This easy recipe for homemade Pasta Marinara is fast, tasty, and packed with flavor. Skip the jar and rely on this for a fresh, family-friendly recipe that can easily be ready in less than 30 minutes.
Perfect Marinara Pasta From Scratch
Simple pasta dishes are kind of my favorite for a family-friendly weeknight meal. They are usually easy and quick to get on the table, and as sure a thing as you’re going to get for pleasing everyone. This pasta marinara shows perfectly how you needn’t compromise on quality to still get an amazing from scratch meal on the table fast.
This is going to check a lot of appealing boxes. It’s:
- Hands-off. Once the sauce is simmering you’re pretty free.
- Wholesome and real food. No preservatives or added sugars needed here.
- Crazy flavorful. Use the highest quality tomatoes you can and reap the rewards of amazing taste!
Care to add protein? Follow these directions for a chicken marinara pasta that is delicious and barely any extra work.
What is marinara pasta?
Confused about the difference between marinara and other common pasta sauces? Marinara is a light and simple tomato-based sauce used often with pizzas, pastas, and even as a dipping sauce or condiment. Unlike spaghetti or vodka sauce, marinara does not traditionally contain meat, cream, or many other complex ingredients.
Of course you can buy jarred pasta sauce, but the brands that taste amazing are really expensive, and it’s so easy to make your own. It truly is all about the perfect homemade marinara sauce here. Master that and simple yet impressive meals like this will be at your fingertips forever.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Here are a few notes and shopping tips about the ingredients you’ll need to make this, as well as possible substitutions. Full amounts are noted in the printer-friendly recipe card below.
- Pasta: Use penne pasta, as shown here, farfalle, rotini, or rigatoni, for a simple and classic option, or make a delightful spaghetti marinara. Really you can’t go wrong.
- (High quality!) canned crushed tomatoes: With so few ingredients, the quality of each makes a real difference in the finished flavor. San Marzano tomatoes are generally considered top notch; my favorite commonly-available brands include Mutti, DeLallo, and Muir Glen.
- Fresh basil. For flavor and looks! You can also toss in other fresh herbs if desired — a little oregano or thyme is great!
- Extra-virgin Olive oil: A light, fresh olive oil is perfection.
- Minced fresh garlic: So much flavor, pound for pound.
- Dried oregano and red pepper flakes. The red pepper adds only a touch of flavor, and not much heat until you significantly increase the amount. You can always pass more at the table if some people prefer more punch.
Can you use canned whole tomatoes to make pasta marinara?
Yes, canned whole tomatoes can make a great marinara sauce. Substitute a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes for the crushed tomatoes here, and include all juices from the can. Either crush the tomatoes by hand as you add them to the skillet, smash them with a wooden spoon as they cook, or blend them with a traditional or immersion blender before adding the pasta.
Does homemade marinara sauce have sugar?
You can add sugar to any homemade tomato sauce to counter the tomatoes’ natural acidity, but it’s not typically necessary if you’ve begun with pretty good quality tomatoes. If you do prefer the extra sweetness, start with just 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and add more to taste.
How To Make Pasta Marinara
This is fast and easy but there is one important thing to watch, and simple sequencing also ensures you get the most flavorful sauce in whatever time you have available. Here’s what to do:
- Boil water for the pasta.
- Start the sauce right away once you get the pasta water going. You want to allow as much time as possible for the sauce to simmer and build flavor. Begin with the olive oil and garlic in a cold, large skillet, then place over medium heat. Be sure to use a pan large enough to hold the sauce and pasta, so you don’t have to get another one dirty!
- Add tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes, and fresh basil as soon as the garlic starts to sizzle and smell good. Turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for at least 15 minutes.
- Cook the pasta to two minutes less than the package directions state for al dente. You want it to have some bite when it goes into the sauce so that it can absorb a bit of it.
- Toss it all together and add salt and pepper to taste.
Watch carefully at the beginning and add the tomatoes as soon as the garlic begins to sizzle! If the garlic turns dark brown or begins to burn, it will impart an acrid taste to the entire sauce. This is simple but important.
If the timing works out, it’s easy and helpful to transfer the pasta directly from its cooking pot into the sauce using a wide slotted spoon. It’s OK if a little cooking water comes with it. If the pasta is done well before the sauce has simmered for 15 minutes, though, drain it in a colander and transfer to the sauce later.
This makes a fairly thick sauce as it is, but if you want an even more rich consistency, add 1-2 Tablespoons of tomato paste to the sauce. It’s best to brown this lightly along with the garlic, then proceed as directed with the crushed tomatoes and other ingredients.
Pasta with Marinara Sauce and Vegetables
It’s also easy to toss your veggies straight into this pasta for a more nutritious one-pot meal! Craving greens? Add spinach or arugula to the sauce along with the drained pasta. Have some shredded carrots, minced onion, or finely-chopped bell pepper or zucchini? Add those to the sauce along with the tomatoes and let them simmer in there right along with everything else.
Prefer to add protein? Cooked chicken, shrimp, other seafood, meatballs, or Italian sausage are all great choices.
Marinara pasta is pretty much the quintessential Italian comfort food, and it pairs perfectly with everything you’d expect: an Italian salad, spinach salad, or a simple mix of arugula and pine nuts complements these flavors beautifully. We also love it with roasted garlic green beans, broccolini, or simple steamed peas for the kids.
Breadsticks or a loaf of crusty garlic bread never hurts!
Garnish with more basil and black pepper if you love it. Pass the red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese at the table to double down on the family-style fun!
Storage & Reheating
Leftovers? Lucky you! Marinara sauce will maintains its consistency perfectly as long as it’s not warmed for too long or over excessively high heat.
- Storage: Leftovers keep very well for 3-4 days. Store in any airtight container in the fridge. (These are our favorite meal prep boxes!)
- Reheating: Warm in the microwave or over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. Add a splash of broth or water to help loosen the sauce and minimize sticking, only if needed.
- Freezing: You can even freeze extra portions of pasta marinara! Freeze in tightly-sealed containers for up to 2 months, then defrost and reheat in the microwave as desired.
More Easy Pasta Recipes
If you love simple and quick pasta recipes, you’ll also enjoy my creamy spaghetti with mushrooms and garlicky breadcrumbs, weeknight bolognese, gnocchi alla vodka, and salmon pesto pasta. Lemon chicken pasta always hits the spot, and lemon broccoli pasta is another one-pot wonder you’ll love to have in your back pocket!
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- 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 2-3 sprigs fresh basil plus more for serving
- 8 ounces pasta
- kosher salt and black pepper
- Boil a large pot of water and add a generous pinch of salt.
- While you wait for the water to boil, begin making the sauce. Place olive oil and garlic in a cold deep skillet, then place the skillet over medium heat. As soon as the garlic starts to sizzle and smell fragrant, stir in the tomatoes, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Nestle in the sprigs of fresh basil. Reduce the heat to low and let sauce simmer for at least 15 minutes.
- While the sauce simmers, add pasta to the boiling water. Cook for 2 minutes less than the package directions say for al dente.
- After the sauce has simmered for about 15 minutes, remove the basil sprigs and give it a taste. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add cooked pasta to the sauce and give everything a good stir. (If the timing works out, I like to transfer the pasta directly from its cooking pot into the sauce using a slotted spoon. It’s OK if a little cooking water comes with it. If the pasta is done well before the sauce has simmered for 15 minutes, though, it’s fine to drain it in a colander and transfer to the sauce later.)
- Let everything warm through for 1-2 minutes. Serve with more chopped or torn basil leaves.
- Using high-quality tomatoes is important. With so few ingredients, the flavor will really make a difference. San Marzano tomatoes are generally considered top notch; my favorite brands include Mutti, DeLallo, and Muir Glen, which are organic and come in BPA-free cans.
- You can use whole canned tomatoes in place of crushed. Include all juices from the can. Either crush the tomatoes by hand as you add them to the skillet, or blend them with a traditional or immersion blender before adding the pasta.
- Toss veggies straight into this pasta for more of a healthy one-pot meal. Craving greens? Add spinach or arugula to the sauce along with the drained pasta. Have some shredded carrots, minced onion, or finely-chopped bell pepper or zucchini? Add those to the sauce along with the tomatoes and let them simmer in there right along with everything else.
5 Comments on “Pasta Marinara”
Such a delicious marinara recipe! I love how quickly it comes together.
Delish! I used the whole peeled tomatoes and immersion blender as you suggested and this sauce was so easy and flavorful.
This was so delicious, I didn’t miss the jar of marinara at all! This is going to go on rotation for weeknight dinners!
You can’t beat the classics and this did not disappoint! Perfect lunchtime comfort food.
I’m always looking for new recipes to try for pasta night, and this marinara looks perfect!