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All Purpose Marinara Sauce

A fresh and vibrant red sauce that can be used SO MANY ways! I like to add a little cream cheese to give it a creamy factor. Such a simple flavorful sauce.

Course Appetizer, Main Course
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 6
Author Laura Doerr


  • 2 28 oz cans San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1/2 large yellow or white onion diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, 3 cloves minced and 3 cloves thinly sliced
  • 1 large whole sprig fresh basil about 6 leaves
  • 2 tbsp quality olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar or equivalent sweetener
  • 3 tbsp reduced fat cream cheese optional


  1. Add the two cans of tomatoes to a large bowl or right into the deep skillet you are using for cooking. Using your hands or a masher, very gently (to avoid splatter) crush each tomato. You'll be left with a chunky tomato juice.

  2. Add tomatoes to large skillet (if transferring from another bowl). Add in diced onions, garlic, whole fresh basil (you'll fish out later), olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and sugar. Turn heat on to medium and bring to a simmer, stir all ingredients to combine. Reduce heat to a low gentle simmer and allow to cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Sauce will reduce and thicken the longer it simmers. Taste for seasoning, adjust salt and pepper as needed, and remove the sprig of basil. If you want a creamy sauce without adding heavy cream, add in the reduced fat cream cheese. Stir until melted into the sauce.

  3. Use on pasta, pizza, spaghetti squash, dipping, or freeze for later use.

Recipe Notes

If you don't care for large chunks of garlic you can mince all 6 cloves, or just add less altogether. I like the visible slices throughout the sauce.

I prefer a slightly sweeter red sauce up front, with heat that hits the back of your throat, which is what this is. Adjust the red pepper flakes and sugar to your taste.

This freezes great, and I've thawed and re-froze multiple times to use for various meals.