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.
4.70 from 10 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! 



    • Hi Donna! So very sorry for the delayed reply! You could do it in a slow-cooker. I would sauté the garlic in the oil, add the basil and parsley with the salt and pepper, and then transfer it, along with the remaining ingredients and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours, or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours. Let us know if you try it and how it turns out!

    • You just made our day, Sue! Woo hoo!!! So so happy you are enjoying the marinara recipe! We LOVE it, too, and do the same with freezing, as well! It’s great for so many classic recipes! Thanks for sharing and for the wonderful review! That means the world to us!! Best, Kris & Wesley

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