This marinara is cooked quickly, just enough time so the tomatoes break down in the sauce while showcasing the bright tomato flavor. I recommend you double the recipe and store batches for easy weeknight dinners. This marinara sauce can be used as a building block to numerous recipes, just use as you would any jarred or store-bought marinara sauce. Store-bought can have lots of sugar or additives. They work in a pinch but I prefer homemade sauce when I have a choice.
Classic Italian marinara is made without onions, I sweat them in olive oil to add a savory, slightly sweet element to the sauce. This sauce is naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan. I prefer to purée half the sauce for a smoother, more uniform texture though you can simply simmer the sauce and use it as needed.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté, cooking until the onion is tender and translucent about 6 minutes.
Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about an additional 30 seconds.
Add the tomatoes with their liquid, bay leaves, basil and ½ cup of water.
Lower the heat to medium-low, let simmer, and stir occasionally until the sauce thickens about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaves and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve as is or if you prefer a smoother sauce, take about 3 cups of the sauce, let it cool slightly then add to a blender. Pulse until smooth, about 30 seconds. Stir it back in with the rest of the sauce.
Store the sauce refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week, frozen or serve.
Marinara is a specific type of tomato sauce often used to colloquially describe a red sauce or tomato sauce served on spaghetti. It can be a tomato sauce, but not all tomato sauces are marinara. Marinara is cooked quickly in comparison to other long-simmered sauces so the bright, fresh tomato flavor can still shine through. While it is often made with few additives, I add some sautéed onion and garlic as well as fresh herbs to my marinara. What is referred to as “spaghetti sauce” may be marinara with the addition of more vegetables or meat.
While fresh tomatoes are great for some sauces I much prefer canned tomatoes for marinara. San Marzano is a variety of plum tomatoes, considered the gold standard for their balanced flavor and sweetness. San Marzano tomatoes are subject to forgery or deceptive marketing practices – especially now that they can be grown outside Italy.
Marinara is a great simple pasta sauce that can be served over your favorite pasta shape. Serve alone or serve with meatballs like these Beef, Pork & Prosciutto Italian Meatballs or over chicken cutlets in this Chicken Parmesan with Marinara recipe. It’s perfect over a baked pasta like manicotti.
Marinara is a great easy pizza sauce. Use as is or puree the sauce so it’s smoother. Simply spread it around the crust and add desired toppings. One of my favorite pizzas is serving marinara topped with a little grated Parmesan cheese and finishing it with cold burrata just before serving. It’s also perfect on this Chicago Deep Dish Style Pizza!
Ladle warmed marinara over a chicken cutlet sandwich with melted mozzarella or my personal favorite, a Meatball Sub Sandwich.
Marinara sauce freezes so I recommend doubling or tripling the recipe. To store, divide the sauce among resealable plastic bags then remove the air and freeze. I lay the bags of stock on a baking sheet until they are frozen so they can easily be stacked. I recommend labeling the bags with a sharpie with the name and date the sauce was made. Jars of the sauce can also be canned for long-term storage.
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