Flavorful hearty marinara sauce perfect for pasta, pizza, lasagna, polenta, sausages, and so on. Ready in about 30 minutes, this will become your favorite quick tomato sauce.
Once you’ve made this easy hearty marinara, you’ll have a hard time going back to any kind of bottled tomato sauce. Why? Because this is so good, so full of flavor and it really doesn’t need hours of cooking.
I love taking my time when cooking, but I love it, even more, to be able to put a fresh and delicious dinner on the table in about 30 minutes. And that is all the time you need to cook this hearty marinara. Cook some pasta while the sauce simmers and that’s it!
This seasoning is also incredibly versatile, not just for pasta. Fancy a fast Margherita flatbread pizza? Smear some sauce on a flatbread, add some mozzarella, and bake. Or cover a bought pizza base with the sauce, add your favorite toppings, and bake. Want to make lasagna? Use the sauce. Add some browned ground meat, chicken, or roasted veggies, and layer everything with bechamel and lasagna noodles. So good!
For more super simple and super-fast pasta gravy ideas, have a look at the Tahini Pasta or the Creamy Tuna Carbonara.
Another delicious Italian tomato pasta sauce is sugo, try our Tomato Sugo recipe today!
What is marinara sauce?
I suppose you could call it a quicker version of tomato sauce, which basically needs a longer cooking time and requires more ingredients.
A traditional tomato marinara is not vegetarian, it should include bacon or similar cuts, it’s made with meat stock and it often includes other vegetables. It needs to slowly simmer for hours and it has a more complex flavor. It’s great served over pasta but you will probably never use it as a pizza sauce, too much going on there.
Marinara sauce is the simpler, quicker, less complex version. It is perfectly suited for pizza, and other simple dishes that require something simple that will not overpower the other flavors.
What is hearty marinara sauce?
A delicious tomato sauce inspired by Domino’s sauce. The restaurants use it for pizza and other dishes. I had a look at their ingredient list and created my own flavorful homemade version.
My kids love anything served with marinara, so I am always looking for new versions in order to keep things interesting. This recipe hit the spot, we loved it so much that it has been the only tomato sauce I have been cooking lately. Adding this or that every time I make it, the recipe is super versatile and forgiving.
- Traditionally, marinara is made with San Marzano tomatoes, but any other plum tomatoes are fine. I use fresh tomatoes in summer when they are ripe and sweet, but otherwise, I choose canned tomatoes. If using fresh tomatoes, don’t forget to peel them first.
- Using canned tomatoes is cheap and easy, but you should still know your brand. Some brands are more acidic than others and that might make the sauce quite sour, and you might need to add more sugar.
- You can use already chopped tomatoes or those that are only peeled. If they are whole, I always squish them with the hand directly in the pot, it’s so much faster than chopping them on a cutting board.
- As mentioned above, I had a look at Domino’s hearty marinara sauce to help me with this recipe. So, I added onions, garlic, grated carrots, and a grated piece of celeriac or very finely chopped celery sticks.
- I prefer to use celeriac, I find it sweeter and less “refreshing” than celery sticks, but the choice is yours.
- Dried oregano and rosemary, fresh basil, bay leaves, chili flakes, salt and pepper.
- Butter, olive oil, sugar, tomato puree, Parmesan, or vegetarian hard cheese to keep the dish vegetarian. Real Parmesan is made with animal rennet, not vegetarian-friendly.
How to make?
- Prepare the vegetables.
- Cook onions, sprinkled with a pinch of salt, in butter and oil. Cook for about 3 minutes. (1)
- Add grated garlic, carrots, and celery. Add a small splash of water and cook for about 3 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring a couple of times in between.
- Sprinkle the sugar on top, stir for 1 minute, it will caramelize slightly. (2)
- Add tomato puree, water, tomatoes, all the herbs, and spices. Stir. (3)
- Simmer with a lid on top for about 20 minutes.
- Remove the lid during the last 5 minutes of the cooking time to allow the sauce to thicken slightly. (4)
- Adjust the taste with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and maybe some more sugar, it depends on the acidity of the tomatoes.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the grated Parmesan.
- If using whole canned tomatoes squish them with the hand or with a spoon directly in the pot. When squishing with the hand do it carefully to avoid the juice splashing out of the tomatoes.
- Remove the bay leaves and the basil sprigs after cooking.
- You can leave the sauce chunky, or you can blend it to the desired consistency. Don’t forget to remove the bay leaves before blending the sauce.
- You can easily make a double batch and freeze some of the sauce for super quick meals sometime in the future.
How to store?
The hearty marinara sauce keeps well in the fridge, in airtight containers, for about 5 days. It also freezes very well, for at least 3-4 months, probably longer. Defrost in the fridge or on the counter.
How to use the sauce?
- For any recipe that requires a jar of marinara sauce
- Pizza or calzone
- Polenta (as you can see in the pictures)
- Meatballs in tomato sauce
- Pasta bakes
- Sandwiches, sliders
- As a sauce for serving with meatloaf, sausages, chicken, fish
Hearty Marinara Sauce
- 1 onion
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tbsp butter
- 1 carrot about 100 g/ 3.5 oz
- 1 piece of celeriac about 75 g / 2.6 oz or 3-4 celery sticks
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 ½ tsp granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 1/3 cup water
- 2 cans whole or chopped tomatoes each weighing about 400 g/ 14 oz
- 1 ½ tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 2 sprigs of fresh basil
- 3 bay leaves
- ½ tsp red chili flakes to taste
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice more to taste
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
- Finely chop the onion. Heat the oil and butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook the onions with a pinch of salt on medium-low heat for about 3 minutes.
- In the meantime, grate garlic, carrots, and celery (or chop celery sticks very finely). Add to the pot with a splash of water and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring a couple of times in between.
- Sprinkle the sugar on top, stir for 1 minute to caramelize slightly.
- Add tomato puree, tomatoes, water, oregano, rosemary, basil, chili flakes, bay leaves. Stir and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. Remove the lid during the last 5 minutes of the cooking time to allow the sauce to thicken slightly.
- Adjust the taste with salt, pepper, a little lemon juice, and maybe some more sugar, it depends on the acidity of the tomatoes.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the grated Parmesan.
- You can remove the basil sprigs if you wish. You can leave the sauce chunky, or you can blend it to the desired consistency. If you blend it, remove the bay leaves first.