This simple Classic Marinara Sauce is the perfect starting point for so many recipes. It can be used in soups, as a pizza sauce, as a dipping sauce, and it can transform a quick week-night pasta supper into a gourmet meal in less than 25 minutes.
September is often associated with a flurry of activities. Summer cottages are getting ready to be shut down, summer vacations have come to an end, the kids are back in school, and mother nature has completed yet another cycle and is getting ready to go dormant.
I also associate September with tomatoes. Canning whole tomatoes are one of the best ways to preserve this Italian staple used in so many classic Italian dishes.
A quick internet search will provide you with infinite variations of another Italian staple, “marinara sauce from scratch.” I prefer this simple marinara sauce best because it relies on so few ingredients. Like all Italian cooking, the strength of the dish is in the quality of the ingredients!
What do I need to make the best marinara sauce?
- Extra virgin olive oil. Invest in a good quality olive oil; you will taste the difference it makes.
- Garlic cloves. Provides loads of flavor.
- Tomatoes. Whole canned San Marzano tomatoes are a pantry staple in Italian cuisine.
- Red pepper flakes. Just a little to provide a touch of heat. Feel free to add more or less. It is your choice!
- Basil leaves. This regular Italian culprit makes an important contribution to the overall flavor.
- Salt and black pepper. To taste
As far as accessories are concerned, it would help if you had a cutting board, a sharp knife, a wide skillet and a wooden spoon.
Wait until you see how easily this Italian marinara sauce recipe comes together with just a few simple ingredients!!
Prep the garlic: I will usually use about 2-3 cloves of garlic (depending on their size) that I have crushed with the side of my knife. Feel free to use more (or less) according to your personal preference.
Get the tomatoes ready: I will usually use canned tomatoes as part of my marinara sauce ingredients. This makes the whole process quick and simple. And there is no shortage of taste because of the type of canned tomatoes I purchase. If possible, purchase San Marzano whole canned tomatoes packed in their own juices and not tomato sauce (as these will be a little sweeter). Look for tomatoes packed in Italy as they will be of superior quality. If available in your region, make sure to purchase tomatoes that have been certified DOP. If you are interested, Serious Eats has a great article on the DOP tomato.
Time to turn on the heat and make this classic marinara sauce recipe: Use a large wide skillet to heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the crushed garlic. Sauté for about one minute. Make sure not to burn your garlic. What we are looking for is a light toasting. You know it’s time to add the tomatoes when the aroma of the garlic hits the air.
Simmer the tomatoes: Once you add the tomatoes and the red pepper flakes to the sautéed garlic, turn the heat back up to a medium-high. We are looking for a vigorous simmer. Stir occasionally for the next 10-15 minutes. I use the back of a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes while simmering in the saucepan. You can also use a potato masher. During this time, the tomatoes will thicken as the liquid evaporates. (This 15-minute window allows you more than enough time to get your pasta cooked -just in case you were planning on having pasta).
Add the basil: When you are just about ready to pull the sauce from your stovetop, add the fresh basil and adjust the seasonings. I always add basil at the end of the simmering time because basil is extremely heat sensitive. (If you were making a pasta dish, you would throw in the al dente pasta in this pan along with 1/4 – 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta cooking water. A couple of shakes and swirls and voila… gourmet pasta dish).
See, what I mean? Effortless and uncomplicated. And there you have it; an easy pasta sauce recipe is broken down in just 5 simple steps. (For those of you that have asked me, I like to serve this marinara sauce with my Baked Zucchini Sticks, these Garlic Knots or better yet this Pizza Rolls Recipe!)
- There are only four basic ingredients for this authentic marinara sauce -canned tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and fresh basil. Make sure to use the freshest ingredients to make the best homemade marinara sauce.
- If you find this quick pasta sauce tastes acidic, try adding a few pinches of sugar to balance out the taste.
- The addition of a whole carrot while this simple pasta sauce is simmering helps reduce the acidity.
Pizza sauce vs. marinara, what’s the difference?
The first difference is that an authentic pizza sauce is uncooked; the second difference is that there is (usually) no oregano in a simple marinara sauce.
Italian pasta sauces we love
Regional variations and family recipes will definitely play an important factor in determining everyone’s favorite marinara sauce.
Chunky or pureed?
With or without onions?
Addition of carrots or other vegetables?
Sugar, honey, wine?
I could go on, but I think you get the point. There is no right way to make this sauce. Let your taste buds be your guide.
I have just shared with you my Mom’s marinara sauce from scratch. You can never go wrong with simple, wholesome and good quality ingredients.
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★★★★★ If you have made this Marinara Sauce recipe, I would love to hear about it in the comments below and be sure to rate the recipe!
Simple Classic Marinara Sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- 3 cloves garlic crushed and coarsely chopped
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 1 28 ounce San Marzano, whole canned tomatoes 796 mL
- 2 sprigs fresh basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.
- Add the lightly crushed garlic cloves and continue to cook for another minute or so. At this point the garlic should be fragrant. (Make sure not to overcook the garlic as this will produce a bitter sauce).
- Add the tomatoes. You can use a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon to break them up as they are simmering.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to obtain a vigorous simmer.
- Simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.
- Add the basil and remove from heat.
- Note: Can be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container for 5 days.
- Recipe can easily be doubled.
The sauce can easily be frozen. Total yield is 2 cups of marinara sauce. 1 serving = 1 cup of sauce. Please keep in mind that the nutritional information provided below is just a rough estimate and variations can occur depending on the specific ingredients used.