This homemade Marinara Sauce is made with slowly caramelized onions, garlic, tomatoes and Italian seasoning. These simple ingredients are cooked low and slow for the most rich and flavorful sauce to use with all of your Italian favorites.
The Best Homemade Marinara Sauce
This authentic, homemade Marinara Sauce is based on the family recipe of a friend with an Italian Mama! It’s the absolute best sauce to use for spaghetti, but it also tastes great served with Spicy Meatballs, Baked Chicken Parmesan, Homemade Lasagna, Tortellini, Crockpot Lasagna, Cheese Stuffed Shells or as a dipping sauce for your favorite appetizers or Cheesy Breadsticks.
Just glancing at the ingredients you might not expect for this recipe to be all that different from other marinara recipes but trust us - it is all about the process. Keep reading for a little lesson on caramelizing onions which is the very basis of this truly fabulous sauce.
Marinara Sauce From Scratch Video Tutorial
How to Caramelize Onions
Any onion will caramelize, but for this recipe, you are going to want to use white or yellow onions. They have a higher sugar content and tend to caramelize to a deep, golden color.
Why Do Onions Caramelize?
If you really want to nerd out on this process, caramelization is the result of larger sugars breaking down into single sugar molecules. By slowly cooking onions, we draw out their natural sweetness while their sugars caramelize.
The result is sweet, tender, dark brown onions that will enhance the taste of just about anything from soups to meats to sauces like this.
Instructions and Tips
Start by peeling and chopping the onions. If you were to use the caramelized onions on a pizza or sandwich you would probably want to slice them very thin. For this sauce, we like them a bit more thick and chunky so we diced them instead.
Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat and add your olive oil, or a mix of half butter and half olive oil. Stir in the onions and a pinch of baking soda then cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally so that they don’t stick or burn on the bottom of the pan.
In order to get the deep, rich, golden hue, the process should take about 20-30 minutes.
- If your heat is too high, the onions will burn. Make sure and keep an eye on them.
- Baking soda helps the onions caramelize much faster by raising their pH level. All you need is a pinch for this trick to work.
- Olive oil tastes best for caramelizing onions in Marinara Sauce.
Ingredients in Marinara Sauce
- Onions - you can use white or yellow onions - they both have a high sugar content and caramelize nicely.
- Garlic - fresh tastes best but if you’re in a pinch, feel free to use the jarred minced garlic.
- Olive Oil - this helps to give your sauce a deep and rich flavor.
- Crushed Tomatoes - we strongly recommend using San Marzano tomatoes if you can find them. They have an excellent flavor.
- Diced Tomatoes - we add these for consistency. If you don’t like as many chunks in your sauce, feel free to use all crushed.
- Italian Seasoning - if you have an Italian blend of spices, use that. Otherwise, use equal parts of parsley, oregano and basil.
- Sugar - this helps to cut some of the acidity from all of the tomatoes.
- Garlic Salt - this adds great flavor.
- Garlic Powder - it may seem like garlic overload, but we promise it is not!
- Onion Powder - this adds a great sweet onion flavor.
- Salt and Pepper
- Baking Soda - this helps to slightly lower the acidity, as well as helps the onions caramelize.
How to Make Homemade Marinara Sauce
- Caramelize the onions. Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil and heat until shimmering, then add the onions and baking soda. Stir so they are all coated in the oil, then reduce heat to medium low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they turn a deep, rich, golden hue - about 20 minutes.
- Add the garlic. Once the onions are caramelized, add the garlic. Saute until the garlic is golden, or about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and cook. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer on low for for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Use or store. After the marinara sauce has cooked, taste and season with more salt and pepper if desired, then remove from the heat and let cool slightly before using immediately. Or, cool completely and store in jars or an airtight container. Enjoy!
Tips for Making the Most Amazing Homemade Marinara Sauce
- The secret to amazing marinara sauce is to make sure and take the time to caramelize the onions slowly before adding the rest of the ingredients. They should reach a golden brown, transparent and very soft consistency.
- The longer you cook the Marinara Sauce, the better the flavor will be. Cooking longer removes that raw, tinny flavor from the canned tomatoes and helps to develop all of the deep layers of flavor.
- In a pinch, frozen diced onions will work.
- San Marzano tomatoes are strongly recommended, but not necessary. They just have such an amazing, rich flavor when cooked over a long period of time.
- Refrigerator: Marinara Sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.
- Canning: if you want a long-term solution, the best is to can your sauce in canning jars. You can find canning jars at more grocery stores or department stores. If you can them properly, they can sit out at room temperature for months!
- Freezing: transfer the cooled Marinara Sauce to freezer bags and freeze flat. It can be stored frozen for up to 6 months. Once you are ready to use, thaw out in the fridge overnight, or at room temperature for a few hours, then reheat in a saucepot.
Homemade Marinara Sauce Recipe
- 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 3 Large Onions white or yellow, diced
- ¼ Teaspoon Baking Soda
- 4 Cloves Garlic minced
- 2 28-oz Cans Crushed Tomatoes
- 1 14.5-oz Can Diced Tomatoes
- ¼ Cup Italian Seasoning
- 2 Tablespoons Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Garlic Salt
- 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
- ½ Tablespoon Salt
- ½ Tablespoon Pepper
- Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil and heat until shimmering, then add the onions and baking soda.
- Stir so they are all coated in the oil, then reduce heat to medium low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they turn a deep, rich, golden hue - about 20 minutes.
- Once the onions are caramelized, add the garlic. Saute until the garlic is golden, or about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer on low for for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
- After the marinara sauce has cooked, taste and season with more salt and pepper if desired, then remove from the heat and let cool slightly before using immediately. Or, cool completely and store in jars or an airtight container. Enjoy!
Here are some of our favorite Italian recipes:
- Italian Mini Kabob Appetizers
- Roasted Parmesan Zucchini
- Toasted Ravioli
- Lasagna Soup
- Crockpot Tuscan Chicken
- Viral Feta Pasta
- Chicken Spaghetti
- More Slow Cooker Recipes
- More Holiday Recipes
- More Pasta Sauces
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This authentic, homemade Marinara Sauce is based on the family recipe of a friend with an Italian Mama! It's perfect to use for spaghetti, meatballs, ravioli or any of your other favorite Italian dishes.