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Homemade Marinara Sauce

Homemade Marinara Sauce

This Homemade Marinara Sauce is the vegan version of the Homemade Meat Sauce recipe I added to the site last year. It’s just as flavorful as the meaty version so don’t worry. Also, just like the meaty version, it’s versatile as hell. It’s wonderful cooked at different temperatures and for different amounts of time, it goes great with or in anything you’d use a red sauce for traditionally, and even tho it takes a while to come together, it’s very hands-off and almost as easy as popping open a jar of Preggo.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Homemade Marinara Sauce Ingredients + Equipment

Feel free to jump to the full recipe, but here are useful notes about the ingredients you will need to make this Homemade Marinara Sauce recipe:

  • Peeled tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste: This is our star trio! If you have issues finding tomato sauce you can use tomato puree in its place with little difference in the final Homemade Marinara Sauce.
  • Fire-roasted tomatoes: To give the sauce another layer of flavor, and add more texture. The peeled tomatoes will break almost completely down during the long simmer.
  • Diced onion, bell peppers, garlic: Our standard aromatic babies. Use Vidalia onions, if you can find ’em. I’ve also been known to add green bell peppers, too.
  • Nutritional yeast: This will do the work of a parmesan rind, infusing the sauce with a nice umami flavor.
  • Olive oil: Only a touch, for sauteeing.
  • Kosher salt: The amount called for is an estimate of course. You’ll use a hefty pinch to sautee the aromatics and to bring out the flavors in the sauce multiple times throughout the cooking process.
  • Organic brown sugar: Vegan sugar is the only organic sugar, to start. I do not like sweet pasta sauce, so that’s not what this is for. I like to use brown sugar to temper the acidity in this Homemade Marinara Sauce when it’s needed. It seems to meld into the other flavors better than regular granulated sugar, but that works too. Depending on the tomato products you use – and your taste buds – you might not need it. Alternative: Shred a medium-sized carrot and sauteed that along with the diced onion at the beginning. The carrot will provide some subtle, natural sweetness.
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, ground oregano, cayenne pepper, dried oregano, dried parsley, fennel seeds, herbs de Provence: Yes, there are a lot of them. They’re all necessary except the cayenne pepper and I stand by it! Reduce the crushed red pepper flakes to limit the heat if you need to. I don’t think this sauce is spicy, especially not after the long cook time, but remember my family laughs at Scoville Units so we’re not to be trusted in this regard.
  • Fresh basil: I’ve used dried basil in a pinch and it’s not the same. It’ll do, but it’s not the best.
  • Red wine vinegar: The vinegar will add a touch of sweetness and tang to this Homemade Marinara Sauce.
  • Water: About a cup or so. Add it to one of the empty tomato sauce cans and shake the can gently to rinse the sides. Add it to the soup. If you’re like me you can pour it from tomato can to tomato can and rinse them all: no waste!
  • Equipment: An enameled cast-iron dutch oven is by far my favorite vessel for this soup, but any heavy-bottomed pot that can hold 5-6 quarts will work. Just make sure it has a tight-fitting lid, or use a universal one. Here’s what I used plus some recommended alternatives:
Homemade Marinara Sauce

How to Make Homemade Marinara Sauce

Full instructions are included in the recipe below, but here is a basic overview of what you’ll need to do, along with some important tidbits to help you make the most of this Homemade Marinara Sauce recipe:

  • Saute your aromatics. Heat the olive oil in your dutch oven over medium heat. Once it’s shimmering, add your onions and bell pepper. Cook until they begin to soften, then push them aside.
  • Bloom the paste. Add more oil to the pot and toss in the garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the tomato paste. Stir the tomato paste around, allowing it to coat the garlic. It should start to deepen in color and become very fragrant. Move the paste and garlic over a bit and add the fennel seeds. Allow them to toast, stirring the entire time, for just a minute or two.
  • Build the Homemade Marinara Sauce. Add the peeled tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, and red wine vinegar. Stir it all together, then stir in all of the dry seasonings and the nutritional yeast flakes.
  • Adjust to your tastes. Taste it. Depending on your preference and on the tomatoes used, it might taste unbalanced: bitter, or acidic. If so, add 1 tbsp of the brown sugar. You can add more or less: the amount I add varies with almost every batch I make. Add a little more salt if you think it needs it, then cover with a lid and reduce the heat to medium-low. 
  • Simmer. After an hour give it a stir and taste it again. Add more sugar and salt if you see fit, then cover and continue cooking for 2 more hours, until the sauce has reduced and thickened to your preferred consistency. Once the sauce has thickened and reduced, stir in the basil and fire-roasted tomatoes. Simmer for 15 more minutes.
  • Optional: Simmer more. I have cooked this Homemade Marinara Sauce on medium-low for 2-4 hours, on low for 6-18 hours, and in a 250°F for 8 hours. It is very flexible in that way, making it perfect for putting on before starting the workday to make that night’s dinner a breeze.
eggplant parmesan made using Homemade Marinara Sauce

How To Serve Homemade Marinara Sauce

There are so many meals that you can make even better with this Homemade Marinara Sauce recipe!  Here are a couple of my favorites:

Let me know what you think of this recipe if you try it! Here are the Pinterest pins:

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Homemade Marinara Sauce

  • Author: María
  • Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes
  • Yield: 8 cups 1x


Mmmmm… gravy. 


  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 (28 oz) can of peeled tomatoes
  • 2 (15 oz) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 parmesan rind
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium green bell-pepper, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 C water from a rinsed-out tomato sauce can
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp organic brown sugar, to taste
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 3 tsp Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp ground oregano
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh basil, minced
  • 1/2 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp herbs de Provence


  1. Place a 5 qt. dutch oven over medium heat and drizzle in one teaspoon of olive oil. Let the oil heat until it’s shimmering, then add the diced onion and green bell pepper. Add a pinch of salt to encourage the vegetables to sweat and stir them around, cooking until they soften and become translucent – about 5-7 minutes or so. 
  2. Add your ground beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon into small pieces. Season with a teaspoon of salt and a couple of pinches of black pepper. Cook until no more pink remains.
  3. After the meat has browned, pour it into a fine mesh strainer – along with the peppers and onions – to allow the fat to drain completely. Shake it a bit to make sure as much is gone as possible. Set it aside while we bloom our tomato paste. 
  4. Add the remaining olive oil to the pot, then the garlic. Cook for 2 minutes or so, then add the tomato paste. Stir the tomato paste around, allowing it to coat the garlic. It should start to deepen in color and become very fragrant.
  5. Move the paste and garlic over a bit and add the fennel seeds. Allow them to toast, stirring the entire time, for just a minute or two, then stir everything together to combine. Return the drained ground beef, peppers, and onions to the pan. 
  6. Pour in the peeled tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, and red wine vinegar. Stir it all together, then stir in all of the dry seasonings. Once everything is well combined, taste it. Add the brown sugar if it’s bitter or acidic. Add a little more salt if you think it needs it, then toss in the parmesan rind and cover with a lid, reducing the heat to medium-low. 
  7. Cook for two hours, then uncover, stir, and taste. Add the remaining sugar if needed, and adjust for salt or any other seasonings. Cover and continue to cook until the sauce has thickened and reduced by about a third, usually around 2 more hours or so. 
  8. Once the sauce has been reduced remove the parmesan rind and stir in the minced basil. Cook for another 15 minutes, and you’re done. Dassit! 
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
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