The Best Marinara Sauce Recipe

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Why buy a jar when you can make homemade marinara sauce from scratch? Because it’s so easy! In this post, I will show you how to make a flavorful and rich tomato sauce that is great on most any pasta, or it can be used in lasagna or meatball subs. This really is the best marinara sauce recipe!

Classic Marinara Sauce-

Marinara is synonymous with Italian cuisine. There are so many ways to make it, and there are a lot of opinions out there on slow cooking sauce versus a quick tomato sauce, whether or not to add sugar, etc. 

While there are many versions of marinara out in the world, this is mine. I have included large batch amounts as well as how to pare it down to make less, and this sauce can be slow cooked over a few hours or it can be cooked for less time if you need it ready more quickly. 

Marinara sauce in a blue pot topped with chopped basil

The Ingredients

I do think ingredients really matter here. Especially when a recipe has very few to start with, you want to do it right. In this recipe, I am really going for the deepest tomato flavor I can get. While I don’t talk about every recipe ingredient here, I wanted to highlight some due to their relative importance to the finished result.

Tomatoes 

When I make this sauce, I like to do a large batch because it freezes quite well and then I have it on hand when I need it. I use a number 10 can of tomatoes, which is 109 ounces. That is about the equivalent of 4 28 ounce cans of tomatoes found at most supermarkets. I use whole peeled tomatoes. Number 10 cans are most often found at larger retailers that specialize in bulk items. If you can find them fire roasted, I recommend them for an extra boost of flavor.

Balsamic Vinegar

This particular recipe was born of an experiment using balsamic vinegar in place of red wine, which is a common ingredient in homemade marinara sauce. I was very pleased with the result, and I hope you will be as well. I really love the deep flavor that it adds to the sauce, and the vinegar’s acidity also adds some brightness.

Tomato Paste

Don’t skip the tomato paste! It adds a lot of depth to the sauce. Nothing brings that concentrated tomato flavor quite like it does. 

Fresh Basil

This is a basil forward sauce and while there is dried basil also, adding the fresh basil at the end adds something really special. There is something magical about the flavor combination of tomato and fresh basil and it’s hard to beat. 

Sugar

To sugar or not to sugar? I know some people say no, others say yes. I say it depends on your palate, and the acidity of your tomatoes. The sweetness of the tomato paste does help cut the acidity down so if you decide to add sugar, it won’t be much. I have left this optional, but I do have a recommended amount listed in the recipe should you want to add it. If you are using sugar, plain old granulated white sugar is best. 

closeup of tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes and fresh basil

Cooking Methods

This sauce may be made by simmering low and slow or a more quick method. Either one is fine, it just depends on how much time you have! While you get a more developed flavor with longer cooking, it does not mean that the quick method is inferior. We all have to work within the time frames we have.

Slow Method

The flavors do develop more deeply if you simmer this sauce. When I have time to do this, I usually cook it for about four hours on medium low heat at a nice gentle simmer with a lid partially covering the pot. You will likely end up with a little less sauce using this method because it cooks down a bit. 

Quick Method

For the quick sauce, the process is exactly the same but with a reduced cooking time. I try to cook this for at least 30 minutes, if you can do it for up to an hour it’s even better. The flavor won’t be quite as deeply developed, but it’s still very good!

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can you freeze marinara sauce?

I have frozen this sauce for up to a month and it still tastes fresh after defrosting. Just be sure to use good quality freezer bags. 

How do you defrost the sauce if it’s frozen?

I use two different methods. One, I simply take a bag of sauce from the freezer and put it in the refrigerator until it is defrosted. This could take a couple of days so if you are not in a hurry and can remember to take it out of the freezer this works just fine. 

The other method I use is a bit faster. When I take it out of the freezer, I defrost it in the microwave just enough to soften it up a little, then I place the bag inside a stock pot and cut the bag off from around the sauce to remove it, and the sauce lands right in the stock pot.

How do you reheat the frozen sauce?

I reheat on low to medium low heat in a stock pot until warmed through. This takes about 15 to 30 minutes. You could also microwave it in a large microwave safe container, checking it every minute and a half or so. 

Can the recipe be reduced to make less sauce?

Yes! You can divide the recipe in half. If you reduce it, be sure to use two 28 ounce cans rather than a number 10 can. Two 28 ounce cans will be right at half the amount of a number 10 can. From there, you can reduce the amount of other ingredients in the recipe by half.

Could another type of canned tomatoes be used instead of whole tomatoes?

Yes, if you can’t find whole peeled tomatoes, you could try using crushed tomatoes instead.

Serving Suggestions

I love this with most any pasta, it also makes a great sauce for lasagna. This is great in meatball subs, and with my oven baked handmade meatballs. For another great sauce idea, you can also try my roasted red pepper pesto. It’s great as an alternative if you are serving more than one type of pasta and want to change up the sauce. For other great ideas to pair up with this sauce, my collection of 30 Classic Italian American Recipes is full of wonderful recipes.

I hope you loved this, and that you think it really is the best marinara sauce recipe! If you enjoyed it, please leave a comment or rating and share with friends on social media. For all the latest blog updates and other happenings, you can sign up for my newsletter on the form below. Happy Cooking!

pot of marinara sauce with a wooden spoon on a blue background
Marinara sauce in a blue pot topped with chopped basil
Yield: 15 Cups

The Best Marinara Sauce Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • 3 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flake
  • 6 cloves Garlic
  • 6 oz Can of Tomato Paste
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Number 10 Can Whole Peeled Tomatoes (6lb 6 oz, or 109 ounces)
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 3 tsp Dried Basil
  • 1 dried Bay Leaf
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Fresh Basil
  • 2 tbsp Granulated Sugar, (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat a dutch oven on medium high heat. While the pot is heating, chop the onion, peel the garlic and open the tomato paste and canned tomato.
  2. Add 1 tbsp of oil to the dutch oven, along with the chopped onion, 3 tsp salt,1/2 tsp pepper, and 1/2 tsp pepper flake and cook for about 5-6 minutes.
  3. Add the 6 oz can of tomato paste, 6 cloves of garlic, and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Next, add the 6 lb 6 oz can of tomatoes, and crush them with a potato masher. Add the 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 3 tsp dried basil, bay leaf, and sugar if using.
  5. Turn the heat up to bring to a boil, then let the sauce boil for a minute or so and turn the heat down to medium low. Partially cover the dutch oven and let simmer for 4 hours.
  6. Add the 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil in the last 20 minutes of cooking.

Notes

This sauce may be cooked more quickly if needed, please see further instructions above in the blog post.

If you need to reduce the amount of sauce to a smaller batch, you can. Simply cut the seasoning amounts in half and use two 28 ounce cans of tomatoes instead of a number 10 can.

The sauce may be frozen for up to a month, please see the blog post for defrosting and reheating instructions.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

15

Serving Size:

15 Cups

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 35Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 474mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 1g

All information presented and written within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist or registered dietitian and any nutritional information should only be used as a general guideline. Statements within this site have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is provided for recipes contained on this site. This information comes from online calculators. Although The Copper Table attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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