Best Marinara Sauce

Masterpiece MarinaraA good marinara sauce can be a cook’s best friend~turning ordinary meals into Italian feasts.

After a bit of experimenting and recipe tweaking, I finally have what I consider the best marinara sauce. It is so delicious that I could eat it right out of a bowl!

This marinara sauce is good enough to stand up against any meat sauce on the block. Even one of my daughters told me that she preferred this marinara to my favorite spaghetti sauce with meat. I was very surprised at this, as everyone in the family adores the spaghetti sauce!

This marinara makes a wonderful topping for meatballs, veal or chicken parmesan, pasta, or anything else calling for a good, fresh Italian sauce. This sauce could complement just about any meat, fish, or pasta.

This is not a shortcut recipe. I actually cook mine almost as long as I cook my spaghetti sauce. Although it is meatless, it still gets richness and depth of flavor from long, slow simmering.

Using fresh ingredients does call for a bit of effort, but it pays off in the end. When making this marinara, I used my favorite food processor to quickly dice and chop fresh ingredients. The downside of using a food processor is having to pull out a bulky appliance. The upside is that most every ingredient in this recipe~from whole tomatoes to veggies to garlic cloves~can be perfectly processed in one bowl~in just minutes.

Here are a few tips, ranked in order of importance, to making the best, freshest tasting marinara sauce.

  1. Use the best canned tomatoes you can find. Cook’s Illustrated  taste tests of whole peeled canned tomatoes named a winner in Muir Glen Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes. This is the brand that I use, and I have always had fab results. A readily available and cost efficient brand, Hunts Whole Plum Tomatoes, received a recommended in the same taste tests.
  2. Use fresh herbs. If you only use one fresh herb for this marinara, choose basil; it takes this dish to a whole new level. But using all fresh herbs really does make it outstanding. Fresh parsley is inexpensive and readily available, and a small package of fresh oregano can usually be found in the produce case for less than $2.00.
  3. Process ingredients into small, uniform pieces. A food processor is extremely helpful in prepping ingredients so that the marinara will be the right consistency.
  4. Saute the aromatics. Before combining all ingredients, sauté the onion, garlic, carrots and celery in EVOO until soft and fragrant~seasoning with salt & pepper. This releases flavor that will provide a rich base for the marinara.
  5. Simmer long enough (at least two hours) to get fullest, richest flavor. 

Below is a photo of Best Marinara Sauce atop spaghetti pasta and topped with Best Meat Balls (recipe coming soon)!

best ever marinara

Best Marinara Sauce

Yield: 8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 (32-ounce) cans whole tomatoes (crush in food processor)
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley or 1 tsp dried
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 TB good balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TB sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme


  1. In Dutch oven, heat EVOO.
  2. Add onions, celery, and carrots. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add garlic; sauté several more minutes until mixture is soft and fragrant.
  4. Add all ingredients; stirring until well combined.
  5. Simmer on low several hours.
Nutrition Information
Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 1248Total Fat 113gSaturated Fat 16gSodium 4949mgCarbohydrates 57gSugar 25gProtein 7g

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