Homemade Marinara Sauce with Basil
How to make marinara sauce with just a few simple ingredients. Store up to a week in the refrigerator and up to 6 months in the freezer. Jump to the Homemade Marinara Sauce Recipe or read on to see our tips for making it.
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 homemade marinara sauce. We’re so glad we did.
Our marinara sauce recipe is surprisingly easy to make and can be stored up to a week in the refrigerator and up to 6 months in the freezer. By the way, we use our marinara sauce to make this Spinach Lasagna with no-boil noodles layered between fresh spinach and cheeses. It’s delicious.
How to Make Homemade Marinara Sauce
Use this basic marinara sauce as a building block for many dishes. Toss with pasta or add to fish and meat dishes. To make it creamy, stir in heavy cream. For a spicy version, add extra crushed red pepper flakes. Or for a briny version, add olives or capers.
To make marinara sauce, you will need the following main ingredients:
- Tomatoes — you can use canned whole tomatoes or fresh tomatoes.
- Olive oil adds richness to the sauce.
- Garlic adds flavor and spice.
- Onion and carrots add sweetness, which balances the acidity of the tomatoes.
- Fresh herbs, especially basil keeps the sauce tasting fresh and light.
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.
If you are using canned tomatoes, use canned whole tomatoes. They are much better suited for the sauce than diced.
We also love to hand-crush the tomatoes. This way, we can control the texture of the sauce. If you prefer, you can use a potato masher or a pair of kitchen shears to break up the whole tomatoes.
To make the sauce, cook the onions, garlic, and carrots until soft and sweet. Add the tomatoes and let the sauce simmer until reduced. Easy!
Use this homemade marinara for any of the following recipes:
- This baked spaghetti comes together quickly and takes full advantage of fresh, homemade marinara sauce.
- We cook turkey meatballs in a similar sauce made with tomatoes, basil, and garlic.
- Our baked ziti with spinach is fast and easy to make.
Recipe updated, originally posted April 2013. Since posting this in 2013, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear. – Adam and Joanne
Homemade Marinara Sauce with Basil
Making marinara sauce is so simple, and it tastes much brighter and more fresh than what you can buy at the store.
You Will Need
1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated (about 1/2 cup)
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes 0r about 4 pounds fresh tomatoes, see notes
1 dried bay leaf
20 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
- Prepare Sauce
- Crush Tomatoes
- To Finish
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.
Add the grated carrots, and a pinch of salt then cook another 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened.
While the vegetables cook, open tomato cans then pour tomatoes with juices into a large bowl. Use your hands or a potato masher to crush the tomatoes until desired sauce consistency.
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, uncovered and occasionally stirring, 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).
Remove bay leaf and discard then stir in chopped basil. Use straight away or refrigerate up to one week or freeze up to 6 months.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- Fresh tomatoes: While it is not absolutely necessary, for the best textured sauce, peel the tomatoes. To do this, cut an “X” in the bottom of each tomato then add to boiling water for about 1 minute. Then plunge into icy water. The peel should come off easily. You will need about 4 pounds of tomatoes to equal 2 (28-ounce) cans.
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values. We assumed 1/2 teaspoon of salt.