A few simple ingredients come together to make an Italian staple and this is our easy recipe that you will end up making over and over again. With a rich tomato flavour, you just need a few cupboard staples to make this Marinara recipe. A really good homemade marinara is something that everyone should know how to cook and it's perfect with spaghetti, or any recipe that calls for a jar of pasta sauce.
This marinara is the base to so many of our recipes - it’s a staple in our kitchen. If we are making pizza, this goes on the base. Making a lasagna? This is the sauce! Most of the time we just stir it through some spaghetti for a really easy meal. It is so simple to make, it's ready in under 30 minutes and it freezes well too.
I have actually been making versions of this recipe since way back in my student days, because it is so cheap. We have made a few changes to it since then, that make it a little less student budget friendly, but it tastes better for it. Once you start making your own marinara, you will never buy a jar of it again.
Why should you try it?
- Easy - This marinara is so easy to make. All done in one pan and the flavours come together to make the most incredible sauce.
- Cheap - Although it is worth spending a bit more money on some good quality canned tomatoes, making a marinara yourself is still cheaper than buying a jar of it. Plus, you get to control exactly what goes in it, so it can be lower in salt and sugar.
- Adaptable - Use this as a base and then adapt it to suit your own tastes. You can play around with different herbs or even add some red chilli flakes for a spicy kick.
- Versatile - There is SO much that you can do with this marinara. Basically, anything that you would do with a jar of pasta sauce. We have lots of suggestions below.
- Olive oil - This is what the shallots and garlic will be softened in. You could also use butter, which adds a rich flavour, or use a mixture of the two.
- Shallots - These add a nice sweetness to the sauce. You can really finely dice them so they are more hidden, or you can keep them chunkier if you prefer more texture. You could swap them for a small brown onion.
- Garlic - Freshly crushed is always best, however you can save some time and use crushed garlic from a jar. If you are crushing it yourself, then make sure that it is really finely crushed, almost like a paste, to ensure even distribution in the marinara.
- Basil - Tomato and basil is the perfect combination. Make sure to only stir the fresh basil in right at the end, to keep maximum flavour.
- Canned tomatoes - This is the star of the recipe, so it's important to use the best quality you can. Cheap tomatoes tend to be really watery and don't have much flavour and you don't want a watery marinara. If you are using a cheaper tin of tomatoes, then add a little tomato puree (paste) and a pinch of sugar.
- Oregano - Dried oregano adds lots of flavour to the marinara. You could use dried basil if you prefer, or a combination of the two.
- Balsamic vinegar - This just intensifies the sweetness of the tomatoes and it is a delicious flavour combination. Try to use the best quality balsamic you can, as it will have a much nicer flavour.
- Salt and pepper - We used crushed sea salt and black pepper. Season to taste, but it does need a generous pinch of salt.
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
Step by step
One: Add a glug of olive oil to a large pan and add the shallots and garlic and cook on low for 4 minutes, until the shallots have softened.
Two: Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, oregano and salt and pepper and mix well.
Three: Simmer for 10 minutes and then stir in the chopped basil before serving.
Health benefits of tomatoes
Because of the tomatoes, this dish is bursting with goodness. Tomatoes, which are mainly a carbohydrate with some fibre, are packed full of vitamins, including beta-carotene (which becomes vitamin A when consumed), vitamins C and E, and some B vitamins and vitamin K. They also contain some calcium and magnesium.
Tomatoes are also a good source of potassium, which has been shown to be associated with lower risk of stroke and heart disease. Tomatoes also contain a compound called lycopene, which gives them their red colour, which research shows has the potential for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
This is a really simple recipe and that is what we love about it. But, there are a few ways that you can adapt it. Some people add capers and olives to theirs, others add spices. If you want to add a depth of flavour, then a glug of really good red wine will take the marinara to the next level.
If you want to make a spicier version of this, then stir in some red chilli flakes. Or why not try our Penne Arrabbiata?
It’s a base sauce that you can add so many different ingredients to, to make a different pasta sauce every time. Use this as a guide, adjust to suit your own tastes and perfect your very own marinara recipe that you can pass down the generations in your family. Isn’t that what cooking is all about?
What to serve with Marinara
There is so much that you can do with this marinara. We like to keep it simple and mix it with some spaghetti and top with some Parmesan. But you can also use it as a pizza sauce. Why not try our Easy Pizza Toast, Tortilla Pizza, or Flatbread Pizzas?
We also love it as a dipping sauce for our Cheesy Garlic Bread.
Store: This sauce will keep really well in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Freeze: Marinara freezes really well. We like to put it in to freezer ziplock bags (once fully cooled) and then lay them flat in the freezer. You can also freeze small portions in ice cube trays, which are good for kids meals.
Defrost: Defrost over night in the fridge.
Reheat: To reheat, we add the marinara to a pan and heat through on a low heat until piping hot.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, this is a vegan recipe.
Yes, this sauce is gluten free. Just make sure that there is no cross contamination.
It is said to have originated in southern Italy, in either Naples or Sicily. It wouldn't have been invented until at least the 16th century, which is when tomatoes, a New World food, arrived in Europe.
This recipe differs from our Easy Tomato Pasta Sauce, as this is a chunkier sauce. Our tomato pasta sauce is made using passata, which is much smoother. This sauce also takes a little longer, but the longer cooking time is definitely worth it for a more intense flavour sauce.
To make a creamy version of this sauce, you can stir in some double cream and parmesan a couple of minutes before serving.
Fresh tomatoes wouldn't work for this recipe, as you would first need to turn them in to crushed tomatoes by blanching, peeling and then cooking them down, which would add a lot of time on to the cooking.
• If you want a sweeter pasta sauce, then add a pinch of sugar to it.
• If you wanted to hide some vegetables in to this sauce, then roast up some bell peppers, carrot and courgette and then you can blend it with the sauce. You could also grate some courgette in to the marinara.
• Make this sauce indulgent by stirring in a generous amount of butter just before serving.
• You can make a smooth sauce by blending it all.
More sauce recipes
If you’ve tried this Italian marinara sauce recipe, let us know how you got on in the comments below.
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- 1 tablespoon Olive oil
- 4 Shallots - diced
- 3 Garlic clove - crushed
- 800 g Chopped tomatoes - canned
- 2 tablespoon Dried oregano
- 3 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
- 1 pinch Sea salt and black pepper
- 5 g Fresh basil - chopped
- Add a glug of olive oil to a large pan and add the shallots and garlic and cook on low for 4 minutes, until the shallots have softened.
- Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, oregano and salt and pepper and mix well.
- Simmer for 10 minutes and then stir in the chopped basil before serving.
- If you want a sweeter pasta sauce, then add a pinch of sugar to it.
- If you wanted to hide some vegetables in to this sauce, then roast up some bell peppers, carrot and courgette and then you can blend it with the sauce. You could also grate some courgette in to the marinara.
- Make this sauce indulgent by stirring in a generous amount of butter just before serving.
- You can make a smooth sauce by blending it all.