How to Make the Perfect Marinara Sauce

Spaghetti with marinara and meatballs
Credit: Unsplash

Marinara Sauce

Course Sauce and Dips
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


  • 28 oz 800g canned whole tomatoes (San Marzano tomatoes are recommended for their flavor)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes adjust to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar optional, to balance acidity
  • Fresh basil leaves torn, for finishing
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for serving optional


Prepare the Tomatoes:

  1. If using whole canned tomatoes, crush them by hand or use a food processor for a few pulses. Keep the juices as well.

Sauté Aromatics:

  1. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add chopped onions and sauté until they become translucent and slightly golden, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and sauté until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

Add Tomatoes and Herbs:

  1. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and their juices.
  2. Add dried oregano, dried basil, salt, and black pepper. Stir to combine.
  3. If the tomatoes are too acidic, you can add a teaspoon or two of sugar to balance the flavors.

Simmer and Reduce:

  1. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer, then reduce the heat to low.
  2. Allow the sauce to simmer for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. This will help develop the flavors and reduce excess moisture.

Adjust Seasoning:

  1. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings according to your preferences. You can add more salt, pepper, or dried herbs as needed.

Finish with Fresh Basil:

  1. Just before serving, add torn fresh basil leaves to the sauce. This will infuse the sauce with a wonderful, aromatic flavor.


  1. Your marinara sauce is ready to be served! Use it over cooked pasta, as a dipping sauce, or in any recipe that calls for marinara sauce.
  2. Optionally, you can sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese on top when serving

Recipe Notes

  • Quality ingredients matter. Use good-quality canned tomatoes and fresh herbs for the best flavor.
  • Don't rush the cooking process. Let the sauce simmer and reduce slowly to develop rich flavors.
  • Adjust the red pepper flakes according to your desired level of spiciness.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning as you cook to ensure the sauce has the right balance of flavors.

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