Add extra veggies to your next pot of marinara sauce for more nutrition and the classic flavor that your family expects. This easy marinara sauce is super simple and flexible so you can adjust the recipe based on what you like and have on hand. Plus, extras freeze beautifully!
Easy Marinara Sauce Recipe
We eat a lot of pasta in my house, partly because I’m Italian-American and partly because it’s incredibly easy, inexpensive, and kid-friendly. It always goes over well with my kids, almost regardless of what it’s served with, so we eat it at least once a week. I love to pack nutrition into the sauce to ensure they are getting a lot of the good stuff they need with hardly any extra work on my part!
TIP: Yes, this is more work than just opening a jar of store bought marinara sauce (which I admit that we sometimes do too!), but it’s such an easy method that you can fit it into a busy schedule for sure.
Ingredients You Need
To make this recipe, you’ll need:
- Olive oil
- Veggies like onion, carrot, celery, yellow squash, butternut squash, bell pepper, sweet potato, and/or cauliflower
- Canned tomatoes
TIP: You can use frozen cauliflower, butternut squash, peppers, and sweet potato if you have those options.
Here’s a look at the easy process involved in making this recipe. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for all of the info and amounts.
- Gather your ingredients.
- Cook the veggies in olive oil until soft, then add the tomatoes and simmer until the veggies are soft.
- Puree or leave chunky, depending on how your family likes their pasta sauce.
- Serve with a pound of your favorite pasta.
TIP: You can double this recipe and freeze the second half for a future meal.
Healthy Marinara Sauce
The result is fresh, flavorful, and it’s filled with vitamins A and C—and a little extra vitamin C is always nice to help keep those little immune systems strong! And while I don’t regularly advocate hiding vegetables in our kids food (it can feel a little dishonest to me), this is a case where I don’t see the harm because the veggies are serving as both nutrition and flavor boosters.
How long can I store this marinara sauce recipe?
You can make a big batch of this on the weekend and store it in the fridge until you are ready to use it during the week, which is what I like to do when I’m on top of my meal planning. (That only happens sometimes!) It will last up to 5 days in an airtight container like a quart-size Mason jar.
You can also let it cool and store it in a freezer safe container in the freezer for at least 3 months. Let it thaw overnight in the fridge or use the defrost feature on your microwave to thaw more quickly.
Will my kids taste the extra veggies?
If you have a kid who’s really perceptive and loves regular marinara sauce, I recommend using carrots, onions, and/or celery. Peppers, butternut squash, and cauliflower have more noticeable flavors that many don’t mind—and in fact enjoy!—but you know your kids best.
(I have one kiddo who can sniff out a bell pepper from a mile away. My other one will eat this sauce regardless of what’s in it!)
Can I make this pasta sauce with fresh tomatoes?
Sure thing! During much of the year, I make this easy marinara sauce recipe with canned tomatoes, but we use fresh tomatoes in the summer when we have a ton on hand. The tomatoes will likely have much more liquid, so it may need to simmer a little longer. To reduce the time, you can remove some of the interior seeds and liquids as you chop them up—sort of squeeze them a bit over the sink before you add them to the pot.
Tips for Making the Best Marinara Sauce
- Use veggies with colors like white, yellow, orange, and red that will blend together into a classic looking tomato sauce when combined with the canned tomatoes.
- Double the recipe to make more and freeze the second half of the batch for a future week.
- Use the same volume of diced fresh tomatoes, just simmer longer to allow the extra liquid to evaporate.
- Serve with a pound of whichever kind of pasta your family prefers.
- Add some protein to the pasta and sauce by adding canned white beans or chickpeas, warmed frozen peas, diced cooked chicken breast, meatballs, or even lentils.
I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe if you try it, so please comment below to let me know what your family thought of it!Print
Serve this sauce with 1 pound of your family’s favorite pasta for an easy and healthy dinner.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cups any combination of these vegetables, roughly chopped:
onion, carrot, butternut squash, sweet potato, bell pepper (any color but green) celery, and/or cauliflower
- 29 ounces canned diced tomatoes with juices
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 pound pasta (optional)
- Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the vegetables, stir, and cover. Cook for 10 minute or until mostly soft.
- Remove lid and stir in the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium low and place the lid so it’s mostly covering the pot but not a tight seal. This will let some steam escape but will protect your cooktop from splatters. Simmer for 20-25 minutes or until everything is soft.
- Puree with an immersion blender or in a regular blender. Season to taste with additional salt as needed.
- Serve with 1 pound of cooked pasta and Parmesan cheese, if desired.
To make Meat Sauce:
Brown 1/2 pound ground beef or mild Italian sausage in Step 1 after you warm the oil. Proceed as directed.
To do this in a Slow Cooker:
Double all ingredient amounts and add to the slow cooker. Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or until everything is softened. Finish as directed in Step 3.
To make this into Pizza Sauce: Simmer the sauce for about 30-45 minutes longer on low, stirring occasionally, or until very thick. Add 1 teaspoon pizza seasoning.
Use veggies with colors like white, yellow, orange, and red that will blend together into a classic looking tomato sauce when combined with the canned tomatoes.
Double the recipe to make more and freeze the second half of the batch for a future week.
Use the same volume of diced fresh tomatoes, just simmer longer to allow the extra liquid to evaporate.
Serve with a pound of whichever kind of pasta your family prefers.
Keywords: marinara sauce recipe, tomato sauce