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Best Marinara Sauce Recipe

This authentic marinara sauce is not only the best Marinara sauce recipe you’ll probably enjoy, but it is also incredibly easy and quick to make!

San Marzano tomatoes, fresh garlic and basil, and a healthy glug of good olive oil are the central ingredients of this flavorful sauce. Salt helps balance all the ingredients and a few red pepper flakes add a touch of interest.

A good marinara sauce will have little pools of orangey-red olive oil floating on the surface, which provides a good deal of flavor and is ultimately absorbed by the pasta.

This is the Marinara Sauce we serve with our tender and delicious meatballs.

Three meatballs in sauce in a bowl.

Ingredients in this Marinara Sauce

  • San Marzano Tomatoes: These are the crown jewels of the tomato world, known for their sweet, low-acidity profile and meaty texture. If using whole tomatoes (canned or fresh), crush them by hand, roughly chop or press with a potato masher for a rustic texture. If using canned San Marzanos, check for the DOP label to ensure authenticity. Fresh ones are a treat, but the canned variety is more accessible and consistently high in quality. Using San Marzano tomatoes will ensure you do end up with the very best marinara sauce recipe.
  • Fresh Garlic: Garlic imparts a deep, aromatic, and slightly spicy undertone, essential for layering flavors in the sauce. Always opt for fresh over pre-packaged minced garlic. The flavor is noticeably fresher and more potent. Slice thinly or mince, but avoid browning it too much when sautéing as it can turn bitter.
  • Fresh Basil: Basil brings a peppery sweetness, introducing a fresh and aromatic note that complements the tomato base. Add them towards the end of cooking to maintain their color and fresh taste. Fresh basil is vastly superior to dried in this recipe. Its vibrant flavor can’t be replicated with dried counterparts.
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: Use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor. It might be a bit pricier, but its taste is unmatched. It adds a rich, fruity note and creates a velvety mouthfeel to the sauce. Don’t skimp on the oil; it binds the flavors together and gives the sauce its luxurious texture
  • Salt: Essential for drawing out and enhancing the natural flavors of the other ingredients. Adding salt in small increments lets you monitor and control the seasoning level effectively.
  • Crushed Red Pepper: Crushed red pepper adds a spicy kick, elevating the sauce’s depth and complexity. If you want to infuse the sauce with heat without overpowering it, add the flakes early on. For a more pronounced kick, sprinkle them in towards the end.

Why Are San Marzano Tomatoes So Important to the Best Marinara Sauce Recipe?

San Marzano tomatoes are often heralded as the gold standard for marinara sauce and for good reasons. These elongated, vibrant red fruits originate from the volcanic soils near Mount Vesuvius in Italy, a factor that significantly contributes to their unique taste profile.

san marzano tomatoes

They boast a balance of sweetness and acidity, ensuring that the resulting marinara sauce has a depth of flavor without being overly tangy or sweet. Furthermore, San Marzano tomatoes are meatier and have fewer seeds compared to other tomato varieties, leading to a sauce with a rich consistency and smooth texture.

Their historical significance in Italian cuisine also cannot be overlooked. For centuries, these tomatoes have been a cornerstone of traditional recipes. Incorporating San Marzano tomatoes into marinara sauce not only promises an authentic taste but also pays homage to the rich culinary heritage of Italy.

About Olive Oil

Like San Marzano tomatoes are to the tomato world, Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the choicest of olive oils, and its inclusion in a recipe like marinara sauce can make a world of difference. Derived from the first cold pressing of olives, EVOO retains the purest flavors and aromas of the fruit.

Its distinct, fruity, and slightly peppery profile introduces a depth and richness to the sauce that other olive oils, which are more refined or blended, might lack. Additionally, EVOO boasts a higher concentration of beneficial antioxidants and polyphenols, making it not only a flavorful choice but also a healthier one. In a dish as simple and ingredient-focused as this marinara sauce recipe, where every component plays a starring role, using EVOO ensures that the olive oil’s contribution is both flavorful and authentic, elevating the overall taste and quality of the sauce.

Opting for EVOO over its counterparts is akin to choosing a fine wine over a generic one; the nuanced flavors and quality are immediately noticeable and thoroughly savored.

Marinara sauce in a white bowl.

Best Marinara Sauce

The simplest Marinara sauce is the best sauce. Five minutes of prep time and 15-20 minutes of cook time result in the most flavorful and quick Marinara sauce.
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Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Main Dish Recipes
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 -6 servings, enough for 1 pound of pasta
Calories 206 kcal


  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 28- ounce can of Whole Peeled San Marzano tomatoes
  • 8 cloves of garlic minced or slivered
  • 4 stems of basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.


  • Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and use your hands or a potato masher to break the tomatoes. Set aside.
  • Heat oil in a large, flat skillet over medium heat.
  • Add garlic and let cook for a minute or two until it begins to sizzle. Don't let the garlic brown.
  • Add tomatoes, chili flakes, and salt and stir.
  • Add basil sprigs to the top of the sauce. When it begins to wilt, push it down into the sauce. If you will not be serving the sauce right away, wait to add the basil and then proceed to the next step.
  • Simmer for about 15-20 minutes over low heat.


Serving: 1gCalories: 206kcalCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 2gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 15gSodium: 551mgFiber: 4gSugar: 5g
Keyword Italian, tomato
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