Homemade marinara cooks almost as fast and tastes immeasurably better than even the best supermarket sauce — and it’s made with basic pantry ingredients. Marinara is a simple sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and olive oil. It originated in Naples late in the late 1600’s, after tomatoes were introduced to Italy from the New World in the 16th Century, but it wasn’t regularly used as a dressing for pasta until a century later.

Alla marinara means “in the style of a mariner,” which may refer to the sauce’s usefulness on lengthy sea voyages thanks to its considerable shelf life. Today marinara is used primarily on pastas as well as pizza, as a simple, quick sauce or a building block for more involved fare with the addition of meat, seafood, or vegetables.

Marinara sauce preparation time : 45mins – 1hr


  • 1kg tomatoes
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup finely diced onion
  • 5-7 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
  • Small dried whole chilli, or pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large fresh basil sprig, or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, more to taste

Preparation steps

  1. Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and crush with your hands. Pour 1 cup water into can and slosh it around to get tomato juices. Reserve.
  2. In a large skillet (do not use a deep pot) over medium heat, heat the oil. When it is hot, add garlic and onion.
  3. As soon as garlic and onions are sizzling (do not let it brown), add the tomatoes, then the reserved tomato water. Add whole chilli or red pepper flakes, oregano (if using) and salt. Stir.
  4. Place basil sprig, including stem, on the surface (like a flower). Let it wilt, then submerge in sauce. Simmer sauce until thickened and oil on surface is a deep orange, about 15 minutes. (If using oregano, taste sauce after 10 minutes of simmering, adding more salt and oregano as needed.) Discard basil and chilli (if using).