Homemade Marinara Sauce

Homemade Marinara Sauce

We eat a lot of pasta around here and while we always stock up on boxes of pasta, we usually forget the jars of pasta sauce. Night after night of disappointment led to learning how to make our own marinara sauce.

We’re so glad we did — it’s surprisingly easy to make and can be stored up to a week in the refrigerator and up to 6 months in the freezer.

This is a very basic sauce and can be used as a building block for many dishes. Use for pastas, fish or meats. You can add a little cream, add olives or capers or try making it a little spicy with crushed red chile flakes.

Main ingredients include cans of whole peeled tomatoes, which we hand crush (more on that below), olive oil, garlic, onion and carrot. The onion and carrot add natural sweetness to the sauce, balancing the acidity of the tomatoes. For the carrots, we took a tip from Mario Batali — he gates the carrot. We loved that — the carrot sort of melts into the sauce. You almost don’t know it’s there.

We also add lots of fresh basil at the end — you could also use parsley.

Hand Crushed Tomatoes? Why Can’t I Just Buy Crushed Tomatoes to Make Marinara Sauce?

You can, but in this case, we prefer not to. Let me explain.

By hand crushing the tomatoes, you control the texture of the sauce. Like your sauce a little chunky? Don’t crush the tomatoes as much. Love it extra smooth — crush the tomatoes more. We like it somewhere in the middle.

Not only do we love the extra control, we like getting our hands (well, hand) a little dirty — it’s fun to crush tomatoes. Cooking should make you smile — digging into a bowl of tomatoes and squeezing most certainly achieves that. 

Homemade Marinara Sauce

If that’s just not your thing though, you could always use a potato masher or just buy crushed tomatoes from the store — it’s your sauce after all.

Homemade Marinara SauceTell us, are you up for making your own marinara sauce in your kitchen?

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3.0 from 1 reviews
Homemade Marinara Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Why we love this recipe. Making your own marinara sauce is so simple and to us, tastes much brighter and more fresh than what you can buy at the store. It’s easy to store in the refrigerator or even the freezer, too.

What you need to know. We realize it may seem strange that we ask you to buy whole tomatoes then crush them by hand before adding to the sauce. You could buy crushed tomatoes from the store, but hand crushing the tomatoes adds much more texture and feels more “homemade” to us. Also, we ask that you grate the carrot -- this makes sure it is small and will melt into the sauce. The garlic will also melt into the sauce.

Equipment you’ll need. A chef’s knife, boxed grater, large pot, measuring spoons, large bowl and a wooden spoon or spatula.
Created By:
Yield: 6 cups
You Will Need
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/4 cups or 180 grams)
  • 1 medium carrot, grated (about 1/2 cup or 60 grams)
  • Two 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 20 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare Sauce
  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add onions and garlic then cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned - about 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the grated carrots and a pinch of salt then cook another 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened.Homemade-Marinara-Sauce-Step-1
Crush and Add Tomatoes
  1. While the vegetables cook, open tomato cans then pour tomatoes with juices into a large bowl. Use you hands or a potato masher to crush the tomatoes until desired sauce consistency.Homemade-Marinara-Sauce-Step-2
  2. Add crushed tomatoes with all juices and bay leaf to pan. Stir sauce then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Note - if the sauce is too bright or acidic, try adding a pinch of sugar to balance the acidity from the tomatoes).
  3. Remove bay leaf and discard then stir in chopped basil.Homemade-Marinara-Sauce-Step-3
To Store
  1. To store, cool then refrigerate up to one week or freeze up to 6 months.

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15 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Claire December 8, 2015, 8:25 am

    What are a few of the best brand of canned tomatoes?

    • Joanne December 22, 2015, 1:04 pm

      We really love Muir Glen (Organic version) as well as San Marzano tomatoes (we buy the Cento brand often).

  • Mary August 13, 2014, 10:26 pm

    I’m new at following recipes and my mom-in-law has been great with helping me but you need to tell us newbies when to either simmer uncovered or covered! I tried this tonight and I let it simmer semi/uncovered and found the sauce to be flavourful but watery! Is that how it was suppose to turn out?

    • Joanne August 14, 2014, 12:36 pm

      Hi Mary, We simmer the sauce uncovered, which will help it reduce slightly and become extra flavorful.

  • carrie September 16, 2013, 3:46 pm

    How can I incorporate fresh tomatoes? I have a lot of fresh produce and would rather not use canned.

    • Joanne September 17, 2013, 10:58 am

      Hi Carrie, We use fresh tomatoes often. Cut a little “X” into the bottom of each tomato then plunge them into boiling water for about 10 seconds. After that, add them to icy water to cool them down. This process makes the skins of the tomato peel off easily. Peel the tomatoes then chop. From there, follow our recipe as directed, but replace your chopped tomatoes for the canned. 2 pounds of fresh tomatoes should be equivalent to 1 28-ounce can. So, to make the whole recipe, use around 4 pounds. (Don’t worry if the measurement is a bit off, the sauce will still be great). Hope that helps!

  • Judy Smith September 7, 2013, 12:46 am

    I was wondering if I could add some ground cannelloni beans to the sauce?

    • Joanne September 7, 2013, 2:27 pm

      Sure! By doing so the marinara will be a little creamy.

  • Lydia September 4, 2013, 6:00 pm

    Two questions…
    1. Do you think I could use fresh garden tomatoes?
    2. Do you think I could can this instead of freeze?

    • Joanne September 4, 2013, 6:19 pm

      Yes, garden tomatoes work great — we recommend peeling them first. To do this, cut an “X” in the bottom of each tomato then add to boiling water for about 1 minutes. Then plunge into icy water. The peel should come off easily. As for canning — You can instead of freezing.

  • Radhika July 5, 2013, 1:18 pm

    Great recipe. I plan to ‘Indianize’ it (Indo-Canadian Spice Girl) by adding homemade garam masala (thanks Mom!) w/ the onions and reducing the amount of carrots.

    Joanne & Adam, your site inspires me to try N. American food even if by adding an Indian twist to suit my spicy taste buds. Everything is presented in such a user-friendly (cook-friendly?!) format plus all steps are clear and simple. More flour/chocolate-covered power to both of you! 😀

    • Mahatthi August 10, 2013, 8:03 pm

      We are in the exact situation forget the sauce from store :-) and now trying on our own.. great recipe ..Thanks.

      • Joanne August 12, 2013, 12:35 pm

        You are so welcome!

  • Kevin @ Closet Cooking April 19, 2013, 7:53 pm

    Making your own marinara sauce is so easy and always good!


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