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

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
  • Salt

TIP: You can use frozen cauliflower, butternut squash, peppers, and sweet potato if you have those options.

How to make easy marinara sauce Step by Step process

Step-by-Step Instructions

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.

  1. Gather your ingredients.
  2. Cook the veggies in olive oil until soft, then add the tomatoes and simmer until the veggies are soft.
  3. Puree or leave chunky, depending on how your family likes their pasta sauce.
  4. 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.

marinara-sauce-in-panHow 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!)

easy marinara sauce with extra veggies

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.

How to Store

It will last up to 5 days in an airtight container like a quart-size Mason jar, or it in a freezer-safe container in the freezer for 6-12 months. Let it thaw overnight in the fridge or use the defrost feature on your microwave to thaw more quickly.

Best Tips for Success

  • 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.
  • You may also like Spinach Pesto, Broccoli Pesto, Broccoli Mac and Cheese, Baby Pasta, and Favorite Pasta Recipes for Kids.

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!

easy marinara sauce in jar on towel

Easy Marinara Sauce with Extra Veggies

Serve this sauce with 1 pound of your family's favorite pasta for an easy and healthy dinner.
4.75 from 4 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Cuisine Italian
Course Dinner
Calories 91kcal
Servings 8 about 1.5 quarts

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups onion, carrot, butternut squash, sweet potato, bell pepper (any color but green) celery, and/or cauliflower (roughly chopped)
  • 29 ounces canned diced tomatoes with juices
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound pasta optional
  • Parmesan cheese optional

Instructions

  • 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. 

Video

Notes

  • It will last up to 5 days in an airtight container like a quart-size Mason jar, or it in a freezer-safe container in the freezer for 6-12 months. Let it thaw overnight in the fridge or use the defrost feature on your microwave to thaw more quickly.
  • To make Meat Sauce:
    Brown ½ 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.
  • 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 91kcal, Carbohydrates: 14g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Sodium: 320mg, Potassium: 362mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 7196IU, Vitamin C: 11mg, Calcium: 47mg, Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

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Comments

  1. Is the “no green bell peppers” part just because of the color? I love the taste of green bell peppers on pizza, so I was thinking they’d be good in a marinara sauce. Not trying to fool or persuade any kids luckily, just myself 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    This is a must have for parents with super picky eaters. My toddler used to eat straight spinach and beets when he was a baby, but now he throws a fit if his pasta is the “wrong” shape. I absolutely love adding eggplant, zucchini squash, and red peppers to this recipe. I have actually grown to prefer my marinara made this way. Tomato sauce can be really acidic and the other vegetables balance that out while adding some more complex flavors. I have even added 3-4 cups of veggies with success. We eat vegetarian, so I also add in brown lentils to make this into a yummy, protein-packed bolognese. Thank you so much for actually creating practical and affordable recipes! Every time I meal plan I visit this website.

  3. 5 stars
    Yum thanks! My two and four year old loves it. I did inionncekery carrot and yellow bell pepper added fresh oregano and a garlic clove. Thank you so much!

  4. 4 stars
    Very simple to make, I put onion , carrots, mushrooms and green capsicum because that all I had and used fresh tomatoes cuz my garden over full of them lol. It turned out beautiful added a pinch of mixed herbs. My 1 year old gobbled it up with pasta. Thanks so much

  5. I made this today with carrots, celery and onion. I also added fresh parsley and basil (recipe doesn’t call for it but it added more of a fresh flavor)and it was a success! Both kids and adults loved it. I am making more today to freeze.

  6. Thnx for the lovel healthy recipe the tomatoes didn’t let the hidden veggies make their presence..made this tday….was gud in taste like wow but ended up thicker and bit grainy…I gues used fresh tomatoes or something else wnrt wrong I think…any help for next time ??

    1. Canned (so either one large can or two 14.5 ounce ones). You could use fresh though it may take longer to cook down since they could have more liquid.