How to Make Homemade Pasta Sauce That Rivals Store-Bought Brands

5 from 1 vote

Why buy store-bought when homemade pasta sauce is better?

Making a killer pasta sauce doesn’t have to mean spending your day hunched over the stove, slaving away over that ever-simmering sauce. That mental image alone is enough to drive me to the store to buy a jar of sauce! Once you learn how to make homemade pasta sauce, you’ll find that it can come together quickly without sacrificing any depth of flavor.

There are two classes of homemade pasta sauce – the pan sauce that comes together as you cook the noodles and the one you make ahead of time. We’re going to dive in and talk about the latter, more specifically the most popular of all the pasta sauces – tomato sauce.

Quick and Easy Marinara Sauce

Tomato sauce is probably the first thing that pops into your mind when we say “pasta sauce.” Marinara is a classic accompaniment to pasta, made with olive oil, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and herbs. While there’s nothing wrong with the flavor of the store-bought kind, I just hate how they’re pumped full of additives and all that sodium.

Once I found this recipe, I realized that it’s just as easy to make tomato sauce from scratch. And, I get to control all of the ingredients (like using no-salt-added tomatoes) to make it healthy, too! This recipe is my go-to, quick marinara sauce. It’s finished in as little as 30-minutes but it tastes like it’s been simmering all day long.

Tomato sauces like marinara freeze really well, so you may as well make a double batch and freeze some for later!

Once You Made The Perfect Marinara Sauce, Spice it Up!

Now that you know how to make homemade pasta sauce that rivals store-bought brands, it’s time to think outside the box! The best thing about this sauce is how infinitely variable it is.

Here are some of my favorite additions to the classic marinara sauce to spice things up:

Bolognese or Ragu

Turn your tomato sauce into a meat sauce! Adding 1-pound of cooked ground meat (like ground pork, beef, turkey, or a combination) in step 6 will transform tomato sauce into bolognese sauce. Or, you can choose to brown larger cuts of pork, beef, or chicken in step 3 and simmer them in the sauce until they’re tender—that would make this a ragu.

All’Amatriciana sauce

I’m not sure I can live without bacon, so I’m a huge fan of All’Amatriciana sauce. All you need to do to transform your marinara into this spicy sauce is add 1 teaspoon of red chile flakes in step 4 and stir in 1/2-pound chopped, cooked bacon in step 6. Feel free to substitute turkey bacon if you like.

Italian-Style Puttanesca

Who needs added salt when you have the naturally salty flavors contained in Italian-style puttanesca sauce? It’s as easy as adding 1/4 cup of chopped olives and 1 tablespoon of drained, rinsed capers in during step 7.

Fra Diavolo Sauce

Have you heard of Fra Diavolo sauce? This super spicy seafood pasta dish features shellfish like lobster or shrimp. Add 1 teaspoon of red chile flakes in step 4 to spice things up. Then, add 1-pound of your favorite shellfish in step 7, simmering until it’s pink and cooked through. Be ready to serve this pasta immediately, as shellfish doesn’t sit well.

Creamy Tomato Sauce

Tomato cream sauce has a beautiful, rich silkiness that really clings to and coats the pasta noodles. You would usually add 1 cup of heavy cream in step 7, but I prefer to sub in coconut milk instead. This keeps the pasta nice and light, and makes it that much healthier.

Pasta Alla Norma

In the summertime, I love the bounty of eggplant that comes from my garden. My favorite way to celebrate eggplant is with pasta alla Norma. After you’ve salted the eggplant to remove its bitterness, cut them into small strips and sear them in hot oil. Season the cooked strips with plenty of freshly cracked black pepper and add them to the sauce in step 7.

What do you think, is this pasta sauce just as easy as the store-bought kind? Let us know how you change up your favorite pasta sauce. Or, if you used one of our suggestions, tell us your favorite in the comments below!

5 from 1 vote

Quick and Easy Marinara

This easy marinara sauce is versatile and super delicious.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Yield 6 people
Serving Size 0.5 cup
Course Condiment
Cuisine Italian


  • 28 ounces whole peeled plum tomatoes can, no salt added
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion small, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon basil freshly chopped


  • Place the tomatoes, juice and all, in a food processor and pulse until well pureed. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, in a large pan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Stir in the pureed tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer and lower the heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the sauce is thick and the flavors have come together.
  • Stir in the chopped basil and season to taste.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 0.5cup | Calories: 53kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 3g | Sodium: 351mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g |
SmartPoints (Freestyle): 2
Keywords Budget-Friendly, dairy-free, Diabetic-Friendly, Gluten-Free, Keto, Kid-Friendly, Low-Carb, Plant-Based, Vegetarian

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Chef Lindsay

Lindsay D. Mattison is a professional chef, recipe developer, and food writer. After graduating from Cascade Culinary School, Lindsay worked as the executive chef of a farm-to-table restaurant in Bend, Oregon. She is passionate about using local, organic ingredients and loves teaching home cooks how to incorporate seasonal food into their diet. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to create beautiful meals for her family. She lives with her husband in Colorado, where she enjoys the trials and errors of gardening.

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