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Nothing beats this classic Homemade Marinara Sauce that is made from scratch with crushed tomatoes, garlic, and fresh basil simmered on the stove. And it can double as a pizza sauce!

If you love classic Italian-American cooking, be sure not to miss our Best Spaghetti and MeatballsRoasted Red Pepper Sauce, or Italian Wedding Soup!

An image of a pot of homemade tomato basil marinara sauce. 

Homemade Marinara Sauce

There is nothing like a homemade marinara sauce simmering on the stove. The aroma of the garlic and bubbling tomatoes fill your kitchen and make you think you’ve died and gone to heaven Italy. And the fresh basil is just so divine. I love working with fresh herbs when I’m cooking.

Next year I am definitely growing an herb garden so I have readier access to fresh basil without having to pay grocery store prices for it!

I love this classic marinara sauce because it is so simple and easy to make! And it works wonderfully as a simple pizza sauce for your favorite pizza, whether it is a traditional pepperoni made with homemade pizza dough or a Chicago deep dish pizza!

I have to admit, when I make this sauce I like to pretend that I’m some kind of Italian mama cooking a meal for “the family”. Is it weird that I daydream like that?

But there is something old-worldly and therapeutic about sauteing onions and garlic in olive oil, and then adding herbs and crushed tomatoes and letting it bubble and simmer on your stove while you prepare pasta. Or zucchini noodles, if you are obsessed with them like I am.

Nothing beats classic homemade marinara sauce made from scratch with crushed tomatoes, garlic, and fresh basil simmered on the stove. And it doubles as a pizza sauce!

Just so there are no misconceptions, I used bottled spaghetti sauce for years and years. It wasn’t until doing Whole 30 that I realized how much sugar was in those jarred sauces. And now they taste too sweet for me and they definitely don’t have the richness of a homemade marinara sauce.

I still keep a jar or two on hand for busy nights but it just isn’t the same as the homemade stuff.

I do still use a teeny bit of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes in this recipe, but baking soda can be subbed in place of the sugar in the same amount so that this is a Whole 30 compliant marinara sauce, if you are eliminating sugar from your diet. It tastes wonderful and rich either way. 

How to Chiffonade Basil

While this recipe calls for “chopped” basil, I really always use a technique known as a “chiffonade”. Which is just a fancy word for slicing the basil leaves into thin ribbons.

If you chop basil like any other ingredient, it crushes the leaves too much, so a chiffonade is a better approach. And while you can always use dried basil in a pinch, homemade marinara sauce really is so much better with fresh herbs.

To do this easily (like, in less than 20 seconds), just stack 5-8 basil leaves into a little pile, then roll them up like a cigar.

An image of a hand holding a stack of basil leaves to cut them.

Then use a very sharp knife to slice thin ribbons of basil to add to the marinara sauce. If your knife is dull, you will notice that it is crushing the tender basil leaves, so make sure to sharpen those knives!

An image of basil being sliced into ribbons, a technique known as a chiffonade.

 

How to make homemade marinara sauce

  1. In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  2. Add in the onion and saute for 5-7 minutes until it’s translucent and soft.
  3. Add in the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds until fragrant.
  4. Add in the crushed tomatoes, oregano, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and sugar and stir to combine. Reduce the heat and cover. Let the pot simmer for 15-0 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped basil and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

A collage of images showing how to make homemade marinara sauce.

What is the difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce?

The main difference between the two is that marinara sauce is a little simpler. It’s basically just tomatoes and seasonings whereas spaghetti sauce often contains meat or other vegetables.

How do you make the marinara sauce thicker?

The easiest and most natural way of reducing the sauce is to let it simmer with the lid off for it to reduce and thicken on its own.

I mean, you could add in a few bread crumbs or mix the marinara sauce with drained pasta, which will absorb some of the excess liquid. But I think letting it simmer a bit longer is the best way to thicken it and it doesn’t take very long anyway.

Buon appetito!

An image of a pan of homemade marinara sauce with fresh basil ribbons sprinkled on top.

Love Pasta? Here are some other recipes you might like!

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Classic Homemade Marinara Sauce
Yield: 4 servings

Classic Homemade Marinara Sauce

Nothing beats classic homemade marinara sauce made from scratch with crushed tomatoes, garlic, and fresh basil simmered on the stove. And it doubles as a pizza sauce!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup grated onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and saute for 5-7 minutes, until translucent and soft.
  3. Add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, bay leaf, salt, pepper and sugar and stir to combine. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped basil and olive oil. Season with salt & pepper, to taste.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 59Saturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 227mgCarbohydrates: 1g