San Marzano Marinara Sauce
San Marzano Sauce is the best quick and easy classic marinara. Learn how to make it the Italian way.
There are many ways to make tomato sauce. One of my most popular recipes ever is our Marinara with Fresh Garden Tomatoes. Then there’s the Veggie Loaded Marinara in my first cookbook and even an Instant Pot Spaghetti Sauce recipe.
One of the most classic ways to make homemade marinara sauce however starts with basic pantry ingredients – a can of San Marzano tomatoes. This simple San Marzano tomato sauce is done in 20 minutes, has bright red color, and sweet flavor. This is one of the top Italian food recipes. Here’s how to make and use it.
What is Marinara Sauce?
Marinara sauce is a tomato-based sauce that is typically made with olive oil, garlic, and onions. It can also include herbs such as basil or oregano.
The word Marinara comes from the Italian word for “mariners” or “seafarers”. This is because the sauce was originally created by sailors as a way to preserve tomatoes on long voyages.
San Marzano Sauce Ingredients
For the best tomato sauce, it’s important to use the best simple ingredients. The quality of tomatoes varies greatly in grocery stores. For this delicious marinara sauce, it’s important to use peeled whole tomatoes that are packed without any preservatives such as salt or citric acid.
Other than the tomatoes, use real extra virgin olive oil, garlic and/or onions, and fresh basil. Red pepper flakes add more authentic Italian flavor to this red sauce than black pepper, and you can turn up the heat by adding as much as you like.
Why San Marzano DOP Tomatoes?
There is an in-depth article all about San Marzano DOP tomatoes that I highly recommend reading. There are many types of canned plum tomatoes available, but San Marzanos create the best sauce with authentic Italian flavors. These are sweeter, with fewer seeds, and low acidity. Packed in a thick juice, meaty whole San Marzano tomatoes create a delicious tomato sauce without the need for tomato paste.
The DOP certification ensures you’re using high-quality San Marzano tomatoes that are not only the correct genetic strain of tomato but were grown in a specific region of Italy in the rich volcanic soil near Mount Vesuvius.
The can shown above was provided by I Love San Marzano DOP for educational purposes and isn’t available in grocery stores. San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese – Nocerino tomatoes are not a brand, but a type of tomato.
How to Use San Marzano Sauce
While spaghetti or another favorite pasta might be the first use for a marinara sauce that comes to mind, it’s also fantastic on Italian sandwiches (like meatball or eggplant), Ricotta Stuffed Shells, lasagna, or my favorite baked Eggplant Parmesan. You could even use it in Lasagna Soup. San Marzano sauce is simple enough that it can be used as a pizza sauce as well.
For a “meatier” sauce, add roasted eggplant for a Pasta alla Norma.
What kind of pasta goes well with Marinara Sauce?
The best pasta to pair with marinara sauce is a long noodle such as spaghetti, linguine, or fettuccine. The sauce will cling to the noodles and provide a delicious flavor in every bite.
Storing Homemade Pasta Sauce
Homemade red sauces like this one can be made in advance. This recipe is not meant for home canning, as the acidity is low. Store in an airtight container such as a mason jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. This sauce can also be frozen for up to 6 months in a freezer-friendly ziplock bag.
- 1 28 oz. can San Marzano DOP tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced crosswise
- pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
- To prepare San Marzano sauce, pour the tomatoes and juice into a bowl and crush the tomatoes with your hands.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute just until sizzling, but do not let brown at all.
- Pour in the San Marzano tomatoes and juices, red pepper flakes, and salt, and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes, until thickened.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the basil. Taste and add more salt and pepper flakes if desired.
- Use your homemade San Marzano sauce on pasta, eggplant parmigiana, and more.
You can add or substitute 1/3 cup diced white onion if you'd like.
Tips for Cooking this Classic Marinara Sauce Recipe
Use a large skillet made with a non-reactive material. I recommend stainless steel or enameled cast iron. Cook the fresh garlic and sauce over medium-low heat and stir with a wooden spoon.
If you prefer a thicker sauce, simply simmer longer. If it becomes too thick, add a little water. If you like your sauce very smooth, use an immersion blender to puree at the end.