Marinara Sauce – Classic, Easy & Endlessly Versatile

  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 25 mins
  • Total Time: 35 mins
  • Fridge Friendly: 4 Days
  • Freezer Friendly: 6 Months
  • Servings: 2.5 cups

Cost Per Person: ¢

  • ¢ pennies
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  • $$: less than $7
  • $$$: less than $10

Why I Love This Recipe

Every Sunday I would go visit my grandmother.  As soon as I walked through the front door the aroma of one of her amazing sauces would surround me like a warm comforting blanket. 

Marinara sauce was a staple in her kitchen – as it is in every Italian home – and each has its own rendition.  This is my rendition of my grandmother’s version and so it goes …

Why You'll Love This Recipe

Because it’s SO versatile.

  • It can be used not only for any kind of pasta but it can be used as the base for a variety of other pasta sauces including pizza.
  • It’s freezer friendly
  • Great for a quick weeknight dinner


  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Diced Onion
  • 2-3 Cloves Minced or Finely Sliced Garlic
  • 1/4 Cup White Wine (can sub chicken or vegetable stock)
  • 3 Cups Tomato Puree or Canned Whole Tomatoes (28 oz) crushed by hand
  • 1/4 Cup Roughly Chopped Fresh Basil or 2 tsp. Dried
  • 1.5 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. Crushed Red Chilli Peppers (optional)


  • In a medium saucepan, add olive oil and heat on medium until olive oil just begins to heat through. 
  • Add diced onions and garlic.  Sauteed until the onions become translucent and become very fragrant, stirring occasionally.  This will take about 4 to 5 minutes.* 
  • Add white wine and bring to a simmer for another 3 or 4 minutes. 
  • Add tomato puree, basil, salt and pepper.  Bring up the heat to a simmer (not quite boiling) then bring the heat down to medium-low and simmer the sauce for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Give the sauce a taste to see if you need more salt or pepper. 

Cook's Notes/Tips

To change up the sauce, try any of these additions:

  • 1/3 cup cream to make a rose sauce – add cream in the last 5 minutes of cooking
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes for heat – add with the onions and garlic
  • 500 gr. (1 lb.) ground beef + ¼ cup each of diced carrots & celery for a hardy meat sauce – add meat to a saucepan, and cook until all pink is gone.  Drain off fat.  Add vegetables with onions and garlic.  Then follow the recipe.  Simmer this sauce for about 45 minutes to let the flavours meld.
  • Make sure your heat is low enough not to burn the garlic.  Burnt garlic has a bitter flavour to it.

From start to finish, this recipe will take you about 25 minutes. It freezes perfectly for months which makes for a quick weeknight meal. Once you learn how to make this basic marinara, you’ll be able to make other sauces using this as your base: 

  • Add ground beef, veal & pork
  • Add other vegetables like celery, carrots, mushrooms
  • Add meatballs – great on a sandwich!
  • Add a splash of cream makes a great rose.

Each addition has a flavour of its own all from one simple basic marinara sauce.

The key to a good basic marinara is using the best ingredients you can and don’t overcook it.  

  1. Use tomato puree, whole canned tomatoes or even fresh tomatoes!
  2. Use fresh garlic – garlic powder is great for some things, but not this!
  3. Use fresh basil – the same goes for dried basil as garlic powder … great for some things but not this!
  4. Don’t overcook the sauce – tomatoes can get very bitter and acidic if overcooked. That’s why you see lots of recipes adding sugar, to cut the acidity.  Don’t overcook, then you don’t need to add sugar.