This Spaghetti Marinara recipe is an easy meal that cooks in under an hour, but tastes like it simmered all day! Naturally sweet San Marzano tomatoes are cooked down with garlic and basil in extra-virgin olive oil for a delicious tomato sauce that’s absolutely perfect tossed with pasta.
As a kid, I went through a few years phase when spaghetti was my favorite meal. Any time it was my birthday or my turn to pick dinner, it’s what I asked mom to make!
These days I usually eat low carb when possible, so I don’t really eat a lot of pasta. But last summer I went to Italy for the first time and there was absolutely no way I was going to skip the pasta!
This Spaghetti Marinara recipe is a replica of the delicious pasta dish I had in Rome.
What is the Difference Between Marinara Sauce and Spaghetti Sauce?
Marinara sauce is a much more basic recipe than spaghetti sauce, and it really lets the flavor of great-quality tomatoes shine through.
Typically, marinara sauce only contains tomato, olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes, and basil. Just a touch of salt and sugar are added to balance the sauce’s flavor. San Marzano tomatoes are the star of the show when it comes to marinara!
Alternatively, spaghetti sauce usually consists of tomato sauce with other vegetables, such as onion, carrot, celery, etc. Additionally, spaghetti sauce may contain meat, such as ground beef.
Spaghetti Marinara Recipe
If you have a great marinara sauce, then you already have a great Spaghetti Marinara recipe! This dish is just spaghetti cooked to al dente and tossed with marinara sauce. You can garnish with fresh basil if you want.
Italian Marinara Sauce
The first time I had authentic Italian Spaghetti Marinara was in Rome, Italy in summer 2019. The pasta itself was flavorful, and the sauce was a celebration of tomato flavor with a hint of garlic and basil.
It didn’t need a mountain of grated Parmesan cheese on top to taste good! In fact, in Italy they don’t put Parmesan cheese on pasta dishes with tomato sauce.
This Spaghetti Marinara recipe is a pretty good replica of the dish I had in Italy.
Marinara Sauce Ingredients
- Extra-virgin olive oil - use the good stuff here
- Garlic - don't be shy with the garlic, it adds tons of flavor to marinara sauce
- San Marzano tomatoes - these tomatoes are naturally sweeter than other types and I find they make the best sauce
- Sugar - we only need a touch of sugar because these tomatoes have a lot of natural sweetness
- Salt - to season the tomato sauce and enhance the flavor
- Crushed red pepper flakes - for a touch of spicy heat and complexity
- Fresh basil - for depth and a slightly sweet, fresh herby flavor
How to Make Marinara Sauce From Scratch
Get out your ingredients.
Thinly slice garlic. This might look like a lot, but the flavor of garlic mellows as it cooks down.
Sauté the garlic in olive oil.
Add San Marzano canned tomatoes and crush them.
Don’t forget the fresh basil, and a couple seasonings. Crushed red pepper flakes, sugar, and salt are all this sauce needs!
Cook the sauce low and slow until thickened. This takes about 30 to 40 minutes.
Cook pasta to al dente.
I like to use a good-quality spaghetti for this classic dish.
Serve this sauce tossed with pasta for the best Spaghetti Marinara recipe of your life!
Do I Need to Use Fresh Tomatoes to Make Marinara Sauce?
You don’t need fresh tomatoes to make a delicious marinara sauce!
There are 2 reasons I like to use canned tomatoes to make marinara sauce: 1) tomato season is so short it’s impossible to find great-quality tomatoes year-round; and 2) even in the summertime during peak tomato season, the tomatoes I have access to here in Florida aren’t nearly as good as the San Marzano tomatoes from Italy.
I find that canned Italian San Marzano tomatoes make the BEST marinara sauce!
How Long Does Marinara Sauce Last?
Stored covered in a glass jar in the fridge, marinara sauce will last about 1 week to 10 days.
Or you can store marinara sauce in a freezer-safe container in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Recipes That You Can Use Marinara Sauce In
- Zucchini Roll Ups (aka Zucchini Rollatini)
- Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- Quick Lasagna Casserole (aka Lazy Lasagna)
- Italian Classic Beef Meatballs
- Pizza Burgers
- 15-Minute Low Carb Zucchini Pizza Casserole
- Keto Detroit-Style Pizza
Spaghetti Marinara Recipe
- Spaghetti cooked to al dente
- Zucchini noodles
- Heat the olive oil in a 5-quart pot over medium-low heat. Once hot, add the garlic. Turn the heat down to low and cook until the garlic is fragrant and starting to brown a little, about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat.
- Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes. Use a spoon or potato masher to crush the tomatoes a bit. Stir in the basil springs.
- Bring to a boil, and then cover the pot, but leave the lid ajar. Turn the heat down to simmer, and cook 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce is done when it’s thickened and the oil has separated from the tomato. (See photo in the post above for reference.)
- Remove the cooked basil springs and discard.
- Serve with any type of pasta you like, or use it any way you’d use marinara sauce.
- Net Carbs: 7g per serving (¼ cup)
- Recipe Yield and Serving Size: This recipe makes about 2 cups of marinara sauce, or 8 (¼-cup) servings.
- Nutritional Information: The nutrition information was calculated for the sauce only, without the serving options.
- Storage: Store marinara sauce covered in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
- Special Diet Friendly: The marinara sauce is gluten free and vegan, and you can make it paleo by omitting the sugar or using a paleo-friendly sweetener (such as coconut sugar or honey) instead.
This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on November 6, 2020. It was updated with more information on March 26, 2023.