Basic Marinara Sauce

I have bought jarred pasta sauce before. The Italian in me cringes at the thought, and yet the lazy cook that comes out once in a while rejoices. There are some decent ones out there, but alas, it’s true nothing is quite like homemade.

And when it comes to marinara sauce, it truly is one of the simplest and most basic sauces.

marinara sauce

Basic Marinara Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup red wine*
  • 1 cup water
  1. In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and saute for a few minutes until softened.
  3. Add minced garlic and saute 1 more minute.
  4. Add crushed tomatoes and seasonings. Whisk until smooth.
  5. Add the red wine.
  6. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes or more, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add water as needed to thin out the sauce to a nice consistency. You may need more or less water than what the recipe calls for, so start out by adding a little at a time.


This is simple and inexpensive to make. It takes hardly any time at all. You can make this ahead and freeze it into portions for use in recipes later.

This is called Basic Marinara because it’s the base of any great tomato pasta sauce. Add fresh veggies like mushrooms and green pepper (and whatever else you have like eggplant and artichokes, olives, etc.) and make a fabulous hearty pasta sauce. Or use it as a component of a bigger dish, such as Eggplant Parmesan or Vegan Lasagna. The possibilities are endless.

*Use a good quality red wine that you would drink alone. Don’t use cooking wine. Chances are you’re going to want some red wine with your Italian meal anyway, right?

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10 Responses to “Basic Marinara Sauce”

  1. Karen
    January 30, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    So for all the years I have made my own marinara sauce, not one single recipe that I have tried called for red wine. How sad is that???? I will definitely be trying out this one soon.

    • Megan
      January 30, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

      So sad Karen!! Hehe. Doesn’t red wine make everything just a little better? I like to think so. :) Give it a try and tell me what you think. I like the extra layer of flavor it lends to the sauce.

  2. Rabz
    July 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    hi just wondering if there is a substitute for red wine (I know it is what makes the sauce great!) because I’ll be cooking for my daughter as well and don’t want to use any alcohol in cooking. thanks!
    btw, i just stumbled on your website and love it. my husband is vegan and i am gf so it’s been challenging but looks like those days are behind us …thanks to your website :)

    • Megan
      July 8, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

      Hey Rabz, You could use non-alcoholic wine or vegetable stock. Or, if you really just don’t have anything on hand just a bit of water and I’m sure it would still taste pretty good. :)

      • Rabz
        July 12, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

        thanks for your reply. took me till today to get back because i made the vegan/gf meatballs with this sauce today. i wanted to wait till i finished cooking (and eating) to write back. i used water in place of wine, and in meatballs, i used fresh parsley and garlic. Megan! marinara sauce with meatballs on top of spaghetti is just ridiculously delicious! thank you thank you thank you!!

        • Megan
          July 12, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

          You are so welcome! I LOVE when I get enthusiastic comments like this. Seriously, you made my night! :D


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