Our easy marinara sauce with crushed tomatoes tastes like something from a corner cafe in Italy–and that’s because this is an Italian grandmother’s recipe! As a fourth-generation Southern cook, I’ve been making this marinara sauce recipe for more than 20 years. It’s better than any jarred sauce, and it’s so easy that you won’t miss the jar at all!

With our secret recipe, you’ll have a simple marinara sauce that you can store in the freezer or just make from scratch in less than one hour.

A pot with marinara sauce with crushed tomatoes

Easy marinara sauce

I clipped this recipe from a newspaper (remember print newspapers?!) about 20 years ago, from an article titled “An Italian Grandma’s Kitchen.” Now, I’m sharing her secrets with you to help you make an amazing marinara sauce that your family will ask for every week.

What makes this recipe easy and delicious is that we use canned crushed tomatoes, fresh herbs, and fresh onion and garlic. You won’t have a lot of chopping to do, and once you get the pot going, you’ll have time to get the rest of your dinner ready. 

While fresh tomatoes have the best flavor when they’re in season, using canned tomatoes in this recipe makes the recipe more versatile and great all year round

Don’t you love simple, one-pot recipes like that? 

This recipe is also totally adaptable:

  • Add sausage, ground beef, or ground turkey to make it a meaty spaghetti sauce.
  • Use fresh tomatoes in season instead of canned crushed tomatoes. 
  • Use dried herbs instead of fresh ones.

a white bowl with easy marinara sauce

Easy marinara sauce recipe ingredients

  • Dutch oven – I love my Le Creuset Dutch ovens, but this option from Lodge is less expensive and gets great reviews! And this one from Amazon Basics is nice, too!
  • Olive oil
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Red wine – adds a subtle flavor to your marinara sauce
  • Fresh basil – can use dried
  • Fresh oregano – can use dried
  • Fresh parsley – can use dried
  • Red pepper flakes – optional
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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How to make marinara sauce from crushed tomatoes

Step 1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and stir for about a minute then add garlic. Turn heat to low and stir just until garlic and onion turn translucent but not brown.

Step 2. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Add crushed tomatoes, red wine, and all the seasonings. Stir well and cook until heated through. Reduce heat to low until ready to serve.

Cook’s Tip: Here’s a tutorial for how to make crushed tomatoes.

Favorite ways to use marinara with crushed tomatoes

This sauce is wonderful over any type of pasta, meatballs, or chicken for chicken parmesan. One batch usually makes enough for one meal and a nice bit of leftover marinara sauce for the freezer.

How to store marinara sauce with crushed tomatoes

Store the sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

How long does marinara sauce last in the fridge?

You can store homemade marinara sauce in the refrigerator for three to five days.

Can you freeze marinara sauce?

You can freeze the marinara sauce for several months. Use freezer-safe containers like these, or store them in large gallon freezer bags.

To freeze in bags, fill the bag and then place it on a baking sheet in the freezer overnight. Once the sauce is frozen, you can store the bag upright or stack it.

Marinara Sauce Recipe with Crushed Tomatoes FAQs

What is marinara sauce?

Marinara sauce is just a simple tomato sauce with added aromatics, such as onion and garlic. The main difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce is the addition of protein or extra vegetables, like grated carrots or zucchini.

How to thicken marinara sauce?

Your sauce should naturally thicken as it simmers, but if you think it’s too thin, you can try the following techniques:

  • Use a thickening agent like cornstarch and make a slurry. Stir this into the sauce and bring to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Use about one tablespoon of the slurry per two cups of sauce.
  • Add a small amount (1/4 cup to 1/3 cup) of the pasta water to the sauce. The starch from the pasta will help thicken the sauce slightly.
  • You can add a little tomato paste—also a good way to turn the marinara sauce into a perfect pizza sauce!
  • Stir in a little grated Parmesan cheese.

What is the difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce?

Spaghetti sauce and marinara sauce are *basically* the same thing. The primary difference is spaghetti sauce includes protein and sometimes more vegetables, like grated carrots or zucchini.

We typically just add meat to this recipe when we want a meaty spaghetti sauce.

Can you use marinara sauce for pizza?

You can use marinara sauce for pizza and for just about any pasta dish that you want to make. For pizza sauce, you can stir in some tomato sauce or more tomatoes to give it a little bit of a richer tomato taste.

Stirring marinara sauce in a pot.

Check out more of our sauce recipes and pasta recipes.

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4.87 from 15 votes

Marinara Sauce Recipe with Crushed Tomatoes

A simple Italian marinara sauce with crushed tomatoes and seasonings. It’s great for pasta and quick enough for a week night.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings: 12 servings


  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoons granulated sugar (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 tsp dried
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or 1 tsp dried
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and stir for about a minute then add garlic and stir just until garlic and onion turn translucent but not brown.
  • Turn heat down to medium-low and add crushed tomatoes, red wine, sugar (if using), basil, oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  • Stir well and cook until heated through. Then simmer on low until ready to serve.


Add cooked ground beef or Italian sausage (or a mix of both) to make this a quick and easy meaty sauce.
This recipe was adapted from Teri Ghezzi’s Marinara Sauce recipe, published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2002. 


Serving: 12servings, Calories: 32kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 0.2g, Fat: 2g, Saturated Fat: 0.3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Sodium: 1mg, Potassium: 31mg, Fiber: 0.4g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 53IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 12mg, Iron: 0.3mg
Course: Sauces
Cuisine: Italian
Calories: 32
Keyword: easy marinara sauce, easy tomato sauce, marinara sauce
Love this recipe?Mention @southernfoodandfun or tag #southernfoodandfun!

Update Notes: This post was originally published March 8, 2011, and on February 27, 2024, was updated with one or more of the following: step-by-step photos, video, updated recipe, new tips.

Lucy standing behind a counter with a cheese board and glass of wine.

About the author

Hi, I’m Lucy! I’m a home cook, writer, food and wine fanatic, and recipe developer. I’ve created and tested hundreds of recipes so that I can bring you the best tried and true favorites.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Made this a good few times now and just making it again for Cheesy Mozzarella Chicken Bake. This is a really tasty and easy sauce to make. My go to marinara sauce recipe. We love it x

  2. 5 stars
    Since I tried this recipe, I have not used any other, and certainly not jarred sauce. This is so delicious. Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much! I just love how easy this sauce is, and how you can add whatever you want.

    1. I have never canned it but I just about always double or triple the recipe anyway! I like to keep some in the freezer.

  3. 5 stars
    I’m putting this recipe on the inside of my cabinet door to join all my other favorite recipes!! It’s quick to make, I always have these items in my pantry and it’s delicious!! I left out the sugar and only had one can crushed tomatoes so I used some stewed tomatoes I had in the freezer.
    Thank you!!!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I think pretty much any tomatoes will work, I just like the texture of the crushed tomatoes.

  4. 5 stars
    This is a keeper. An excellent pantry staple meal. I did blend the sauce and added bay leaf with the tomatoes and about 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes. Very nice weeknight meal.

  5. is there something i could subsitute for the wine -i have everything else i need to make this except the wine and no way to get to the store

  6. 5 stars
    That looks awesome. I will probably make it and try to sub a tiny drop of local honey for the sugar.

    1. Thanks, I’m sure honey would work fine. It just adds a little balance to the acid of the tomatoes to avoid bitterness. And you should taste before you add either — you may find that you don’t need to add anything. Enjoy!

  7. 5 stars
    That looks awesome. I will probably make it and try to sub a tiny drop of local honey for the sugar.