Easy Homemade Marinara Sauce (20 Minutes!)- Slender Kitchen

Easy Homemade Marinara Sauce (20 Minutes!)- Slender Kitchen


Twenty Minute Homemade Marinara Sauce tastes so much better than store-bought and is packed with natural ingredients and no added sugar. This easy and healthy marinara works great for pasta, meatballs, pizza, and more.

106 CAL 17g CARBS 4g FAT 4g PROTEIN 1

This Easy, Healthy Marinara Sauce comes together in just 20 minutes and is much better than the stuff you can buy at the local grocery store. It’s made with all-natural ingredients and has no added sugar, which is hard to find in a store-bought sauce. 

While I appreciate the convenience of jarred pasta sauces as much as the next girl, I prefer to make my own at home, from scratch. When you prepare your food at home, you have more control over what goes into it. Store-bought pasta sauces can be packed with sugar and fillers, which aren’t necessary. Plus, everything tastes just a little bit better when it’s homemade.

Let’s talk about today’s sauce. This isn’t a simmer all day long pasta sauce. Don’t get me wrong, I love those sauces, but today’s sauce is a quick homemade marinara sauce that works for a busy weeknight. Pair it with your favorite pasta, meatballs, zucchini noodles, pizza, breadsticks, and more.

Pro tip: Use the best tomatoes for the best marinara sauce. I prefer the San Marzano tomatoes, which I usually find at Costco or my local grocery store. Sometimes, they are tricky to find; check the bottom shelf. For those unfamiliar, San Marzano tomatoes are a variety of tomatoes grown in Italy. They are known to be sweeter and less acidic than standard tomatoes and are some of the best canned tomatoes. 

Why You’ll Love This Quick and Easy Marinara Sauce

  • Ready in 20 minutes: While most marinara and pasta sauces take hours to prepare, this simple version is ready in just 20 minutes and still packs tons of flavor. It’s delicious. 
  • Healthy and natural: This marinara sauce has all-natural, healthy ingredients. It has no added sugar, preservatives, or fillers. Just fresh, healthy flavors.
  • Versatile: Customizing this sauce to your family’s preferences is easy. Add red pepper flakes or Calabrian chilies for an arrabbiata-style sauce. Sneak in some veggies with spinach, zucchini, bell peppers, or mushrooms. Add ground meat to make a simple bolognese sauce

Ingredients for homemade marinara sauce including crushed san marzano tomatoes, onions, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, and fresh basil.

Ingredients and Easy Swaps

Here is everything you need to make this tasty sauce. 

  • Olive oil: For the best-tasting marinara sauce, use high-quality olive oil. Feel free to add a little extra for a richer sauce. You can also add a touch of butter. 
  • Onion and garlic: Fresh garlic cloves and onions are a must for a delicious sauce. Feel free to adjust the quantities, especially garlic, if you like a garlicky tomato sauce.
  • Dried spices: In this sauce, we used dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, and bay leaves to let the tomato flavor come through. You could swap in Italian seasoning or add any combination of spices.
  • Crushed tomatoes: For the best-tasting sauce, use San Marzano tomatoes, which are naturally sweet and less acidic. Standard tomatoes tend to be more acidic, which is why so many people add sugar to marinara sauce. If you can’t find crushed, you can break up whole tomatoes with a wooden spoon or even quickly blend them. If you can’t find San Marzano tomatoes, look for Italian canned tomatoes (not Italian seasoned, tomatoes from Italy.)
  • Fresh basil: Basil is my favorite addition to this sauce. It adds so much flavor and freshness. Feel free to skip it if you don’t love fresh basil. 
  • Optional: To enhance the flavor of your marinara, add fresh parmesan cheese, a Parmesan rind, or nutritional yeast.

Healthy marinara sauce simmering in a large pot with fresh basil and red pepper flakes on the side.

How to Make Simple Stovetop Marinara Sauce

Follow these easy steps to make homemade marinara sauce in just twenty minutes.

1. Saute the onions, garlic, and spices

Start by heating your olive oil in a skillet, Dutch oven, or pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions, minced garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the onions soften and the mixture if nice and fragrant. You can add garlic in the last 60 seconds if you prefer. 

2. Simmer the tomatoes 

Add the crushed tomatoes, fresh basil, bay leaf, salt, and pepper to the onion mixture. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Simmer for 15 minutes (or longer) for the flavors to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Some people like to finish their sauce with extra fresh basil, a pat of butter, a touch of cream, or a splash of balsamic vinegar. 

Tips for the Best Homemade Marinara Sauce

  • Choose the best tomatoes: Although it may seem like marinara sauce would taste better with fresh tomatoes, canned San Marzano tomatoes are almost always better if you can find them. They are typically much less acidic than a standard tomato and are naturally sweet, which is perfect since we aren’t adding sugar to this sauce.
  • More herbs and spices: If you like lots of herbs in your sauce, don’t be afraid to add your favorites. Oregano, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme work well in the sauce.
  • Make it spicy: If you like spicy things, you can kick up the red pepper flakes or add some Calabrian chili peppers, like in this Fra Diavolo sauce.
  • Add protein: You can definitely add meat to this sauce. Consider browning some ground turkey, beef, chicken, or pork. Turkey or chicken sausage is also a great, lean option.

Ladle with easy marinara sauce being scooped out of a jar.

Serving Ideas

This sauce pairs well with spaghetti or any pasta dish, but there are many ways to use it.

How to Freeze Homemade Marinara Sauce

Before freezing any kind of sauce, you want to let it cool to room temperature. Next, portion it into containers in a size that makes sense for your needs. For example, we generally need about 3 cups of sauce when having pasta, so I freeze our sauce in 3-cup containers. Make sure your sauce is sealed in an airtight container before freezing. It will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Another option for freezing if you tend to need smaller portions is to use ice cube trays. This is great for kids. Simply pour the sauce into an ice cube tray and then pop the marinara sauce cubes into a Ziploc bag once frozen. Then you can pull out a couple of sauce cubes anytime you need them for pasta, pizza, chicken, or other dishes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most common questions about making this quick, healthy marinara sauce.

Marinara sauce is a type of pasta sauce that is made with simple ingredients. It is generally thin with a tomato-forward and unfussy ingredient list. Pasta sauce on the other hand can refer to all types of different sauces used for pasta. 

Generally speaking, marinara sauce has more flavor and ingredients than tomato sauce. Tomato sauce is normally blended tomatoes with salt and sometimes a few spices. Marinara sauce has fresh garlic, onion, herbs, and tomatoes.



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