Marinara Sauce

Classic Marinara - Whole tomatoes, garlic, basil and good extra virgin olive oil (cooked minimally for about 10 minutes)

Christine from our Facebook fan page recently asked if we had a marinara sauce recipe and my quick answer was that we haven’t documented it on the site but we make it consistently during the summer months.  Christine’s question also made us think deeply about the difference between tomato sauace and marinara (and there are many), not touching on the further differentiation associated with “pizza sauce.”

Another picture of classic marinara sauce; made with tomatoes from the garden and a small amount of diced onion, which is optional when it comes to marinara sauce.
Another picture of classic marinara sauce; made with tomatoes from the garden and a small amount of diced onion, which is optional when it comes to marinara sauce.

For Italians, marinara is made with whole, fresh, tomatoes (usually peeled and de-seeded plum, cherry, Roma, or San Marzano varieties) and is simply a quick pan sauce that is not simmered or cooked for a long period of time.  Our marinara recipe consists of the following ingredients:

Marinara Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A simple marinara sauce
Recipe type: Sauce
Serves: 4-6
  • ¼ cup of very good extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6-7 pieces of garlic, sliced thin (optional)
  • 5-7 medium sized plum, Roma, or San Marzano tomatoes with seeds and skin removed - usually crushed by hand
  • Salt and pepper
  • Hot pepper flakes
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  1. The process is quick, and unlike tomato sauce, it doesn't include simmering ingredients (including carrots, onions, etc.) for a long period of time yielding a more complex and thicker "sauce" or ragu.
  2. We begin with a medium sized fry pan and add extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and a bit of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook the ingredients over a medium flame and thereafter add the tomatoes. On adding the tomatoes, the stem, seeds and skin should be removed, and thereafter you'll want to use your hands to crush each tomato over a large bowl. Use a wooden spoon to work the tomatoes and stir well. You can of course leave the seeds and skin (as I often do) but removing the skin and seeds will create a slightly more refined condiment for your pasta.
  3. Cook down the ingredient until you begin to see the olive oil turn a beautiful orange/red color. Add Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and stir well. Shred your basil by hand and add it to the sauce and stir well (if you don't have basil parsley is perfectly acceptable).
  4. Total cooking time should be about 10 minutes. The goal should be to create a fresh tasting sauce that is light and seasonal (namely, reflecting the summer and early Fall when tomatoes are at their peak)

A picture of tomato sauce - notice the thickness of the sauce.
Close up of tomato sauce with braised meats (or meat sauce).


  1. Hi Joe,

    Thanks for the comment. Traditionally marinara sauce doesn’t include onion. Marinara uses fresh tomatoes (no seeds / skin), garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, dried oregano, and fresh basil. It’s usually made during the summer and early fall months in Italy and different in states from tomato sauce or ragu (which is made with onions and other vegetables as well as meats in some parts of Italy).

    Onions are a standard in our tomato sauce recipe.


  2. Linda Colletti-Bieg

    This is the exact recipe my Aunt joni gave me when I was a young girl. We always had this quick simple sauce with a penne or angel hair. Oh, by the way, she always called the meat sauce “gravy”. ha

  3. Judi Lentini Rush

    My Roma’s are coming to an end ( I live in TN) but all of my other varieties are plentiful…..can I use them to make fresh tomato sauce too?….I don’t see why not but would love your opinion…..I roast my Roma’s with garlic and olive oil put them through a food mill and freeze in containers…..would that work for my other varieties?

    • Of course! I think you can make tomato sauce from most any tomato variety (the consensus is that Roma, San Marzano, Plum, etc. make the best type of sauce because of their sugar content).

      Do you roast the tomatoes and then make a homemade tomato sauce? I’d suggest canning the tomatoes you do have (uncooked). Good luck.

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