The Best Marinara Sauce Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 1 hour + simmering Process: 40 min
Set aside the store-bought jars and learn how to make the best canned marinara sauce.

Updated: Dec. 05, 2023

If you were lucky enough to grow up with a nonna who made big batches of pasta sauce every Sunday, you know that from-scratch marinara is the common denominator for dinnertime magic. Bringing a depth of flavor that blows away store-bought sauces, it’s the ultimate complement to spaghetti and meatballs, manicotti and many other classic Italian dishes.

Here at Taste of Home, we know a thing or two about pasta sauces. After all, our Test Kitchen has tested and perfected over 120 recipes sent in from home cooks just like you. So, when our former food stylist Shannon Roum brought in her homemade marinara recipe, we knew it was something special. (If you’re wondering when to use marinara vs. tomato sauce, we have the answer.)

What makes this the best canned marinara sauce?

Shannon created this recipe by combining fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes and herbs with garlic, onions and tomato paste for a bright and balanced sauce that the Test Kitchen couldn’t stop raving about.

She originally developed this recipe with a friend to make the most of a bumper crop of tomatoes. Because of this, Shannon likes to make huge batches—we’re talking 220 pounds of tomatoes huge—which she cans and gifts with a pound of pasta around the holidays. “It’s just the thing where you know you have the best possible ingredients and you know you can feel good about giving it to your family,” she says. “It’s so much better than going to the store and buying something for somebody when instead you can give them a part of yourself.”

A recipe that special needs to be shared, so keep reading to get Shannon’s tips for making the best marinara sauce you’ve ever had. (And luckily, she downsized the recipe for us, too.)

This recipe is for canned marinara sauce, so you can eat it long after tomatoes are out of season. If you can’t wait that long, it’s perfectly fine to serve it straightaway!

Don’t forget to check out some of our other homemade pasta sauce recipes.

Canned Marinara Sauce Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Plum tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Tomato paste
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Lemon juice

Directions

Step 1: Saute and simmer the tomatoes

Add the olive oil to a large stockpot over medium heat. Once the oil is heated, add the chopped onion and cook until softened, three to four minutes. Then, add 2 tablespoons of garlic and cook for a minute longer. Once the garlic is aromatic, add the quartered tomatoes, water and 1/2 cup of the basil to the pot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer until the tomatoes have completely broken down, which will take about an hour. Give the pot a few good stirs to prevent anything from burning.

Step 2: Remove the skin and seeds

When the tomatoes have broken down, press the sauce, one ladle at a time, through a food mill and into a large bowl, discarding the skin and seeds.

Test Kitchen Tip: If you don’t have a food mill, you can process the tomato mixture in a blender, and then press it through a fine sieve to remove the skin and seeds.

Step 3: Simmer again

Return the tomato mixture to the stockpot, adding 1/2 cup of basil, the oregano and remaining garlic. Bring the sauce back to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and let the sauce simmer until it’s thickened, about three and a half to four hours, stirring occasionally. Then stir in the tomato paste, remaining basil, salt and pepper.

Test Kitchen Tip: Add the tomato paste at the end of the simmer to really enhance the tomato flavor of the sauce without having to reduce it down too much. The tomato paste also helps the sauce keeps the marinara from separating when served.

Step 4: Fill the jars

Add 1 tablespoon plus 1-1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice to each of the three hot 24-ounce jars. Ladle the hot sauce into the jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe the jars’ rims of any sauce, center the lid and screw on the bands until they’re fingertip tight.

Step 5: Process the sauce

Place the jars in the canner with simmering water, making sure that they’re completely covered with water. Bring the water to a boil and then let the jars process for 40 minutes. Remove the jars and cool completely. When you hear their tops pop, you know they’re sealed!

Test Kitchen Tip: If you have another method for canning, feel free to use it with this recipe. Shannon prefers this aluminum steam canner over water bath canning, especially when working with a large volume. Just be sure to sure to double-check that your method results in a food-safe seal.

How to Store Canned Marinara Sauce

Store the sealed jars of sauce in a cool, dry place, like a cabinet or in your basement. They’ll last for up to 18 months. Or, serve right away with chicken Parmesan, lasagna, or any number of Italian dishes.

Canned Marinara Sauce Tips

Can you use other kinds of tomatoes to make marinara sauce?

Plum tomatoes really are the best variety for marinara sauce because they’re meaty, have minimal seeds, and create a rich red sauce that isn’t too acidic. Be sure to start off with fresh whole tomatoes—seeds, skin, and all. Not only does this save you the step of peeling and deseeding but it also adds a lot of flavor to the sauce. Follow our tomato guide to learn how to cook with different types of tomatoes.

Can you use fresh lemon juice instead of bottled?

This is one of the few times that bottled lemon juice is a must. Bottled lemon juice has a standard acidity that is more reliable when canning. Having the right acidity is imperative for food safety when canning. Plus, the lemon juice won’t flavor the sauce, so you shouldn’t feel squeamish about using bottled juice.

Can you customize this canned marinara sauce?

Yes! Herbs taste differently depending on where they’re planted, so gather the basil and oregano for this recipe from a few friends’ gardens for a good blend of flavors. You can also pick up bunches from different vendors at a farmers market for the same effect.

Watch how to Make The Best Marinara Sauce

Canned Marinara Sauce

Prep Time 40 min
Yield 9 cups

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup minced garlic, divided
  • 12 pounds plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-1/4 cups minced fresh basil, divided
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup plus 1-1/2 teaspoons bottled lemon juice

Directions

  1. In a stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add tomatoes, water and 1/2 cup basil; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, until tomatoes are completely broken down and soft, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  2. Press tomato mixture through a food mill into a large bowl; discard skins and seeds. Return tomato mixture to stockpot; add 1/2 cup of remaining basil, oregano and remaining garlic. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, until thickened, 3-1/2 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste and remaining 1/4 cup of basil; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon plus 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice to each of 3 hot 1-1/2-pint jars. Ladle hot mixture into jars, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot mixture. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.
  4. Place jars into canner with simmering water, ensuring that they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil; process for 40 minutes. Remove jars and cool.

Nutrition Facts

3/4 cup: 131 calories, 4g fat (1g saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 348mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate (13g sugars, 6g fiber), 5g protein.

I developed this marinara sauce recipe with a friend to make the most of a bumper crop of tomatoes. Now we like to make huge batches—we’re talking 220-pounds-of- tomatoes huge—and then give jars along with a pound of pasta as gifts around the holidays. Knowing this sauce is made from the heart with the best possible ingredients makes me feel good about giving it to my family and friends. —Shannon Norris, Cudahy, Wisconsin