Homemade Marinara Sauce Recipe just like the Olive Garden Marinara Sauce! This hefty batch is loaded with tomatoes, sweet basil, garlic, and onions and is perfectly sweet and tart. Prolong this delicious pasta sauce in the freezer or follow my quick canning instructions! Use it as a dipping sauce or in your favorite Italian dinners! We love to turn this into a 5-cheese marinara sauce by using it in our Five Cheese Ziti al Forno!
This recipe is the true copycat to the famous pasta sauce served at Olive Garden! After bringing some home and evaluating the ingredients in Olive garden marinara sauce, I started testing around until I was getting the flavors and consistency that I found in theirs. My testers approved and found it hard to discern between mine and theirs! This Marinara sauce recipe is sure to impress!
What is Marinara Sauce?
Marinara is the robust signature red tomato sauce served at Olive Garden. It’s the pulpy pasta sauce recognized in their chicken and eggplant parmigiana, lasagna, spaghetti with meatballs, meat sauce, and their popular 5-cheese ziti. Who would’ve thought a simple marinara sauce could stretch from a dinner to a marinara dipping sauce with appetizers like breadsticks, mozzarella sticks or fried ravioli? This is our current favorite marinara sauce recipe for all our pasta needs including pizza sauce!
Furthermore, this easy marinara sauce makes a hefty batch that you can freeze or take the extra steps for canning. I tend to cook this marinara sauce breifly in my large pot then transfer them into jars and water bath them for 30 minutes. You can skip the canning recipe and just ladle the cooled marinara sauce into quart freezer bags instead, although I do think it’s so handy to have jarred marinara sauce on hand if canned.
Marinara Sauce Ingredients:
- Canned Tomatoes- you can use canned diced or crushed tomatoes and skip the blending.
- Onions- Olive Garden’s marinara is loaded with onions.
- Fresh Garlic- is a must for Authentic Marinara sauce.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil- or any kind of mild flavored oil will work to sauté the onions and garlic.
- Seasoning and Herbs- Since the ingredient list is short it’s important to season well. Olive Garden marinara sauce is savory, tangy, and sweet. It has dried basil, salt, and some sugar to balance the acidity.
- Parmesan Cheese- is Olive Garden’s signature cheese and you’ll see some in their marinara dipping sauce. It adds great flavor to the tomato sauce!
- Tomato Paste- hastens the cook time so you don’t have to simmer the water content out for a long time. It also thickens the sauce.
- Vinegar- is key to that robust and tangy flavor in Olive Garden’s Classic Marinara Sauce! Adding vinegar also increases the acidity, (which is good for canning) and storage time.
Can I Substitute Fresh Tomatoes?
Marinara sauce with fresh tomatoes is a great way to use up all the garden tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes can be used in exchange for the canned, however, the water content and the ph of tomatoes can vary depending on the variety. If the sauce looks too watery you may need to cook it down more. Fresh tomatoes should be cooked or blanched in order to be turned into crushed tomatoes, which increases the time to making homemade marinara sauce.
How To Make Marinara Sauce like Olive Garden:
This copycat Olive Garden Marinara sauce comes together in a big pot and spatula! Check out the photo tutorial in the recipe box below to see how quick marinara sauce can be made! I typically take the extra step of canning marinara sauce but that can be skipped.
- Make crushed tomatoes, by immersing a hand blender into the can of diced tomatoes and pulse until pulpy and the consistency of crushed tomatoes. You’ll want some chunks so pulse and check every 5 seconds.
- Heat a large pot with olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté until translucent (about 5-8 minutes.) Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant (1-3 minutes).
- Add the crushed tomatoes and the remaining ingredients. Heat over medium-low heat until the tomato paste melts.
- The marinara is done! Cool it and ladle it into quart sized freezer bags or take the extra step and follow my easy canning guide!
Canning Homemade Olive Garden Marinara Sauce:
To make Olive Garden marinara sauce shelf stable, you’ll need to ladle the hot marinara sauce into sterilized jars and seal shut. Carefully place quart jars into a water bath canner filled with water 2-inches above the jars. I use hot tap water. Bring jars to a rapid boil and set the timer to 30 minutes. Remove jars and cool for 24 hours before checking for a good seal.
How Long Does Marinara Sauce Last in the Fridge?
This homemade marinara sauce is good for 3-4 weeks in the fridge. It is high in PH levels thanks to the additional vinegar and keeps longer than a typical marinara sauce. To prolong the shelf life you can either freeze or follow my canning instructions above.
Ways To Use Marinara Sauce:
Use in any recipe that calls for marinara, pasta, or spaghetti sauce!
- Spaghetti Meat Sauce- add some browned ground sausage or beef to this pasta sauce! I love this easy crock pot recipe!
- Use in Lasagna or Ravioli
- Cream Cheese Stuffed Chicken Parmesan
- Five Cheese Ziti al Forno
- Dipping sauce to fried appetizers or breadsticks!
Tips for the Best Marinara Sauce:
- Use unflavored canned tomato products for the best results! Since this recipe uses added spices and flavoring it will not need additional basil or seasonings.
- Add Alfredo sauce or heavy cream to make the Olive Garden five-cheese marinara sauce. This creamy marinara sauce is amazing in ziti with additional cheese!
- Do not boil, boiling the marinara sauce tends to fade out the vibrant red color.
- I used part pre-grated parmesan cheese with fresh. You can do all of one or the other.
Olive Garden Marinara Sauce
- 1 5 or 6 quart pot
- 1 Spatula
- 84 oz crushed tomatoes (3-28oz cans)
- 3 onions (diced)
- 9 cloves garlic (minced)
- 7 Tbsp olive oil (or any mild flavored oil)
- 4 Tbsp sugar
- 5 Tbsp salt
- 1 1/2 Tbsp dried basil
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- 24 oz tomato paste
- 5 Tbsp white distilled vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- If using diced tomatoes, blend right in the can using a hand blender until the tomatoes are a crushed consistency.
- In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions until translucent (5 minutes.) Then add the garlic and cook until fragrant (1-2 minutes.)
- Add the crushed tomatoes, and the remaining ingredients.
- Heat until the tomato paste melts and the mixture is hot (you do not need to boil.)
- This recipe makes 4 1/2 quarts of marinara sauce. For long term storage, follow my freezer or canning instructions.