Marinara (Meatless Spaghetti Sauce)

5 from 5 votes

This recipe for marinara boasts bold, robust flavor and requires minimal effort. Sweet crushed tomatoes are infused with smooth olive oil, peppery garlic, and aromatic herbs to create a simple yet sensational sauce — in just 30 minutes!

overhead: stirring marinara sauce with a wooden spoon as it cooks in a large skillet

I am thrilled to share today’s marinara recipe with you. Homemade marinara sauce is fresher, healthier, and more delicious than anything you’ll find in the store. Plus, I have adapted this version to deliver maximum flavor without the hours spent at the stove. 

And seriously, this recipe could not be easier. You will need to chop up the garlic cloves and fresh herbs, but aside from that, there is virtually no prep work needed. All that is required is a simple saute, a bit of stirring, and 20 minutes of simmering. Boom! Fresh, fabulous flavor in no time! 

a white bowl of shell pasta with marinara, cheese, and herbs on top with a piece of bread and a fork visible

For more Italian-inspired recipes check out my Tuscan Soup, Marinated Mushrooms, and these Lasagna Rolls.

overhead: ingredients needed for marinara

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Olive Oil – I prefer the delicate flavor of olive oil when making Mediterranean recipes. In a pinch, however, canola oil or avocado oil will do. 
  • Garlic Cloves Infuse the sauce with a bold pop of pungent zestiness. 
  • Tomato Paste – Adds thickness and tangy-sweet, umami flavor. If you are feeling ambitious and plan on simmering your sauce for multiple hours, you can omit. 
  • Red Wine While optional, wine increases the rich, robust flavors like nothing else. For an alcohol-free alternative, try a splash of red wine vinegar instead. 
  • Sugar Adds a balancing, harmonizing dash of sweetness. 
  • Oregano Brings an earthy, aromatic element to the sauce. 
  • Kosher Salt Brightens and harmonizes all the other flavors without adding too much salty flavor. 
  • Red Pepper Flakes Bring a bold, smoky flavor with a hint of heat. 
  • Crushed Tomatoes – While any brand will do, choose San Marzano for some of the sweetest, most coveted tomatoes on the planet. They were actually grown in volcanic soil at the base of Mt. Vesuvius!
  • Basil Leaves – Perks up the sauce with a fresh dose of spicy-sweet pungency. 
  • Flat Leaf Parsley Completes the marinara with a clean, peppery flavor and a dazzling dash of green.
closeup: meatless spaghetti sauce cooking with a wooden spoon stirring

How to Make Marinara

  1. Saute the Garlic. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Heat the olive oil for a couple minutes and then add the garlic. Saute for 2 minutes before reducing the heat to medium.  
  2. Stir in the Spices. Now add in the red wine (if you choose) and the tomato paste along with the sugar, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt. Saute for another 2 minutes.  
  3. Add the Tomatoes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Let the sauce simmer for about 20 minutes, giving it time to reduce slightly. About halfway through, go ahead and mix in the fresh basil leaves. Taste the sauce and add more salt as desired. 
overhead: cooking spaghetti sauce in a large skillet with a wooden spoon visible
  1. Leave Chunky or Blend Smooth. If you prefer chunky sauce, your work here is done. However, if you want a smoother sauce, you can use an immersion blender, food processor, or regular blender to blend to your desired consistency. Please be careful during this step, though — hot sauce splatters are no joke!
  2. Serve. Ladle your marinara over any pasta or meatball dish you have planned with a handful of fresh chopped parsley and plenty of shredded or grated Parmesan cheese.
3 images showing a large serving spoon adding marinara on top of shell pasta

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Difference Between Marinara and Spaghetti Sauce?

Marina and spaghetti sauce have several similarities and can be used interchangeably in many recipes. They are both versatile, beautifully spiced, tomato-based sauces. However, they do have a few key differences. 

For starters, marinara sauce is far simpler to prepare than spaghetti sauce. It is made from basic, quality ingredients and requires relatively little cooking time compared to pasta sauce. It also doesn’t contain any meat, giving it a thinner consistency. 

Spaghetti sauce, on the other hand, includes a host of other spices and different ingredients, and almost always has meat, such as in ragu and bolognese. Some recipes simmer for multiple hours to cultivate a rich, robust flavor and thick, hearty consistency. It is thicker, sweeter, and more complex.

What Is Marinara Sauce Best For?

Homemade marinara sauce can add flavor to your favorite dishes in a variety of ways. Whether you want to drip, drizzle, or drench, here are a few ideas to get you started. 

– Marinara makes a superb meatless spaghetti sauce. Serve it over any of your favorite noodles — spaghetti, fettuccine, rotini, penne, and beyond!
– Enjoy it as a dipping sauce for Garlic Naan Bread or Cheese Bread.
– Pair with meatball dishes like these Lamb Meatballs, Spicy Beef Meatballs, or Baked Greek Meatballs
– Incorporate some into your next homemade Flatbread Pizzas.

How Do You Store Homemade Marinara Sauce?

Store any leftover marinara sauce in the refrigerator in an airtight container, and use within 3-4 days. 

You can also freeze your marinara for up to 6 months. Make sure the sauce is completely cooled before transferring it to freezer bags. 

Canning to preserve is also an option, but that will need to be a separate post!

a bowl of shell pasta with marinara sauce, cheese, and herbs on top

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Marinara (Meatless Spaghetti Sauce)

5 from 5 votes
Whip up a batch of this marinara for a simple meatless spaghetti sauce featuring zesty garlic, spicy red pepper, sweet basil, and more.
Servings: 4
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 35 minutes



  • In a large skillet, heat the oil over a medium-high heat and add the minced garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium and add the wine (optional), tomato paste, sugar, dried oregano, salt and red pepper flakes, sauté for 2 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes, stir and simmer until reduced slightly, about 20 minutes. In last 10 minutes of simmering, add the basil and stir. Season the sauce with more salt to taste.
  • At this point you could leave it chunky, or for a smooth sauce, you could use a immersion hand blender and puree, or put in a blender and puree until smooth.
  • Serve over any pasta or meatball dish and top with fresh chopped parsley and grated or shaved parmesan cheese.



  1. As this recipe is written, the flavors are amazing, although if cooking this low and slow (3-4 hour simmer stovetop), I would omit the tomato paste as this will thicken on it’s own. I use the tomato paste when time is tight.
  2. Per The Kitchn, San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the rich volcanic soil at the base of Mount Vesuvius, which gives them a sweet flavor and low acidity and they are coveted for their firm pulp, deep red color, easy to remove skin and low seed count. Feel free to use whatever brand you prefer. This recipe is good for 1 pound of cooked pasta.


Calories: 58kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 0.3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 358mg | Potassium: 119mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 396IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 1mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: Sauces
Cuisine: Italian, Mediterranean
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image (and shown): marinara meatless spaghetti sauce


I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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  1. Would it work to use fresh tomatoes instead of canned? Do you think it would be alright to use canola oil instead of olive oil?

  2. May the :Spaghetti Sauce (Marinara Sauce) be doubled? Plus, would you have a Spaghetti Sauce that is good for canning/ Thanks. I am looking forward to making this sauce. ~ Kathleen

    1. This can easily be doubled. Hover your mouse over the Servings number on the recipe card on desktop and touch the same on mobile. A slider will pop up to allow you to change it there and the ingredient list changes with that number, too. Also I would follow any canning instructions from Ball’s website.