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.

Homemade Marinara Sauce Recipe with Basil

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.

How to Make Homemade Marinara Sauce

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.

How to Make Homemade Marinara Sauce

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.

Why we prefer canned whole tomatoes for marinara sauce

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:

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

  • PREP
  • COOK

Making marinara sauce is so simple, and it tastes much brighter and more fresh than what you can buy at the store.

Makes approximately 6 cups

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
  • 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.

    • Crush Tomatoes
    • 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.

      • To Finish
      • 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.

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste

Nutrition Per Serving: Serving Size 1 cup / Calories 134 / Protein 3 g / Carbohydrate 12 g / Dietary Fiber 6 g / Total Sugars 8 g / Total Fat 10 g / Saturated Fat 1 g / Cholesterol 0 mg / Sodium 517 mg
AUTHOR: Adam and Joanne Gallagher

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29 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Joe June 3, 2019, 8:29 pm

    Hello, When is the basil added? Thank you.

    • Joanne October 2, 2019, 12:21 pm

      Hi Joe, We add the basil right at the end.

  • Geovanni March 7, 2019, 12:52 am

    Great recipe; I’d like to receive other recipes. TY

  • Rachel April 29, 2018, 5:45 pm

    Thank you for sharing this recipe. I had to used this as a base but unfortunately had to do modifications. I used a can of crushed tomatoes and all my spices were dry. But it is so dang good! We will be making again and again!

  • Pauline April 1, 2018, 1:38 am

    Can’t wait to try this!

  • Anna Dunn February 25, 2018, 1:10 pm

    This recipe is killing me with the desire to make! I’ll gather the ingredients this week and surely give it a try! It looks like a winner!!!!! Anna

  • Sharon Butler January 13, 2018, 7:50 am

    Do you mean a total of 56 ounces of tomatoes or 28 in total? Many thanks, Sharon

    • Joanne February 8, 2018, 3:00 pm

      Hi Sharon, We call for two 28-ounce sized cans of tomatoes — or two large cans of tomatoes.

  • Lenore October 6, 2016, 6:18 pm

    Fresh tomatoes are the best we always use (Romas) for their flavor & fewer seed which we crush to our desired consistantcy. Season w/onion, garlic. Carrot, Italian seasoning, parsley, Basil, garlic salt, cup of white wine or if you prefer burgundy is good too. Simmer for 2 hrs.

  • phil March 19, 2016, 3:34 pm

    This is my first time making Marinara sauce and Spinach Lasagna. Both are easy and delicious. Next time I make it, I will double the fresh basil in the sauce and add a little more mozzarella in the lasagna. Thanks for a great recipe!

  • 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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