This Italian marinara sauce is an iconic Sicilian marinara and a generational recipe that continues even today. This recipe, combined with quality ingredients, love, and time, is one of the best you'll find and certainly worth saving and sharing.
This marinara sauce combines perfectly with my stuffed shells with ground beef and ricotta cheese and my cheesy stuffed rigatoni pasta bake. It also goes great with my Italian meatloaf! True comfort food everyone will enjoy!
⭐ Why this recipe is the best
This is a comfort food site, and I'm not going to pretend this is the best marinara sauce in the world. Just know this is an authentic Mariana recipe that has passed from one generation to the next for many years.
My nonna would be proud to know I'm sharing this homemade marina sauce with you.
I promise this recipe is easy to make, tastes fantastic, and is superior to store-bought tomato sauce in every way. You'll come away with an amazing marina sauce everyone will enjoy with minimal effort. Check out my easy roasted red pepper sauce recipe that also pairs fantastic with any pasta dish.
You'll still need to set aside 3-4 hours required to cook down the tomatoes. For this reason, I recommend making a large batch so you can make an amazing pasta whenever you want.
Learn more about types of pasta sauce in my detailed collection.
💭 What is marinara sauce?
Italian Marinara Sauce
Originated in Naples- Italy, and it comes from the Italian word sailor (marinara).
The authentic marinara sauce in Italian is called sugo, which means using the end of the season (ripest) tomatoes.
Italian marinara sauce recipe is savory and robust and often referred to as "the sun and aroma of Italy on a plae." Italian cuisine is focused on the quality of the ingredients.
Sicilian Marinara Sauce
Sicilian cuisine comes from Sicily's island, influenced by Greek, Spanish, French and Arab cultures. This cuisine is primarily vegetable-based. Thus, Sicilian food is primarily all about vegetables!
Sicilian and Italian sauces originate from different regions of the country. None the less both of these sauces are savory and world-renowned and considered leaders when making pizza and pasta!
🍽 Ingredients notes
Quality ingredients are essential to this Italian marinara sauce; I recommend getting your hands on some San Marzano tomatoes grown in Agro Sarnese Nocerino, an area in Southern Italy.
And before you ask, yes, I prefer these over fresh tomatoes. However, don't fret over this, I've used more brands than I can count and even fresh tomatoes.
🍅 Can you use fresh tomatoes?
Yes, you can also use garden tomatoes. A plum variety tomato is the best for this marinara sauce recipe. Still, you can use other varieties (beefsteak, early girl, etc.). Ripe tomatoes are more much more flavorful.
When cooking garden tomatoes, you will need to add garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper to taste.
You can freeze this sauce, so this recipe is a great way to use up all those tomatoes that you have left in your garden in the fall.
🔪 How to make
Learn how to make this easy and delicious marinara sauce with step-by-step instructions or watch my video for a complete recipe walkthrough.
Melt the butter and the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat.
Add the garlic and onions, salt generously, and saute over medium heat for about 7 – 8 minutes. Cook and stir until the onion rings begin to lose their shape. They will be soft and translucent.
Add the tomatoes (with their juices) and bring to a simmer.
When simmering, reduce the heat and maintain a slow simmer for about two hours, stirring frequently.
Add the sugar, paste, and Italian herbs (if using dried herbs, add now, if using fresh basil, add about 10 minutes before blending). Stir well, and continue to simmer for about another hour.
Let the marinara cool a bit, then using an immersion blender, puree it right in the pan that you used to cook it until it is smooth. Be careful, it is hot!
📖 Easy recipe variations
- Tomatoes - In this marinara recipe, I prefer to buy San Marzano (a plum variety) tomatoes, but use whatever tomatoes you have on hand, including fresh tomatoes.
- Oils - If you don't have olive oil on hand, you can use canola, sunflower, or vegetable oil.
- Noodles - You can vary the dish by using different noodles for this recipe. Spaghetti is the most common noodle choice, but you can also use fettuccine, linguine, penne, or macaroni. Use whatever noodles on hand in your pantry.
- For a healthier alternative - try something different. Use spaghetti squash, zucchini, gluten-free pasta, or rice pasta. This option is a nice change to a carb-filled pasta.
- This sauce is already savory, but you can change it by adding different spices - mint, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, etc. Don't forget to add basil (fresh or dried). Basil and garlic are key to the flavor in tomato sauce recipes.
- Add red or green bell pepper to the recipe. If you add peppers, you need to dice and cook the pepper with the onion in this recipe.
Marinara freezes and reheats well, which makes it perfect for preparing a quick dinner for your family. All you need to do is cook the noodles and add the pasta sauce.
The prep time is minimal, so if you have it on hand or in the freezer, you can serve a delicious pasta dinner (with or without meatballs) to your family in less than 15 minutes total time.
This is a perfect solution when everyone is starving, and you need to make a quick dinner to serve your family.
I often use zip locks to store marinara sauce. Let it cool, fill the ziplock, seal properly, and freeze.
I typically lay them flat, let them freeze, and then stack them. To unthaw, it is easy to tear the ziplock open.
🙋 Frequently asked questions
What is the difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce?
Marinara and spaghetti sauce are the same thing. Marinara sauce is commonly known as spaghetti sauce in North America. Marinara is a simple tomato sauce made using san San Marzano tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, herbs, and Italian extra virgin olive oil. It does not contain any meat.
What can I use if I don't own a blender?
Not a problem. You can transfer the marinara sauce from the saucepan to a countertop blender. Remember, the sauce is hot off the stove, so be very careful when pouring the sauce into a countertop blender. You can also use a hand mixer for the job.
Can you use this marinara sauce for pizza?
Yes, add a touch of oregano to turn this into a fantastic marinara pizza sauce. I also recommend letting your sauce simmer longer, resulting in a thicker sauce for pizza.
🍳 Related Tomato Recipes
If you love my italian marinara sauce recipe. Try one of these fantastic easy recipes for your next meal.
👪 Serving size
This marinara sauce recipe makes 16 servings. In addition to using this easy-to-make sauce for pasta dishes, you can use it when making meatballs, pizza, chicken parmesan, lasagna, meatloaf, stuffed zucchini boats, or as a dipping sauce, to name a few.
Oh and don't forget my Ikea meatballs recipe, I'm sure these would be fantastic with a nice marinara sauce.
🎥 Watch how to make it
Italian Marinara Sauce
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 2 onions
- 6 garlic
- 6 cans whole Italian tomatoes - 14 oz cans of real San Marzano
- 2 tablespoon sugar - subsitute 1 carrot shredded
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste - Italian triple concentrate
- 2 tablespoon Italian herbs - increase based on preference
- Melt the butter and the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed sauce pot.
- When all the butter is melted, add the onions and garlic, salt well, and saute over medium heat for about 7 – 8 minutes, until the onion rings begin to lose their shape and soften.
- Add the canned tomatoes (with their juices) and bring to a simmer.
- When at simmering, reduce the heat and maintain a slow simmer for about two hours, stirring frequently.
- Add the sugar, tomato paste and Italian herbs (if using dried herbs add now, if using fresh, add about 10 minutes before blending), stir well, and continue to simmer for about another hour.
- Let the sauce cool a bit, then using a hand-held blender, puree until smooth.