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How to Make Marinara Sauce with Fresh or Canned Tomatoes

Watch the How to Make Marinara Sauce Using Fresh or Canned Tomatoes video

Learn how to make a tasty marinara sauce using fresh or canned tomatoes. You can use your homemade sauce with many recipes, including:

  • Spaghetti
  • Chicken parmigiana
  • A base for minestrone or other soup
  • A dipping sauce for breaded and fried cheese sticks
  • And much more!

Affiliates note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. My content may contain affiliate links to products and services. If you click through and make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission. It does not affect the price you pay.

What is Marinara Sauce?

Marinara is an Italian tomato sauce that is thinner, yet chunkier, than traditional Italian “Sunday” spaghetti sauce. It’s also easier to make since marinara cooks up very quickly. Marinara only needs about an hour of simmering time as opposed to traditional spaghetti sauce, which generally has to simmer all day.

Even though marinara has a short simmering time, it acquires its rich flavor from the addition of a generous amount of garlic and Italian herbs, such as basil, oregano, or both. You can also add a bit of crushed red pepper flakes to give it a bit of zing.

Fresh Tomatoes or Canned Tomatoes for Marinara Sauce?

You can make marinara with any type of tomato, but Italian tomatoes in the plum family work the best. Roma tomatoes are perfect, but for a truly classic and traditional version, choose San Marzano tomatoes if you can find them!

You can make a great-tasting marinara sauce with either fresh or canned tomatoes. Using canned tomatoes, especially the San Marzano, helps you cut down on the prep and cooking times.

However, I really like making my marinara with fresh Italian Roma tomatoes. The little bit of extra time involved in the prep and cooking—about 15 minutes in all—brings a delightfully fresh taste to marinara that can’t be beat.

Ingredients for Making Marinara Sauce

As you’ll see in the printable recipe, you only need a simple list of ingredients to make the marinara sauce:

  • Tomatoes, canned or fresh
  • Olive oil
  • Lots and lots of garlic!
  • Basil, oregano, or both
  • Salt and pepper
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes

How to Make Marinara Sauce

As I show you in my recipe video, making marinara sauce couldn’t be easier:

  1. Heat the olive oil.
  2. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.
  3. Add your tomatoes, herbs, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  4. Bring your delightful mixture up to a simmer and cover.

In about an hour, you’ll have a delicious marinara sauce ready for your spaghetti or a host of other dishes.

How to Use Marinara Sauce

When it comes to using marinara sauce, most people will think of the classic spaghetti marinara dish. As the name implies, this traditional recipe consists of spaghetti tossed with marinara sauce.

But you can use marinara in so many other ways. It is the classic sauce ladled on top of chicken parmigiana, and you can also use your homemade sauce to make these tasty dishes:

  • Base for Sloppy Joe sandwiches
  • Cream of tomato soup
  • Dipping sauce (especially for fried mozzarella sticks)
  • Eggs in Purgatory (Shakshuka)
  • Minestrone
  • Pizza sauce
  • Ratatouille
  • Any soup or stew recipe calling for tomatoes
  • And in any recipe calling for tomato sauce!

More Tomato Recipes

Want more ideas for what to do with a bountiful tomato harvest from your own garden or the farmer’s market? Then be sure to watch the following videos.

I show you how to make tomato powder using the tomato skins you peel from the tomatoes you can use to make marinara sauce. (I show you the blanching process in the video, so you see how easily the tomato skins come off.) Between the tomato powder and marinara recipes, you’ll use every last scrap of your tomatoes and be proud to have a no-waste kitchen!

Are you new to fermenting or an old pro? Either way, these fermented tomatoes with basil and fermented salsa recipes are easy to make and are a welcome treat at any meal.

If you have a food mill, I’ll show you the easiest tomato sauce you’ll ever make. No peeling! Just throw everything into a pot, simmer it up, then run your cooked tomatoes through your food mill for the smoothest and most flavorful spaghetti sauce ever!

Are you looking for a sweet treat with NO ADDED SUGAR? Then homemade candied tomatoes are for you. You can eat these luscious little flavor bursts straight out of the oven, or you can pack them in olive oil and pop them into the fridge. They’ll make the perfect addition to your next antipasto platter!

If you have never home canned food before, you will love learning how to water bath can tomatoes. It’s easy to do, and I walk you through the entire process step-by-step. This is the perfect canning “class” for beginners. 😉

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In the following members-only video, I talk about what is the real Mediterranean diet.

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How to Make Marinara Sauce

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Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 15 minutes
Yield: 16 servings
Learn how to make a tasty marinara sauce using fresh or canned tomatoes. This recipe is perfect for spaghetti marinara, and it is versatile enough to use for many other recipes, including chicken parmigiana, a base for minestrone or other soup, a dipping sauce for breaded and fried cheese sticks, and much more!


  • Large saucepan, Dutch oven, or stockpot


  • 12 pounds Italian plum tomatoes You can also use four 28 ounce cans of Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano.
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  • 1 head Garlic, all cloves peeled and minced
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Black pepper
  • 1 tsp Oregano, dried Or 1 tsp. dried basil or a combination of dried basil and oregano. If you prefer, you can also use a sprig of fresh basil or fresh oregano.
  • 1 tsp Red pepper flakes, optional
  • 2 whole Bay leaves, optional
  • 1 cup Water


  • If using fresh tomatoes, first blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Once the tomato skins "burst" and begin to peel away from the flesh of the tomato, remove the blanched tomatoes from the boiling water and submerge them into an ice water bath to remove the skins. Transfer the skinned tomatoes to a large bowl and crush with clean hands. (See video.)
  • Add olive oil to a large saucepan, Dutch oven, or stockpot. Heat to medium and add garlic.
  • Sauté garlic until golden and fragrant, but do not allow the garlic to brown. This process takes approximately 2-3 minutes.
  • Add crushed tomatoes to your pan along with salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes (if using), oregano (or basil), bay leaves (if using). Stir well.
  • Bring tomatoes up to a medium-high simmer where you see a bit of bubbling. Be sure to stir the tomatoes to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom.
  • Turn heat to medium-low, cover pan, and allow the mixture to simmer for one hour. If you are using canned tomatoes, you can reduce the simmering time by 15 minutes, bringing the simmering time down to 45 minutes.
  • After the simmering time has finished, your marinara sauce is ready to be served.
  • If refrigerated in an airtight container, your marinara should stay fresh for approximately 7-10 days.
  • If frozen in an airtight container or freezer-proof bag, your marinara should stay fresh for approximately 3 months. When ready to use, defrost in the refrigerator.



Find this recipe and video at
Copyright © 2021 Mary’s Nest, LLC, All Rights Reserved
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Marinara, Marinara Sauce, Tomato Sauce
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Disclaimer:I am not a medical doctor, a medical professional, a dietician, or a nutritionist. All content found on the website, including text, images, videos, eBooks or eGuides, social media, or other formats, were created solely for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or proper nutritional advice. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have watched in a video or read on this website. Use caution when following the recipe in this video. The creator and publisher of this video and website will not be held responsible for any adverse effects that may arise from the use of this recipe and method or any other recipe and method on this website or corresponding video channel.

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