This hearty marinara sauce is so easy to prepare and makes for a perfect simple Italian sauce for pasta. You will mostly need pantry ingredients to make it and it can be wrapped up under 30 minutes! Use in lasagna dishes, over over pizza and so much more!
Although very simple and straightforward, a good and easy marinara sauce is an essential recipe to master in the kitchen. It makes for a great last minute pasta sauce, freezes beautifully and who doesn't love a large bowl of Italian tomato pasta?
You can also use marinara sauce in so many recipes such as various baked pasta dishes, over pizza, gnocchi dishes, as a dipping sauce for bread sticks or focaccia, in stews, chilis, with vegan meatballs, curries and even soups. It is so versatile and can easily be modified to your taste!
You will love how hearty this marinara sauce is! Chunky tomato pieces with diced onion make this sauce more interesting and full of character. We also often add more protein to this recipe such as crumbled tofu or TVP to make it super filling and also to add even more texture.
And there is just nothing like making your own tomato sauce! Store bought marinara is super easy to find, but simply does not taste the same as a fresh batch of homemade hearty marinara. Making your own also assures you that your sauce will be filled with wholesome ingredients and you can play around with the recipe to get the right texture and flavored it just the way you like.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Very easy and fast recipe
- Great versatile tomato sauce to use in many dishes
- Perfect for meal-prep, the flavors intensify over time!
- Freezer friendly
- Can easily be modified and perfect recipe for the beginner cook!
- Healthy and free of preservatives
- Homemade is better than store-bought!
What's the difference between a marinara sauce and tomato sauce?
Tomato pasta sauce is a wide term including all sorts of red sauces. Classic tomato sauce will usually be a little more intensive work at the stove using tomatoes in different forms (purée, diced, sauce, etc) and including more ingredients like vegetables (carrots, mushroom and celery), wine, herbs and sometimes butter. You will also often find different kinds of meat in a tomato sauce and they will usually simmer for a longer period of time to allow the sauce to reach deeper flavors and a thicker consistency.
A marinara sauce is a type of tomato sauce, but usually made using only a few simple ingredients, like onion, garlic and spices (dried herbs and fresh basil) alongside the canned tomatoes. It is also made quickly, usually in under 30 minutes.
The main difference in between tomato sauce and marinara sauce is how long it has cooked for. Marinara is a very fast kind of red sauce that usually is less deep in flavor than other tomato sauces that simmered at low heat for hours, such as an authentic pomodoro sauce. Also, since is simmered for a shorter amount of time, a marinara sauce is usually is little more watery or thinner compared to slowly cooked tomato sauce.
What makes this easy marinara sauce hearty?
This wholesome tomato sauce is made using diced and whole tomatoes, which makes it a chunkier marinara sauce. The extra texture makes this sauce very satisfying and substantial, but if you are looking for a thinner sauce, you can also use an immersion blender and blend some of the chunks right in the pot.
To make this marinara even heartier in flavor, feel free to add a splash of red wine and some tomato paste as well.
Ingredients for hearty marinara sauce
This is a great simple recipe that uses mostly pantry ingredients.
- Canned whole peeled and diced tomatoes: the combination of both makes for thew best textured sauce, I think. But use the canned tomatoes you have if this is easier.
- Onions: I used yellow onion, but feel free to use Vidalia sweet onion to add a little more sweetness to the recipe. Red onion or even shallots would work too.
- Garlic: essential for flavor, so try not to omit. Garlic powder does not work as well for this sauce.
- Fresh basil: I like to add some fresh leave when the sauce is done cooking, but if you don't have it, then use dried basil instead.
- Other pantry ingredients (sweetener, salt, dried spices, red pepper flakes)
What type of tomatoes are best to use to make this hearty marinara sauce
Any types of tomatoes will of course work well for this recipe. The idea is to keep it simple and accessible to be able to wrap up a quick pasta red sauce at the last minute.
But if you can, try using San Marzano canned tomatoes. They are a type of high quality plum tomatoes that taste great and work very well when making a sauce. It can make a difference when making a sauce where tomato is the main ingredient! They can be more expensive though, so if cooking on a budget, use the usual canned tomatoes.
In this recipe, you will need a large 28oz. whole peeled canned tomatoes + a small 15oz. diced tomatoes. I usually choose a San Marzano tomatoes for the can of whole tomatoes, but will use fire roasted diced tomatoes for the 15 oz can. Both type of tomatoes combined makes this sauce very good with a very mild smoky and heartier flavor.
How to make a hearty marinara sauce
This is a quick tomato sauce recipe, it should be made under 30 minutes!
- In a medium pot, cook onion, garlic and dried herbs.
- Add water, diced tomatoes, sweetener, salt and red pepper flakes.
- Then, crush the whole peeled tomatoes directly into the pot (I love to use my hands for this!) and making sure to also transfer all of the juice.
- Cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or to desired consistency. Remove from the heat and add the fresh basil.
Watch how to make it
This marinara sauce is very simple, but you can also use this sauce as a flavorful tomato base to add your favorite ingredients.
- Pour some red wine (about ½ cup) when adding the tomatoes: this will bring even more hearty flavors to your sauce! The alcohol will cook off quickly and leave your sauce with a deeper taste.
- You can easily add diced carrots, celery and zucchini to the sauce. Simply add them when cooking the onion. Browning the vegetables before adding the tomatoes will help getting more flavor as well.
- I also love adding leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard green) when the sauce is almost ready and let them cook just enough so the leaves wilt.
How to serve this sauce
This sauce is very versatile and can find its way into so many dishes!
It is my go-to sauce when I'm running out of meal ideas and don't want to spend hours in the kitchen. I'll simply top cooked pasta with it and sprinkle with almond parmesan cheese, sometime with a side of green veggies like broccoli.
I also make this sauce when preparing pizza, especially goes well with my buckwheat pizza crust or use this recipe when making vegan bagel bites. I follow this recipe as described, but I let it cook down for a little longer so it gets thicker and contains less water.
This is a great recipe if you love to meal-prep or batch cook as it stores very well. I will often make double-triple batch and freeze for later. It is a life saver for when you have a pasta craving attack, but don't want to cook!
Keep in air-tight container for up to 4 days in the fridge or freeze for up to 3 months.
Other hearty pasta sauce you might like
- Tofu bolognese
- Primavera pasta bake
- Vegan cajun pasta
- Coconut milk pasta sauce
- Vegan one-pot tomato pasta
- Penne pomodoro
- TVP bolognese pasta sauce
- Gochujang pasta
I hope you enjoy this hearty marinara sauce as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Hearty Marinara Sauce (Quick and Easy)
- 1 white onion - diced
- 1 tbsp dried Italian mix herbs (or oregano)
- 3 large cloves of garlic - crushed
- ¾ cup water
- ½ tbsp maple syrup - or any other sweetener
- ½ tsp salt - or to taste
- pinch of red pepper flakes - optional
- 15 oz diced tomatoes
- 28 oz canned whole peeled tomatoes
- ½ cup fresh basil (or 1 tsp dried basil) - plus more for serving
- In a medium pot, cook the onion for 5-7 minutes on medium-high heat stirring often. Use a small amount of oil or water to prevent the veggies from burning.
- Then, add the dried herbs (if using dried basil instead of fresh basil, add them at this point) and garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds while stirring (don't let the garlic burn!)
- Add the water, maple syrup, salt, red pepper flakes (if using), diced tomatoes and stir. Then, crush the canned whole tomatoes directly into the pot using your hands. Make sure to add all the tomato juice from the can to the pot.
- Keep cooking, uncovered and stirring often, for about 15-20 minutes or until the sauce is thicker and to the desired consistency.
- Optional: For a smoother texture, you can use an immersion blender (upright mixer) and blend some of the sauce right in the pot, while leaving some of the chunks.
- Remove the pot from the heat and add the fresh basil. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
- Serve over your favorite cooked pasta with a sprinkle of vegan parmesan cheese.
- I love using San Marzano type of canned tomatoes to make this recipe. If you cannot find them, you can also use fire-roasted tomatoes as well. Regular canned tomato works just fine too!
- Store in a air-tight container until ready to use (up to 5 days in the fridge). Can also be frozen for up to 3 months.