There is a hearty marinara sauce in a white bowl surrounded by a few bowls containing cooked noodles, fresh basil, dried herbs, garlic and red pepper flakes.
Pasta and Noodles

Hearty Marinara Sauce (Quick & Easy)

This hearty marinara sauce is so easy to prepare and makes for a perfect simple sauce for pasta. You will mostly need pantry ingredients to make it and it can be wrapped up under 30 minutes!

Although very simple, 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 tomato pasta?

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.

There is a hearty marinara sauce in a white bowl surrounded by a few bowls containing cooked noodles, fresh basil and red pepper flakes.

What’s the difference between a marinara sauce and tomato sauce?

A marinara sauce is a type of tomato sauce, but usually made using only a few simple ingredients, like onion, garlic and spices alongside the tomatoes. It is also made quickly!

A real tomato pasta sauce is usually a little more intensive work at the stove using tomatoes in different forms (purée, diced, sauce, etc) and including more ingredients like vegetables (carrots and celery) and wine. It also requires a longer simmering time to allow the sauce to reach deeper flavors and a thicker consistency.

There is a hearty marinara sauce in a white bowl with a large spoon inside. There is fresh basil in the background and cooked noodles.

What makes this marinara 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, 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.

Ingredients for hearty marinara sauce

This is a great simple recipe that uses mostly pantry ingredients.

  • Canned whole peeled tomatoes
  • Canned diced tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Fresh basil (can be replaced by dried basil)
  • Other pantry ingredients (sweetener, salt, dried spices, red pepper flakes)
Ingredients needed to make a tomato sauce (canned tomatoes, onion, basil, dried herbs, red pepper flakes, garlic and maple syrup)

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 sauce at the last minute.

But if you can, try using San Marzano canned tomatoes. They are a type of plum tomato 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 tomato!

In this recipe, you will need a large 28oz. whole peeled canned tomatoes + a small 15oz. diced tomatoes. I usually choose a San Marzano type of tomato for the whole tomatoes, but will go with a fire roasted type of tomatoes for the diced ones. Both type of tomatoes combined makes this sauce very good.

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.
Tomato pasta sauce in a large pan with a hand stirring using a wooden spoon.

Watch how to make it

Recipe variation

This marinara sauce is very simple, but you can also use this sauce as a flavorful tomato base to add your favorite ingredients.

  • Add red wine (about 1/2 cup) when adding the tomatoes: this will bring even more flavor.
  • You can easily add diced carrots, celery and zucchini to the sauce. Simply add them when cooking the onion. Browning the vegetable before adding liquid helps getting more flavor.
  • I also love adding leafy green (spinach, kale, collard green) when the sauce is almost ready and let them cook just enough so the leaves wilt.
There is a white bowl with noodles topped with a hearty marinara sauce and fresh basil. There is some vegan parmesan cheese in a jar on the side, as well as a black and white hand towel, red pepper flakes and a glass of water.

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.

It can also be used to make lasagna roll-ups, Italian style sandwiches, or any baked pasta dishes.

I also make this sauce when preparing pizza. I follow this recipe as described, but I let it cook down for a little longer so it gets thicker and contains less water.

Storage tips

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!

Keep in air-tight container for up to 4 days in the fridge or freeze for up to 3 months.

There is a white bowl with noodles topped with a hearty marinara sauce and fresh basil. There is some vegan parmesan cheese in a jar on the side, as well as fresh basil.

Other hearty pasta sauce you might like

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!

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Hearty Marinara Sauce (Quick and Easy)

This hearty marinara sauce is so easy to prepare and makes for a perfect simple sauce for pasta. Use mostly pantry and staple ingredients to make it and can be made under 30 minutes!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course, Pasta, Sauce
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: freezer-friendly, gluten-free, healthy, Low in fat, Vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 4 cups
Author: plantbasedjess


  • 1 white onion diced
  • 1 tbsp dried Italian mix herbs (or oregano)
  • 3 large cloves of garlic crushed
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tbsp maple syrup or any other sweetener
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes optional
  • 15 oz diced tomatoes
  • 28 oz canned whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1/2 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.

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