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Easy Homemade Marinara Sauce

Updated on February 15, 2011

It’s Easier Than You Think.

Yes, you, too can make homemade marinara sauce. It’s astonishingly easy once you know how. Homemade sauce is healthier than the stuff that comes in a can (and is full of high-fructose corn syrup) and almost certainly tastier, since you will control both the amount and quality of the ingredients. In fact, you can grow most of the ingredients yourself (not the pepper and olive oil) in a window box or backyard garden. The next best thing to growing your own is getting it from your local farmers’ market. You can use canned, too, but the fresher, the better. Let’s get started.


To make the sauce you’ll need a few tools. First, you’ll need a saucepan that a tomato can float in. If you have a large enough one, you can do several tomatoes at once, but a small one will do. You will also need a large mixing bowl, a sharp knife, a cutting board, a large spoon, a spatula, and a wide frying pan.


Several tomatoes (more or fewer, depending on size—I like Roma tomatoes best.), olive oil, a clove or two of garlic, black pepper (freshly ground, if possible), basil, and oregano.

Spaghetti Marinara


Start by putting your tomatoes in the refrigerator. You will want them to be cold before you start. Next, fill your saucepan with enough water for at least one of your tomatoes to float, and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, get your tomatoes from the fridge and put one of them in the boiling water. Watch carefully. When the skin splits (it will probably happen very soon!), fish the tomato out with your spoon and put it in your mixing bowl. Repeat. You are not cooking the tomatoes in this step, you’re simply splitting the skin to make peeling easy.

Once you’ve split the skin of your tomatoes, you’re done with the saucepan. Take your tomatoes and pull the skin off them with your fingers. You should be able to pop them out of their skin by squeezing gently. Be careful not to launch your tomatoes across the kitchen. Put the skinned tomatoes into the bowl and discard the skins as you go.

Now you have a bowl of skinned tomatoes. This is the fun part. Reach into the bowl and smoosh the tomatoes with your fingers. You want to get them good and mangled, with the bits being more or less uniformly small, about the size of a dime. When you’re done with this step, wash your hands again (you did wash your hands before you started, right?) and get the knife and cutting board.

Mince your garlic. I love garlic, so I usually use two or three cloves of it, depending on size. Use as much or as little as you like. Some people prefer to crush or slice their garlic. Crushing sure is quicker, and you don’t get as much garlic smell on your hands. But mincing makes it easier to spread the garlic bits around. It doesn’t matter much which you do, as long as your end product is tasty.

The Actual Cooking Part

Put some* olive oil into your pan and turn on the heat. Sprinkle in some pepper and add the garlic. Soon your kitchen will begin to smell very much like heaven. Once the garlic is sizzling, carefully add the crushed tomatoes. You don’t want to splash the hot oil out of the pan. Keep the tomatoes moving around in the pan either by jiggling the pan or by stirring with the spatula. In a few minutes, the tomatoes will be heated through and the liquid will have boiled off. At this time you will want to add the oregano and basil. Use as little or as much as you want, to your taste. I tend to go light on the oregano and heavy on the basil. Stir it all together. Tadaa, you’re done.

Your homemade marinara sauce will be chunkier than the store-bought kind, and you will control its thickness. If you like a thicker sauce, keep it on the heat until most of the liquid has boiled away.

*You will have noticed that the measurements in this recipe have been decidedly imprecise. I do this on purpose, for two reasons. First, cooking should be as enjoyable as eating, to my way of thinking, and if we get too bogged down in teaspoons and precision, we might miss the wonderful things that are happening as our ingredients become a delicious meal. Pay attention to your ingredients as you cook. The finished product (and your satisfaction) will be much the better for it. Second, you’ll need more stuff to cook for a dinner party than for an intimate dinner for two. Start small, and once you’re sure of yourself, impress the heck out of your friends and family.

Serving Suggestions

You can serve this sauce over plain pasta, ravioli, tortellini, or whatever you like. You can use it over sautéed chicken breast or sliced zucchini. You can pour it over a mushroom and Parmesan omelet. It’s also good with gnocci. Cook it long enough to get very thick, cool it down, and it will even work as a bruschetta. Don’t be afraid to experiment with additional ingredients like mushrooms and olives. Enjoy!

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    • VVanNess profile image

      Victoria Van Ness 4 years ago from Prescott Valley

      Yea! I can't wait. We have fresh tomatoes around the house all the time, so I'll probably just make it as we need it. :)

      Thanks for the great recipe! I will be following your articles for more like this one!

    • Jeff Berndt profile image

      Jeff Berndt 4 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Hi, VVanNass, I think you'll enjoy making your own marinara sauce. It's the best when you pick the tomatoes and use them straightaway. You can make a lot of it and freeze the extra if you like, too. If you want to can it, though, you'll need to use a pressure canner, which can be expensive and involved, but also rewarding.

      After you've made this sauce once or twice, try messing with the ingredients to get a sauce that's perfect for you! Cooking can be an adventure. Enjoy!

    • VVanNess profile image

      Victoria Van Ness 4 years ago from Prescott Valley

      Yum! I've been interested in making tomato sauce for the house for some time because we go through so much of it. I thought I had to have a great deal of canning supplies and learn a whole new hobby just to do so.

      This is great! I'm going to start tonight!

    • WandasHomePlace profile image

      WandasHomePlace 6 years ago

      Thanks! I'll try this.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image

      Jeff Berndt 7 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Hi, RachelSmile! I'm always happy to have someone link to something I've written; thank you for the high compliment.

    • RachelSmile profile image

      RachelSmile 7 years ago

      Cool,I love sauce,definitely have to try.Thanks for sharing.And I m wondering if I could add it as a special recommend on my web,

    • Jeff Berndt profile image

      Jeff Berndt 7 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Melissa, having spoken to my wife, who does the canning in our family, I can now answer your question.

      Do not use the water-bath canning method for this sauce; it is not acidic enough to guarantee that it won't spoil.

      A pressure-canner would probably work, though. They'll can pretty much anything.

      The Mrs. recommends the Ball "Blue Book of Preserving" (ISBN: 0-9727537-0-2) for reference.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image

      Jeff Berndt 7 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      I imagine it would keep fine, but I'm not a canner. I've never tried to can this, or any, sauce.

    • profile image

      melissa 7 years ago

      How does this keep, canned?

      What method do you recommend?

    • EmpressFelicity profile image

      EmpressFelicity 7 years ago from Kent, England, UK

      Yum. I love making my own sauce with fresh tomatoes, but I'm far too lazy to peel them so I just chop them coarsly and add them to the pan after glazing some chopped onions and garlic.

      I can't for the life of me understand why anyone buys tomato sauce in those jars - as you say, it's got nasties like HFCS in it and it just tastes naff.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image

      Jeff Berndt 7 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Do try it out, and let us know how it goes. One thing I forgot to mention: a splash of cabernet sauvignon or zinfandel (not white zinfandel) can add a bit of savor. Don't overdo it, though!

    • Jane Bovary profile image

      Jane Bovary 7 years ago from The Fatal Shore

      Looks nice and simple...I love tomatoes and am sick of the store bought stuff.


    • Bernadette1968 profile image

      Bernadette1968 7 years ago from Michigan

      Sounds good; I'll have to try this! I agree with you on not getting too fussy about measurements. I use a pinch of this and a dash of that and find that the recipe turns out just fine. When people get obsessed with the measurements, their recipes often turn out flat-tasting. Besides, if you add a little of this and that, it turns out slightly different every time you make it and those variations keep a dish from being monotonous.

      Have you tried canning this sauce?