Basic Marinara Sauce

homemade marinara sauce
Marinara sauce on homemade ravioli. Diana Rattray
    40 min

This basic marinara sauce has great flavor and a nice texture. Use this sauce with any pasta dish. It's an excellent sauce to serve over a meat or cheese ravioli or stuffed shells, or use it with a vegetable lasagna dish.

I like a little heat, so I add some crushed red pepper but feel free to leave that out or use a small amount of ground cayenne pepper instead.

Use a food processor to chop the vegetables or chop them by hand.

What You'll Need

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 small onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 rib celery, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil, optional
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 3/4 cup water

How to Make It

Put the garlic, onion, carrot, and celery in a food processor; process until finely chopped. Or, finely chop the vegetables by hand.

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the vegetables and saute, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender and translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper if using, basil if using, bay leaf, tomatoes, and water. Stir to blend. Bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low; simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove the cover and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

If you prefer a smooth sauce, puree it in batches in the blender. Make sure you never fill the blender more than one-third to one-half full with the hot sauce mixture and hold the lid down firmly with a folded kitchen towel in hand. Steam from hot liquids can blow the lid off of a blender if it's too full. Don't take any chances!

Use the finished marinara sauce immediately or store in the refrigerator or freezer. Bring the sauce to a simmer before serving.

Serve this marinara over your favorite spaghetti or ravioli, or use it as a sauce for vegetable lasagna or manicotti.

 Double the marinara sauce recipe to make a big batch and freeze the extra sauce in 2-cup or single-serve containers.

Expert Tips

The chopped carrot helps sweeten the sauce, but if it still tastes a bit acidic, add a small amount of granulated sugar.

A small amount — 1/2 teaspoon of so — of anchovy paste can add richness to a marinara sauce. 

If the sauce is too thick, add a small amount of vegetable broth or tomato juice.

Use leftover marinara sauce as a dip for spinach balls or breadsticks, or drizzle some over an omelet. Spread some over a meatloaf instead of the usual ketchup or barbecue sauce.

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