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Looking for a delicious and hearty marinara sauce made with San Marzano Tomatoes? This is it! This spaghetti marinara is super easy to make and comes together in 30 minutes with pantry ingredients. It’s the perfect all-purpose sauce for your next Italian feast! Serve this San Marzano tomato sauce over pasta and meatballs, as a base for your favorite pizza dish, for dipping fried appetizers and so much more!

Update: This recipe for San Marzano sauce was originally published in June 2014. I made updates to the post below to include more information about whipping up a batch of this ‘finger-licking good’ marinara dipping sauce! 

About this San Marzano tomato sauce

Hi friends! If you’ve never cooked with San Marzano tomatoes before, you are in for a treat! They are, hands-down, the best tomatoes for making homemade tomato sauce.

Today, we are using them to make a homemade marinara sauce, and I have to say- this sauce is EVERYTHING. It’s super easy to prepare, made with pantry staples, and comes together in about 30 minutes. This hearty Italian sauce is nice and thick, yet still has a beautiful light texture.

And the flavor? Woah. San Marzano tomatoes are sweet with just a hint of acidity. They have a rich, robust flavor that really shines through in this sauce. Truly, if you are looking for the best tomato sauce – this is it.

If you’re looking for more all-purpose dipping and serving sauces, try these recipes next: oil bread dip, honey mustard, and remoulade.

Why this Italian sauce recipe works

There are a few reasons why this recipe for San Marzano sauce works so well. It’s robust and delicious, not to mention perfect for serving with so many different dishes!

This recipe is:

  • Simple to make. San Marzano sauce only requires canned tomatoes along with few pantry ingredients. And it comes together in 30 minutes – or less.
  • Great for beginners. If you’re new to cooking Italian recipes, this marinara dipping sauce is a great starter.
  • Versatile. Marinara is the perfect all-purpose sauce. Use it as a base for your favorite Italian dishes, or enjoy it on its own with some crusty bread. Serve it over pasta, use it as a base for pizza, or even freeze it for later!
  • Budget-friendly. San Marzano tomatoes are definitely worth the splurge, but this sauce is still very affordable to make using fresh ingredients.
  • Perfect for meal prep. This San Marzano sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge or freezer for later. Great to make a few double or triple batches to use as a base or a part of some other Italian recipes!

What are San Marzano tomatoes?

This spaghetti sauce is a type of marinara sauce that is made with San Marzano tomatoes. These tomatoes are grown in the San Marzano Valley, which is located in the Sarno River Valley near the rich volcanic soils of Mount Vesuvius in Italy!

Since the soil here is very volcanic, it lends to the sweetness and low acidity of the San Marzano tomatoes. Typically, Marzanos are also a bit larger, but thinner and have thicker skin than your average Roma tomato.

You can typically find these tomatoes canned in your local grocery store, or you can order them online.

Ingredients for a hearty marinara sauce recipe

This tomato sauce recipe is made with fresh ingredients and comes together in just 30 minutes. It’s so easy to make multiple batches at a time!

Here’s what you will need:

  • Olive Oil: For this recipe, I would recommend not skimping out on the good stuff. A good quality cooking oil such as olive oil makes a big difference!
    • Substitution: You can use a combination of butter and extra virgin olive oil if you prefer.
  • Garlic: I like to use fresh garlic for this recipe. You’ll need to peel and finely chop about 2-4 cloves.
  • Dried Oregano: This is a key ingredient in this San Marzano tomato sauce, giving the sauce a nice flavor without being overpowering.
  • Italian Seasoning: I like to use homemade Italian spice mix for the best flavor; but use what you love.
  • Salt and Pepper: Use kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste.
  • Tomato Paste: Adding in some tomato paste lends rich, deeply caramelized tomato flavor. It also helps thicken the sauce.
  • Red Wine: My favorite red-cooking wine is Chianti!
    • Substitution: You could also use a Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • San Marzano Tomatoes: When buying a can of these Italian tomatoes, try to purchase certified san marzano DOP tomatoes if available. Also, make sure they are whole!
    • Substitution: If you aren’t able to find canned San Marzano tomatoes, you could also use another type of canned whole tomatoes.
  • Basil: Add about three springs of fresh basil for the best flavor. It adds a nice herbaceous flavor to the sauce. Save a bit to serve over the top of the finished spaghetti sauce when serving.
    • Substitution: You can use any of your favorite Italian fresh herbs, such as Italian parsley, oregano, and thyme in this sauce.

Optional ingredients

The ingredients below are entirely optional, but I personally love to add them to this hearty marinara sauce recipe!

  • Parmesan Rind: Toss a parmesan cheese rind (or asiago, pecorino!) into your simmering sauce to add delicious slightly salty, umami flavor.
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes: This will give the sauce a little bit of heat. Add as much or as little as you like.
  • Balsamic Vinegar: If you prefer your marinara sauce to have the tiniest touch of sweetness, I swear by adding a couple splashes of white balsamic vinegar. While regular balsamic vinegar works as well, it will tint your tomato sauce brown.
  • Granulated Sugar: Like your marinara dipping sauce the classic way, a 1/4 tsp of white sugar helps balance out the tomatoes’ acidity.
  • Parmesan Cheese: A heavy dusting of freshly grated parmesan (preferably aged) is a must when making dishes like marinara meatballs and spaghetti marinara.

Close-up photo of San Marzano tomato sauce.

FAQ: San Marzano marinara sauce

Can I make San Marzano tomato sauce ahead of time?

Yes! This marinara dipping sauce can be made up to a week in advance. Just store it in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

What does it mean to use DOP-certified tomatoes?

DOP stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta. This certification is given to products made in a specific region of Italy and adheres to certain quality standards.

For San Marzano tomatoes, this certification guarantees that the tomatoes were grown in the San Marzano Valley and meet specific size and acidity requirements.

It’s basically guaranteeing the best of the best for your homemade marinara sauce!

Can I add some sort of protein to this spaghetti marinara?

Of course! This San Marzano marinara sauce is delicious with eggs, chicken, sausage, pork, or beef. Just cook your protein of choice and add it to the sauce when you reheat it.

I love to make meatball marinara to serve over spaghetti. I use the recipe for these spicy chicken meatballs to add to pasta sauce. It’s so yummy!

Serving suggestions for tomato sauce

Skip the jarred pasta sauce and opt for homemade to create a truly restaurant-worthy meal everyone will love! Whether you are in the mood for Italian appetizers, like fried ravioli and cheese sticks, or hearty classics, like lasagna or meatballs marinara, this san marzano sauce recipe goes above and beyond expectations!

12 quick meals that start with san marzano sauce

  • Breakfast in style by cooking eggs in simmering tomato sauce.
  • Use it as a base to make your favorite Italian soup. I love using it in minestrone soup, chickpea soup, and Italian sausage soup.
  • Serve it warm as a dipping sauce with your favorite fried appetizers – think calamari, fried mozzarella, McNuggets, and zucchini chips.
  • Everyone will want seconds of pasta bakes, such as lasagnas and italian baked ziti with sausage made with layers of hearty marinara sauce.
  • Use marzano tomato sauce to make next level spaghetti marinara and meatball marinara. Or use it in your next chicken meatball casserole.
  • Take your favorite spaghetti casserole, like this spaghetti squash casserole, and give it the top notch treatment with this tomato sauce.
  • Sauté ricotta gnocchi or bake gnocchi with cheese and toss them in sauce.
  • Give traditional stuffed shells or pumpkin shells a yummy upgrade by baking them in marinara.
  • Make the most flavorful Italian fish by simmering your favorite white fish ing a bed of tomato sauce.
  • Amp up cheesy classics, such as eggplant and crispy chicken parmesan, with this homemade sauce recipe.
  • Swap out the jar of pizza sauce for this robust red sauce.
  • Make pizza baked potatoes – they’ll change your life. Bake a potato and then split the top open. Next, stuff it with marinara, mozzarella cheese and mini pepperoni (optional). Bake at 400-degrees until the cheese is melty.

Storing marinara dipping sauce

This homemade tomato sauce from a canned tomatoes can be stored in an airtight container or mason jar in the fridge for up to 4 days.

To freeze:

  1. Let the tomato sauce come to room temperature.
  2. Place the sauce in a freezer-safe container.
  3. Label and date the container and freeze for up to three months.

Tip: Thaw marinara dipping sauce overnight in the fridge or out on the counter at room temperature.

I hope you are inspired to try to make this homemade spaghetti marinara sauce instead of reaching for the jar at the grocery store. I promise it’s so worth it! Everyone will be impressed with your cooking skills (and think you actually went to Italy to pick the San Marzano tomatoes yourself).

Craving MORE? For more tasty recipe inspiration, be sure to follow me on InstagramPinterest, and Facebook.

More red sauce recipes!

Hearty marinara sauce recipe👇

Overhead photo of spaghetti marinara with fresh basil leaves in a large white pot.

San Marzano Marinara Tomato Sauce

5 from 1 vote
Total Time: 40 minutes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
This San Marzano Sauce is delicious, super easy to make and comes together in just 30 minutes! It's the perfect all purpose hearty marinara sauce for the your next Italian feast! Serve this marinara over spaghetti and meatballs, as a dip for appetizers, or use it as a pizza sauce for your favorite Italian pie! Regardless how you use it - you'll fall in love with this simple sauce.

Equipment

  • 1 Large Mixing Bowl
  • 1 Heavy-bottom Saucepan OR Large Straight-Sided Skillet

Ingredients 

  • 1 (28-ounce) Can Whole San Marzano Tomatoes (certified DOP if available)
  • 3 TBS Good-Quality Olive Oil
  • ½ heaping Cup Finely Diced Yellow Onion (about ½ medium onion)
  • 3-5 Cloves Garlic – peeled & finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 3/4 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • Kosher Salt & Ground Black pepper
  • 1 TBS Tomato Paste - level
  • 1/3 Cup Good Red Wine (such as Chianti)
  • 3 large sprigs Fresh Basil – plus more for finishing sauce
  • OPTIONAL (for heat) Crushed Red Pepper Flakes – to taste
  • OPTIONAL (for sweetener ) White Balsamic Vinegar or Granulated Sugar – to taste

Instructions

  • Crush tomatoes: Open the can of tomatoes and pour them into a large bowl. Use a potato-masher or your hands to crush the tomatoes. Pour ½ cup of water into the empty can and swirl it around to loosen all the yummy tomato juices. Then, pour the water into the bowl with the crushed tomatoes. Set aside.
  • Sauté aromatics: Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic, oregano, and Italian seasoning (plus the red pepper flakes if using). Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and a ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute or until aromatic.
  • Add tomato paste, then wine: Add the tomato paste to the pan and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until the paste is caramelized. Add the red wine to the pan. Cook, scrapping up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, for 2-3 minutes or until almost all the liquid has evaporated.
  • Add the tomatoes with water and basil: Add the crushed tomatoes to the skillet and stir to combine. Drop the basil sprigs onto the top of the tomato sauce and allow the basil to wilt and sink on its own.
  • Simmer: Let the sauce come to a simmer (still over medium heat). Once simmering, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer (medium-low to low heat). Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, flavorful, and a very thin film of dark orange oil forms on top, about 20-25 minutes.
  • Season to taste: Use tongs to remove and discard basil sprigs. Taste and season the marinara sauce to taste, adding more salt for flavor, balsamic or a pinch of sugar for sweetness, more oregano for peppery flavor, Italian seasoning for robust flavor, or red pepper flakes for heat.
    (Chef’s tip: If you prefer a smoother sauce, you can use an immersion blender to blend some or all or the sauce. Alternately, you can transfer the sauce in batches to a food processor and puree.) (Note: I typically adjust and finish my San Marzano Marinara by adding Maldon Sea salt and white balsamic vinegar.)
  • Serve: Serve warm as a dip with mozzarella sticks and calamari; as a gravy with your favorite cooked pasta, gnocchi, ravioli and meatballs; spread on pizzas + more!

Notes

  •  Storage: Let the marinara sauce cool completely to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight storage container or jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days; freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Recipe Yield: Approximately 3.5 to 4 Cups San Marzano Sauce (enough for 1 pound of pasta)
Nutritional information is an approximation based upon 8 servings. Exact information will depend upon the brands of ingredients and precise measurements used.

Nutrition

Calories: 59kcal    Carbohydrates: 1g    Protein: 0.2g    Fat: 5g    Saturated Fat: 1g    Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g    Monounsaturated Fat: 4g    Sodium: 16mg    Potassium: 30mg    Fiber: 0.3g    Sugar: 0.3g    Vitamin A: 37IU    Vitamin C: 1mg    Calcium: 9mg    Iron: 0.2mg

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