Easy Authentic Marinara Sauce

Side view of a large jar of marinara sauce with fresh basil and a head of garlic surrounding it.

5 from 3 reviews

This authentic Italian Marinara Sauce recipe takes just 30 minutes to make and tastes a million times better than store bought! Toss it with pasta, use it for chicken or eggplant parmesan, use it to top your pizza or as a base for tomato soup!


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small yellow or sweet onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • pinch of red chili flakes
  • 1 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (or crushed tomatoes)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional)
  • pinch of sugar (optional)
  • Fresh basil or Italian flat leaf parsley (optional) 


  1. Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, a pinch of salt and red pepper flakes, then cook for 1-2 minutes longer until the garlic is fragrant. 
  4. Add the canned tomatoes, then use a wooden spoon to smash and break them into pieces. 
  5. Add a bay leaf and tomato paste (if using), along with about 1/2 - 1 cup of water, depending on the consistency of your tomatoes and how thick you want your sauce.
  6. Cover the pot and let it simmer for 20 minutes. 
  7. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed. If the sauce is too acidic or tastes bitter, add a small pinch of sugar to balance the flavors. 
  8. Add fresh basil or parsley (if using) right before serving to preserve their flavor. 


  • Cook your onion slowly to avoid browning. If they begin to brown, turn the heat down to low. You want your onions to be soft, not crisp. 
  • Have your can of tomatoes opened and ready before adding the garlic. Depending on how hot the pot is when you add garlic, you may only need to cook it for 30 seconds before it turns brown and begins to burn. Quickly adding the tomato sauce from tasting like burnt garlic. 
  • For a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender to puree the chunks of tomato and onion. 
  • Tomato paste is optional. My family tends to make sauce on the thinner side, but if you prefer a thicker sauce don't skip it. 
  • If the flavor is a bit too acidic or bitter, add a pinch of sugar. The sugar helps to mellow the acid and balances the flavor. It won’t make the sauce sweet!
  • This sauce has a robust Italian flavor on its own, but try adding some fresh basil or parsley at the end for freshness. 


Keywords: easy, tomato, marinara, sauce, gravy, sugo, Italian, sicilian, canned tomatoes, authentic