*This article was published in September 202 and updated in July 2021. Text and photos were improved, but the recipe was not changed.
Having your own homemade marinara sauce might cost you some time, true. But, unlike the store-bought sauces, it doesn’t have any added sugar or preservatives. So, it’s so much healthier. A really good marinara sauce tastes like fresh tomatoes juice and has a rich texture. And not even the best jarred sauce can pull that off. Plus you can customize it in any way you want. And it’s enough to make one time your own super healthy and delicious marinara sauce at home and you won’t touch again that jar on the supermarket shelf!
In this paragraph, you’ll find general information about used ingredients and their role in the recipe. Details about necessary quantities and step-by-step preparation can be found in the recipe card at the end of the article.
To make this very simple marinara sauce, I used, besides tomatoes, just a few basic pantry ingredients: shallots, garlic, olive oil and some dried herbs and spices like basil, thyme, red chili flakes, black pepper and sea salt.
There’s nothing wrong with using canned tomatoes. But when using fresh tomatoes, your homemade marinara sauce gets a nice rich flavor. Make sure you’re using fleshy, juicy and ripe tomatoes.
Fresh basil is your best option to make this recipe. But, if you don’t have any fresh leaves, feel free to replace them with dry basil. Just consider that dried basil has a more intense flavor and you’ll have to use less.
I didn’t have any fresh thyme when I made this sauce, but if you do, feel free to use it fresh.
The red chili flakes will add a bit of spiciness to your sauce. Depending on your preferences, you can adjust the quantity. Use fresh red chilies if you have.
Although the traditional recipe doesn’t include onions, I added some shallots for the nice texture their thin layers give to sauces. Plus, they bring a bit of sweetness too. Red onions work as well.
Oh, and make it as garlicky as you wish. Just crush or slice the garlic cloves to release more flavor.
Make sure you’re using a good quality olive oil which has a rich olives taste. In my opinion, Greek and Italian olive oil are the best.
How to prepare a simple homemade marinara sauce
Since I don’t like tomatoes peels in the sauce, I’d rather take them off. Peeling the tomatoes might take some time, but it gives the sauce a smooth texture. Anyway, this step is not mandatory so, feel free to skip it and save some time.
In order to peel the tomatoes, you need to fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. When the water is boiling, add in the fresh tomatoes. Remove the tomatoes from the pot when the peel starts to break. Put the tomatoes in a large bowl and, once they’re chilled, remove the peel and stems, then cut them into big chunks.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan, over medium heat. Sauté the sliced shallot for about 3 minutes then add garlic. Cook together for 3 minutes, until the flavors combine.
Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer over high-medium heat, than lower the heat. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Cover the pan with a lit to allow tomatoes to “sweat” out all the juice. Let the sauce simmer for about 50 minutes. Stir from time to time and crush the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.
Remember, the key to a perfect marinara sauce is in the simmer. While the tomatoes are cooked through over low heat, the sauce is thickening slowly. When you get the desired thickness, turn off the heat and allow the sauce to cool.
How to customize your homemade marinara sauce
Although the traditional recipe is very simple, with basic ingredients, you can opt for some “upgrades” to better suit your taste. Let’s see your options:
- add olives – use either Kalamata or green olives;
- add capers – for an intense salty tangy flavor;
- make it buttery – a bit of vegan butter will give your sauce a nice silky texture;
- add a roasted red pepper – for a slightly smoky flavor;
- pour in some red wine – bring a new layer to your sauce flavor; just make sure you add a decent quantity of alcohol to your sauce 😉.
How to store the sauce?
Allow the sauce to cool completely, then store it in a sealed jar. You can keep it in the fridge for about a week. This recipe yields about 500 g of sauce. In case you can’t consume it within a week, the sauce can be stored in the freezer up to 3 months.
How to use marinara sauce
This is such a classic Mediterranean sauce which can be used in so many combinations. It’s really great to have a jar stored in the fridge for when you come home late and you’re in need for a quick and easy dinner. But you can also add it to more complex dishes that need more time for preparation. Let’s see what a homemade marinara sauce jar is good for:
- Pasta & gnocchi– just add some marinara on top and your dinner is ready;
- Pizza – don’t just limit yourself to a boring tomato sauce and bring more flavors to your delicious pizza;
- Lasagna – no matter what your lasagna’s made with, the marinara sauce will make it a more savory dish;
- Dipping sauce – for vegetables patties (check my sweet potato and green pea patties or flavored quinoa chickpea patties recipes), fries or wedges; they also go well with some vegan crispy cauliflower bites;
- Sandwiches – take your sandwich to the next level, mayo and ketchup are boring.
If you like this homemade marinara sauce recipe, please rate it or leave a comment below; I’d love to know your feedback. And, if you prepare this simple tomato sauce, you can share a photo and tag Choose Tasty either on Instagram, or on Facebook.
Homemade Marinara Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes
- 1 kg fresh tomatoes
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 big sliced shallot
- 5 crushed garlic cloves or more
- 2 tbsp sea salt or to taste
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp red chili flakes
- 1 handful of fresh basil leaves
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil;
- When the water starts boiling, scoop in the tomatoes; take them out when the peel breaks;
- Allow the tomatoes to cool, then peel them and remove the stems;
- Cut the tomatoes into big chunks;
- Heat a sauce pan or a large skillet and add the olive oil; when it's sizzling add the diced shallots; sauté over medium heat for about 3 minutes, then add the garlic and sauté for another 2-3 minutes, until soft and fragrant; stir continuously to prevent burning;
- Add tomatoes with all released juice into the pan and, when it starts simmering, stir in the rest of the ingredients; turn the heat to low, cover with a lid and let the sauce simmer for about 50 minutes;
- Stir occasionally and press the tomatoes chunks against the pan sides with a wooden spoon to smash them;
- When the sauce gets as thick as you want, remove it from the heat;
- Serve right away or store it in the fridge in an airtight glass container.
- Peeling the tomatoes is not a mandatory step ; you can skip it.
- If you want a thinner sauce, let it simmer for less time.
- If you’re using the sauce for pasta, you might want a thicker consistency; in this case, allow it to simmer a bit more than the indicated time.