If you enjoy the flavors of Italy you’ll love this Quick Easy Marina Sauce. It bursts with delicious Italian flavor, can be used in a zillion ways and takes under 30 minutes, start to finish!
I love making the kind of marinara sauce that simmers on the stovetop for hours and fills the house with a fabulous Italian-mama (or papa) aroma. It’s perfect for days when I’m at home and working around the house, as it tends to itself with just an occasional stir here and there. But honestly, I’m often either out for a good part of the day or don’t even think about dinner until it’s almost time to eat and my tummy starts rumbling. Those are the times when this Quick Easy Marinara Sauce Sauce comes to the rescue as a delicious lifesaver!
I use this sauce for lots of different Italian-inspired recipes. It’s perfect with Italian meatballs, in lasagna, manicotti, for spaghetti, Italian sausage or meatball sandwiches, pasta bakes, baked eggs, pizza, chicken marinara, etc.
It also makes a fabulous Italian dip for bread. I love to serve it with warm slices of this Ridiculously Easy Focaccia Bread. Delish!
Magical flavor secrets of this Quick Easy Marinara Sauce
The ingredient list for this recipe is short but each one is what I call a “magical flavor booster”. Keep these ingredients stocked in your pantry and freezer and you can make this Quick Easy Marinara Sauce in no time flat.
The recipe starts with pesto, which can add fabulous flavor so many dishes. I keep jars of pesto in my freezer, either homemade or a good store-bought product. If I don’t have the time, energy or resources (lots of fresh basil) to make my own, I really like the pesto from both Costco and Sam’s Club. They’re reasonably priced, come in a large jar and have a beautiful, fresh green hue. I freeze it, either in small portions or leave it in the large jar, and let it thaw slightly before scooping out what I need, then returning it to the freezer.
Pesto has lots of garlic which eliminates the need to peel and mince the cloves so, in addition to being a flavor booster, it’s a great time saver. It also is loaded with fresh basil and a nice portion of both olive oil and parmesan cheese which give a great flavor base to dishes like this quick easy marinara. For this recipe, I saute the pesto in a bit of olive oil to soften the raw garlic taste and enhance the flavor.
In addition to the pesto, there’s dry Italian seasoning in this recipe. Although I’m a huge fan of fresh herbs, I think a combination of dried herbs like Italian seasoning (usually a combination of basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme) is an easy way to add an additional layer of flavor.
Another secret ingredient in many classic, long-simmered marinara sauces is a pinch of crushed red pepper. It doesn’t make the sauce spicy but punches up the tomato flavor.
And last, but not least, I love to use fire-roasted tomatoes in this Quick Easy Marinara Sauce. Don’t keep fire-roasted tomatoes stocked in your pantry? You’re missing out on a wonderful flavor secret!
What are fire-roasted tomatoes?
Fire-roasted tomatoes (as the name implies) are fresh tomatoes that are roasted over an open fire before being canned. This roasting produces a bit of char which creates a lovely deep color. It also releases the natural sugars and mellows the resident acidity of the tomatoes. The best part? A wonderful hint of smoky flavor that adds a touch of magic to sauces, soups, etc.
Tripe basil flavor!
Although it’s not necessary, I often add a handful of chopped fresh basil to this sauce after it’s cooked. That gives this Quick Easy Marina Sauce triple basil flavor; in the pesto, the Italian seasoning and then the fresh basil. They say, “you can never be too thin or too rich”, I say “you can never have enough basil!”
For super quick meals on busy days, this sauce can be made in advance and frozen in small portions. Just pull a bag or jar out of the freezer, thaw in a bowl of water and you’ll have dinner on the table in no time flat. I’ve got a new recipe coming up combining this sauce with ricotta-stuffed zucchini (a fabulous way to use that never-ending zucchini)
Café Tips for making this Quick Easy Marinara Sauce
- Use a larger pot than what you think you might need. That way, when the sauce simmers, it won’t make a mess on your stovetop.
- This recipe calls for both fire-roasted tomatoes and crushed tomatoes. Both can be found in the canned tomato section of almost every grocery store. If you can’t find fire-roasted tomatoes, just use regular diced tomatoes.
- The crushed red pepper doesn’t make the sauce spicy but rather boosts the flavor of the tomatoes.
- If not using right away, allow the sauce to cool down for 20-30 minutes, then refrigerate. The sauce will keep well in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
- This Quick Easy Marinara Sauce freezes well. Divide into small freezer containers, zip lock bags or glass jars. Just leave a bit of room at the top of the container for expansion in the freezer. For quick thawing, place container (with a tight-fitting lid or tight seal) in a bowl of lukewarm water.
- Use this sauce for spaghetti, lasagna, manicotti, meatball and Italian sausage sandwiches, chicken marinara, pasta bakes, pizza and as a dipping sauce for bread.
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear other’s results and ideas for variations.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup prepared or homemade pesto
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 14½- ounce can fire-roasted canned tomatoes
- 1 28- ounce can crushed tomatoes
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ½-1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup chopped or torn fresh basil leaves optional
- Heat olive oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Add pesto and Italian seasoning and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
Add fire-roasted tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, crushed red pepper and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Stir well and bring to a low but steady simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Taste and add more salt if needed. Add the chopped fresh basil, if desired. Serve and enjoy!
See Café Tips above for more detailed instructions and tips.
Makes 7 cups of marinara sauce, 14 ½-cup servings.
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