Homemade Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce is a staple for all Italian food lovers. Making it from scratch can seem daunting but with once you nail down the key ingredients, anything is possible. This is going to sound ridiculous but until just recently, I’ve been afraid to make my own marinara sauce. I mean seriously, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m kind of an Italian food junkie and have a somewhat illustrious love affair with tomatoes. The problem was, every time I’d try, it never tasted right! It was always too watery, too sour, too salty, you name it! There was always something wrong that made me quickly grab a can of Classico from the cupboard when no one was looking.


I have wanted nothing more than to get this recipe tacked down for a long, long time. After some serious soul-searching and rigorous internet exploration I believe I have cracked the code:

Crushed tomatoes – 1 large can not diced, not stewed, crushed!!! It gives the sauce that awesome texture that coats every noodle. If you want tomato chunks too, that’s easy and I’ll show you how to do that with cherry tomatoes in the instructions below 🙂 Now I just have to figure out how to crush my own homegrown tomatoes.

Tomato paste – 1 small can and 1 can of water – not sauce! It’s too watery. Tomato paste really makes the sauce and everything else you throw in it bond together. Plus, it’s a little sweet, and sweet is good!

Brown sugar2 tbsp –  just enough to sweeten the sauce. The molasses helps blend the sweetness in a way white sugar just can’t. Trust me, I know! White sugar in marinara is horrible!

Parmesan cheese – 1 cup – The sharpness of the cheese give the sauce that zip and zing you want. Give it a little time to meld into the sauce and no one will realize there is cheese in there. It totally disappears.

Using these four main ingredients, the rest becomes really easy. You can add just about anything you like as long as you include these key components. Seriously!

Below is my favorite version of marinara: with cherry tomatoes. I love watching them pop in the heat like cranberries, and their sweetness is just oh…. so….. yum!!


  • 1 10 oz container of cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Italian herb seasoning
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, chopped finely
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • garlic salt and pepper to taste

Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Servings: 4


In a sauce pan add tomatoes, onion, garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and italian herbs. Cook covered on medium heat for about 10 minutes. The tomatoes will wrinkle and split open.


Stir to break down the tomatoes even more.

Add basil, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, water, red pepper flakes, and brown sugar to the pan. Cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes.


Add parmesan, garlic salt, and pepper to taste. Stir, cover and simmer for another 30 minutes.


Enjoy with all of your favorites!


14 thoughts on “Homemade Marinara Sauce

  1. Pingback: Super Stuffed Shells | The Ramblings of an Aspiring Small Town Girl

  2. Never thought on adding cheese for some reason but now it seems so perfect. Also like the idea of using brown sugar. Will be giving this a go 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this awesome blog post with us on #PureBlogLove Link Party! I can’t wait to see what you bring to the party next. I adore this blog and super excited.

    Join us this Thursday 8pm est- Monday 10 am est to celebrate!

  4. I love spaghetti and spaghetti sauce, and i’m very picky about my sauce. But, I know i would like this one. I like sugar in my sauce too so that’s a plus for sure. I will give this a go next time I make some spaghetti! Thanks for sharing!

  5. This looks totally delicious – I can’t wait to give it a try! Thanks so much for linking up to Awesome Life Friday! We’ll be pinning this – we’re looking forward to seeing what you have to share this week!

  6. We don’t eat pasta very often but when we do I’d love it to be in this sauce, it looks so thick and full of flavours. Thanks for linking up to Sweet and Savoury Sunday, stop by and link up again. Have a great day!! Laura@Baking in Pyjamas

  7. Pingback: Crafty and Delicious Party

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