tbsp of sugar. That should help! Best, Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    This marinara is incredibly easy and tasty! The garlic was so fragrant I was crying (tears of joy!)!! I agree about the San Marzano tomatoes!
    It is melding on the stove currently!! Can’t wait for dinner tonight!!
    Thanks for sharing your recipes!

  • I plan to make this sauce tomorrow. It sounds delicious! Do you think the addition of fennel seeds would be okay? We happen to love fennel. If you could please advise that would be great.
    Thank you.


    • Hi Jan! So sorry for the delayed response! Yes! We LOVE the addition of fennel. I would recommend starting with a small amount first, maybe 1/2 tsp, then let it simmer some, do a taste test, and then add more if desired. We love fennel so much, too, but a little does go a long way. Hope this helps and please let us know how it turns out!! All the best, Kris & Wesley

    • So true, Bob!!! We go through this stuff like crazy. So good in so many recipes or on its own. Thank you so much for the 5 star review!! We truly appreciate that!!! Best, Kris & Wesley

  • 3 stars
    Hi! Been making my own sauce since I got married at 16….long time ago! ….and although I’m sure your marinara is wonderful, I have never known anyone….even among all my (italian) family who browns the garlic. It has always been to sauté until soft and fragrant. Really does make a difference. Please know that I’m enjoying reading your recipes and look forward to trying very many! Thank you for allowing me my input.

    • Hi Kim, I wish we could give you some good tips here, but honestly, we usually triple a batch and then freeze 2/3 in freezer-ready containers (Tupperware). We go through this marinara almost weekly!! Canning sounds great though (we could then sell it!!). Let us know if you make it and how it turns out, especially if you can it!! Best, Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    This is such a great and easy marinade! I’ve made it today to use in your eggplant parmesan tomorrow! Thank you!

  • Hi Kris! I’m so excited to make your marinara sauce, especially to go into your Baked Ziti recipe! My question is, how much does this marinara recipe yield? I’m planning to make more than one Ziti recipe (one to serve, one to freeze & give as a gift w/ cooking directions) so I don’t know how many marinara sauce recipes this will yield. Thank you!

    • Hi Carla!

      That all sounds wonderful! You’re going to be up to your ears Ziti! (which isn’t a bad thing, at all!). I would make two batches of the marinara. One batch makes about 10 cups, but I like to be pretty liberal when adding the marinara to the ziti, so if you’re doing three batches of ziti, you’ll need two rounds of the marinara. Sounds so great! Let us know how it all works out!! And let us know if you have any other questions. Best, Kris & Wesley

  • Thank You!! I’ve been looking for a homemade marinara sauce. Every time I’ve found a recipe that uses marinara the instructions have said to buy it. Arghhh. I can’t wait to try this one. So glad I found you guys today!

    • Hi Cindi!

      Great question, and we’ve updated the post to reflect this. I love breaking the tomatoes up by hand as I add them to the pot. I’ve always heard this is the best way to break up your tomatoes (as opposed to cutting them with a knife or food processor), and after all the years, I have to agree. Also, the tomatoes really start to break down as they coo. Thanks again, and let us know how it turns out! Kris & Wesley

    • I have not made this but trust your recipes. I have about 25 tomatoes that I just harvested. I would like to make this sauce and freeze it. Any suggestion would be appreciated. I know they are not Marzano tomatoes I will take that chance. Since they are not available in my area in can. Will skin be an issue. I am not going to remove.

      • Hi there! No, you won’t have an issue with leaving the skins on. Rather than cooking them whole, I would give them a rough chop and then follow the recipe as written. It may take the sauce a little longer to simmer on the stove for the tomatoes to break down. We like to purée the sauce at the end, either with an immersion blender or in your food processor, for a nice smooth sauce. But, chunky is good, too!! Let us know how it turns out! Nothing better than homegrown tomatoes!! Best, Kris & Wesley

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