homemade marinara

$3.79 recipe / $0.29 serving

After being treated to a wonderful Italian dinner at a local restaurant last week, I was inspired to finally try to make my own marinara sauce. I’ll admit, usually I’m too lazy and I’d much rather just buy a jar (which isn’t that expensive to begin with, about $2 or $0.40 per serving), doctor it up and go with it. I’ve also been skeptical whether or not homemade sauce would actually be cheaper since you still have to buy cans or fresh tomatoes for the homemade… both of which can add up quickly. Well, the verdict is in! My sauce costs almost half as much per serving as the jarred kind and it’s scrumptious! It’s not quite the deep, intense, sweet sauce that I had at the restaurant but hey, I’m not Italian so all I can do try!

Homemade Marinara

Homemade Marinara

4.0 from 2 reviews
homemade marinara
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Total Cost: $3.79
Cost Per Serving: $0.29
Serves: 6.5 cups
  • two (28 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes $1.84
  • 1 medium onion $0.23
  • 4 cloves garlic $0.24
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil $0.32
  • 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste $0.58
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil $0.15
  • ½ Tbsp dried oregano $0.10
  • 2 medium bay leaves $0.10
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar $0.03
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar $0.20
  1. Finely dice the onion and garlic. Cook in a large pot with 3 Tbsp of olive oil until very soft and slightly golden brown. I wanted to make a sweeter sauce which is why I let the onions and garlic caramelize a bit. If you don’t like sweet sauces, proceed to the next step before they get any color on them.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients (crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano, bay leaves, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar) to the pot. Simmer on medium/low for one hour. Be careful of the splattering sauce! Leave a lid on the pot but slightly ajar to allow steam to escape but keep flying blobs of sauce from landing on your counter top.
  3. Taste the sauce after a half hour or so and adjust spices and seasoning to your liking. The proportions listed above yield a slightly sweet and tangy sauce. If you like savory sauces, leave out the balsamic vinegar and reduce the sugar to 1 tsp. Some sugar is usually needed to balance the high acidity of the tomatoes.


splattering sauceSTEP 3: Taste the sauce after a half hour or so and adjust spices and seasoning to your liking. The proportions listed above yield a slightly sweet and tangy sauce. If you like savory sauces, leave out the balsamic vinegar and reduce the sugar to 1 tsp. Some sugar is usually needed to balance the high acidity of the tomatoes.

Homemade Marinara SauceNOTE: If you plan on freezing some of your sauce (I don’t know who can eat 6.5 cups of sauce within a week…) make sure to cool the sauce in the refrigerator first in a covered container. Once cool, transfer to heavy duty freezer bags and label. Marinara sauce freezes great and is super easy to take out and thaw whenever you need!


  1. LouNeb says:

    Nothing like having this sauce handy. Try freezing in ice trays and then storing the cubes in zipped locked bags. That way you can pull out enough for one or more and not have to worry about extra that won’t be used.

  2. This recipe sounds amazing! With the tomatoes, is that 2 28oz cans or 2 cans of 28oz each? I’m assuming it’s the latter!

  3. Nick says:

    This is actually a great recipe that I now use as part of my standard weekly meals. It freezes well, it’s easy to make, and it’s tasty.

    I use 2 cans of diced tomatoes and one large can of crushed tomatoes because I like the sauce chunky.

    I also add a little more brown sugar because I like my sauces sweet, but this recipe by itself is great.

  4. Kate says:

    I quite liked this but I think the full-on sugar and balsamic the recipe calls for were too much for my 4yo daughter. I think next time I’ll try your savory version.

  5. Amanda says:

    Should I be stirring this at regular intervals other than the 30 minute check? This is my first time making sauce so I left my burner on low and made sure I had my lid just like in the picture to release steam, and yet at the 30 minute mark I walk into my kitchen to find an exploded volcano. I’d say a good cup or two of sauce was all over my counter and stovetop.

  6. You know, you’ll get a sweeter sauce if you’re using fresh herbs. It makes a big difference, especially if you’ve got fresh basil. Both basil and oregano add bitter notes when dried.

    Also, things being better the next day is totally typical of sauces – it lets the ingredients blend and meld. Chili and a lot of bean-based recipes work out that way,too.


  7. Anna – I usually pack and store my marinara in about 2-3 cup portions. They’re not single serve, but more like single recipe :) Plus that way they refrigerate and freeze faster and are almost modular, which allows for more room in your freezer. I hope that helps!

  8. Hi Beth. Love this recipe. I usually use honey in my sauce, just because that’s what my nonna has always done. I really love marinara and have always made it in a similar way to this. I omit the tomato paste, just because I cbf and I always buy some fresh basil for stuff like this. I had never thought of using bay leaves in it and I really think that made a big difference.

    I also like the idea of freezing it. I froze some last week and moved it into the fridge to defrost a few days ago and it didn’t make a difference at all. It was a solid brick! I ended up sticking it in the microwave but it still took a really long time to defrost. Would you reccomend putting it in single serve bags to freeze?

  9. Make good note of the tomatoes you get. There is a difference between brands. If using fresh herbs, add them late in the game to preserve flavor. Go easy on the balsamic vinegar until you’re sure; once there’s too much it’s a pain to fix. Look into Contadina canned plum tomatoes, by far the best canned tomatoes on the market. Chop them yourself. Consider puree for a potentially very good, cheaper sauce, without bits of tomatoes, though. Not salted: so you can add your own salt. A slightly lower salt content makes a much brighter/fresher taste. Look at the ingradients: is it made from “paste”? Then no. Look for made from “tomatoes”, or, in case of generic, “tomato pulp”. This latter is actually among the best purees you can get.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Oh my! This was so, so good! I did make two changes, I used fresh herbs and also added a 1/2 cup of red wine. Amazing!

  11. Michelle says:

    Wonderful recipe! Made it tonight~just needed a little salt. One recipe sauce just made enough for a double recipe of the lasagna roll ups! Thank you for a great blog!

  12. Melanie ;-) says:

    And dinner #25 announced the hubby!

    I hadn’t frozen it all, and I am sure glad I didn’t since it somehow tastes even better today!

    I did throw 6 meatballs into every jar I froze, which makes it a Jar-o-Meal from the freezer lol.

    I do not know if its traditional, and I am also not Italian, but it beats a can/jar of any sauce, fancy or not, by a mile Beth!

  13. Melanie ;-) says:

    Dinner # 24

    I am going to go out on a limb and say that it must be the Balsamic vinegar. It added that little je ne sais quoi! lol

    I am cooling mine as we speak and putting it in mason jars to freeze for later. (250ml jars to be exact or one cup)

    Spaghetti and Meatballs is my #1 favourite food! (Since my 1st birthday party, no foolin!)

  14. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone tried this in a crockpot? I guess I can saute the onion and garlic in the crockpot on high then add the other ingredients and put on low for I dunno, 3 hours?

  15. Hi Beth,

    just want to tell you that I just tried this recipe and I am really surprised about the taste. It was really good! Do you think that the balsamic vinegar and the brown sugar are the “secret” of this recipe? I’d tried so many of these and this one will be MY favorite one.

    Thank you (sorry about the text, I am a french speaker from Québec)


  16. This was definitely good. I didn’t have any balsalmic on hand so I omitted it and it still came out really well. I found that the sauce, like most good mixtures, tasted better and better each day. Overall it yielded about a serving more than a large jar of sauce from the store. I’ll be making this regularly for sure. Thanks!

  17. You can also make the brown sugar and balsamic sweeter by adding them to the veggies before the tomatoes go in and reducing them a bit, too. This will intensify the sweetness.

  18. ah, thank you so much! now i can’t wait to make it again! …that’s why i love the internet. you have a question and someone out there knows the answer :D

  19. To deepen the flavor of your sauce closer to the restaurant style one trick is to “toast” the paste.

    After you have caramelized your onions and such, add your paste before the other ingredients. Stir it into the oil well and cook it until it darkens in color. Then chuck in the other ingredients and proceed as usual.

    I love making pasta sauce – it is so easy. And my house is one that can eat 6 1/2 cups in a week!

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