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Hearty Marinara Sauce

Move over, Domino’s. This homemade Hearty Marinara Sauce transforms San Marzano tomatoes and only the best of the best Italian ingredients into a thick, robust red sauce in under 40 minutes. You can use it for pasta, pizza, and so much more!

overhead photo of a pan of marinara sauce topped with basil

Compliments to the Domino’s “chefs” for their hearty marinara sauce. It’s one heck of a red sauce, but when it comes to truly robust marinara, there’s nothing quite like making it from scratch with San Marzano tomatoes. 

This hearty marinara sauce recipe calls for San Marzano tomatoes and tomato paste pureed with a vibrant blend of fresh herbs and seasonings. From there, the pureed tomato mixture is simmered with onions, garlic, red wine, and chicken broth resulting in a velvety, downright delicious sauce. 

It’s excellent on pizza, with spaghetti and meatballs, or as a dip for mozzarella sticks, but the sky’s the limit! If canned properly, this marinara sauce is a heaven-sent on those “on the run” days (which feels like every day around here. 

Or, if canning marinara sauce is too much of a task, this San Marzano-based tomato sauce also freezes like a dream. I almost always have a jar or two in my freezer! Buon appetito!

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • It’s really easy. Follow these step-by-step instructions, and you’ll achieve a grandma-approved, robust sauce, even if this is your first time making sauce from scratch.
  • There are no surprise ingredients. It’s made with canned San Marzano tomatoes, and a shortlist of fresh herbs and pantry staples you probably already have in your kitchen. 
  • It’s an excellent pasta, pizza, and dipping sauce!
  • This is a San Marzano sauce, and chefs worldwide agree that sauces made with san marzano tomatoes are the best.

Ingredients you’ll need

ingredients for marinara measured out on a counter
  • Fire-roasted san marzano tomatoes They contain less water and have a much sweeter, more umami-forward flavor profile than other types of plum tomatoes. You probably won’t find fresh ones, but their thick, meaty flesh makes them ideal for canning. If you can’t find fire-roasted, you can use a regular. 
  • Tomato paste Tomato paste intensifies the tangy, tomatoey flavor and helps make a thick, hearty marinara sauce. 
  • Fresh herbs I highly recommend using fresh basil, parsley, and oregano, but if you have to use dried herbs, remember that dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor, so you should only use about half the amount of dried herbs in place of fresh. 
  • Sugar Adding a bit of sugar to homemade red sauce helps neutralize the level of acidity from the tomatoes, creating a full-bodied, palatable flavor profile. You can also use honey here. 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper – To enhance the other flavors. 
  • Red pepper flakes This recipe yields a decent size pot of marinara, so a ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes won’t make it super spicy, though it will give it a bit of a kick. For a more robust taste, go heavier on the red pepper flakes.
  • Extra virgin olive oil – To sauté the aromatic onion and garlic. 
  • Onion – You can use any type of onion. I like sweet vidalia onion, but red onion, shallots, and yellow onion also work.
  • Garlic Fresh garlic cloves are non-negotiable, and if you were to add an extra clove or two, I certainly wouldn’t stop you!
  • Dry red wine – You can’t go wrong with Merlot, Pinot Noir, or Cabernet Sauvignon. A Zinfandel or Shiraz also works nicely.
  • Chicken broth Adds volume and flavor. Use vegetable broth here if you need to. 

How to make hearty marinara sauce

Step 1: Puree tomatoes and spices. Add the canned san marzano tomatoes, tomato paste, chopped parsley, chopped basil, fresh oregano leaves, sugar, sea salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to a high-powered blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. 

side by side photo of marinara ingredients in a food processor and ingredients processed until blended

Step 2: Sauté aromatics. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic, and sauté for about 2 minutes or until the onion is soft and fragrant but not browned. 

onions and garlic sauteed in olive oil

Step 3: Simmer sauce. Add the wine, chicken broth, and pureed tomato mixture to the skillet and heat to a simmer. Then reduce the heat, and let simmer, occasionally stirring, for 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and enjoy!

marinara simmering on the stove with a spatula stirring

Recipe tips

  • I like cooking with mini wine bottles. There’s a little over 6 ounces in each bottle, so 2 ounces for the sauce and a perfect 4-ounce pour for sipping as I cook! 🙂
  • San marzano substitute. Truthfully, nothing compares to authentic san marzano tomatoes, but if you need a substitution, go with a can of whole, peeled roma tomatoes.
  • Adjust the consistency to your liking. This makes a smooth sauce, but if you prefer a heartier texture with chunks of tomato, skip puréeing and add everything to the skillet. As the sauce simmers, crush the tomatoes with a wire masher until your desired texture is reached. 
  • Simmer uncovered for at least 30 minutes. Those flavors need time to mingle, so the longer, the better. Also, simmering the sauce uncovered allows the steam to escape, so the sauce thickens. 
a pan of hearty marinara with vegetables and herbs in the background

Variations

I don’t recommend deviating too far from the heart of this hearty tomato sauce, but here are a few possible variations. 

  • Hidden veggies Sneak in some veggies. Add finely minced red or green bell pepper, carrots, or celery to the skillet with the onions and garlic.  
  • Add cheese – If you’re hoping for a Domino’s hearty marinara sauce copycat, the only thing this recipe is missing is romano and parmesan cheese. So feel free to add them to your sauce a few minutes before it’s finished!

Serving suggestions

If you aren’t sold on this homemade san marzano sauce, perhaps the following fun way to use it will convince you:

Storing

Refrigerating: Let extra sauce cool to room temperature and keep it in the fridge in an airtight container for 4-5 days. 

Freezing: This is a good sauce to batch-cook and freeze for later. Once cooled, portion the sauce in freezer-proof containers or zip-top bags, leaving an inch of space at the top for expansion, and freeze for up to 3 months. Then, thaw it in the fridge overnight whenever you’re ready.

Canning: I’m not savvy about safely canning homemade sauce for long-term pantry storage, but Jessica over at a Farm Girl’s Kitchen knows her stuff. TAP HERE for her fuss-free canning tutorial.  

FAQ

What can I substitute for wine in this marinara sauce?

Instead of red wine, you can use extra chicken broth/stock or alcohol-free red wine.

Can I make this with fresh tomatoes instead?

If you can find fresh san marzano tomatoes, by all means, use them, but you’ll need to blanch and peel them in advance.

What’s so special about san marzano tomatoes?

“San Marzano” refers to a specific tomato cultivated in volcanic soils in a small region of Italy between Naples and Salerno. Growing these tomatoes in volcanic soils is said to produce thick, meaty flesh that is less acidic, sweeter, and more tomatoey than other types of tomatoes. 

More must-make sauce recipes

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a pan of hearty marinara with a plate of spaghetti and meatballs with a sprig of basil
overhead photo of a pan of marinara sauce topped with basil

Hearty Marinara Sauce

This homemade Hearty Marinara Sauce transforms San Marzano tomatoes and only the best of the best Italian ingredients into a thick, robust red sauce in under 40 minutes.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 94kcal
Author: Amee

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can of san marzano fire roasted tomatoes
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano finely chopped (you can also used dried)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion I used a sweet vidalia, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Instructions

  • In the bowl of a food processor, place tomatoes, tomato paste, chopped parsley, chopped basil, oregano, sugar, sea salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  • Pulse several times until smooth.
  • Add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat and saute the onion and garlic for about 2 minutes.
  • You want your onions to be soft, but not brown.
  • Add the wine, chicken broth and tomato mixture.
  • Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Notes

    • I like cooking with mini wine bottles. There’s a little over 6 ounces in each bottle, so 2 ounces for the sauce and a perfect 4-ounce pour for sipping as I cook! 🙂
    • San marzano substitute. Truthfully, nothing compares to authentic san marzano tomatoes, but if you need a substitution, go with a can of whole, peeled roma tomatoes.
    • Adjust the consistency to your liking. This makes a smooth sauce, but if you prefer a heartier texture with chunks of tomato, skip puréeing and add everything to the skillet. As the sauce simmers, crush the tomatoes with a wire masher until your desired texture is reached.
    • Simmer uncovered for at least 30 minutes. Those flavors need time to mingle, so the longer, the better. Also, simmering the sauce uncovered allows the steam to escape, so the sauce thickens. 
    • Add cheese – If you’re hoping for a Domino’s hearty marinara sauce copycat, the only thing this recipe is missing is romano and parmesan cheese. So feel free to add them to your sauce a few minutes before it’s finished!

Nutrition

Calories: 94kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 0.1mg | Sodium: 428mg | Potassium: 163mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 583IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 1mg
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Amee Livingston
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2 Comments

5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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