My meatless spaghetti sauce is a delicious tomato-based marinara sauce. Make this simple recipe to serve over pasta or as a dipping sauce!
Quick to make, versatile and incredibly delicious, this is my go-to sauce for making an Italian dinner in mere minutes.
Meatless Spaghetti Sauce
Marinara sauce is known the world over as the perfect rich tomato sauce for pasta and other dishes. In the United States, it also goes by the term meatless spaghetti sauce. On the East coast, particularly the northeastern states, it’s known as gravy or red sauce.
In Italy, a plain tomato sauce is know as Al Pomodoro, while a marinara includes the use and essence of garlic, either crushed, used then discarded, or minced so small it dissolves into the sauce.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
- San Marzano Italian tomatoes– The “true” authentic canned tomatoes for any good Italian sauce
- olive oil– this is the classic choice for Italian dishes. If you have another oil you prefer, it’ll work too.
- garlic cloves– some people prefer to use the prepared minced garlic, which is fine too.
- tomato paste– to help reduce waste, I buy tomato paste in a tube rather than a can. If you use canned tomato paste and have some left over, it freezes well! Transfer it to an ice cube tray and you can pop the cubes out as you need them.
- sugar -Adding sugar helps to reduce the acidity from tomatoes. Granular sugar substitutes work, if you prefer them.
- fresh basil– Use fresh leaves of basil if at all possible; their flavor is much better than using dried basil
- dry red wine– The alcohol will cook out, but if you’d rather not include it, the sauce will still be delicious. You can use vegetable broth or water instead.
Video: making meatless spaghetti sauce
The sauce is simple to make but sometimes it helps to have a visual guide. To see the process of making marinara spaghetti sauce from start to finish, watch the video in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Adjusting the consistency
- Saute the garlic in a large skillet, over medium heat for 3 minutes. Then, add the tomato paste, dried oregano, sugar, salt, red pepper flakes and dry red wine (optional), and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, then simmer the sauce for 20 minutes.
At this point you could leave the marinara chunky, or for a smoother meatless sauce, use a hand blender and puree or put in a blender and blend until smooth.
Serve over any pasta as a meatless meal, or add meatballs and top with fresh chopped parsley and grated or shaved parmesan cheese.
Other classic pasta sauces
- Bolognese Sauce is a delicious meaty tomato-based sauce using a great blend of spices. My recipe makes one super meaty sauce. We’re talkin’ ground beef, pork sausage and pancetta.
- Romesco Sauce is is a thick tomato-based sauce, named after the coastal town in northeastern Spain where it originates from. It can be served with pasta, rice, or creamy polenta, but it makes a fantastic dip as well!
How long to cook meatless spaghetti sauce
For a richer, more intense tomato flavor simmer your meatless spaghetti sauce for 3-4 hours, or put it in your slow cooker and let it do it’s thing without having to stand over the stove! Just be sure to stir it every so often to prevent it from sticking to the pot.
You can even use an Instant Pot uncovered on the sauté setting for a period of time to reduce it.
As this recipe is written, the flavors are amazing, although if cooking this low and slow, I would omit the tomato paste as this will thicken on it’s own. I only use it for when time is tight.
This is perfect for any quick dinner, over any pasta and it easily doubles to feed a crowd. It also is one of my go to sauces when I make my classic beef meatballs. Enjoy!
This post, originally published on Kevin is Cooking May 4, 2020, was last updated with new content on Aug. 8, 2021.
Subscribe to my Newsletter, follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube for all my latest recipes and videos.
Meatless Spaghetti Sauce + Video
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste (See Note 1)
- 1/2 cup dry red wine (optional)
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 28 oz crushed San Marzano tomatoes (See Note 2)
- 12 basil leaves roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley chopped garnish
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over a medium-high flame and add the minced garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the wine (optional), tomato paste, sugar, dried oregano and salt and red pepper flakes, sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, stir and simmer until reduced slightly, about 20 minutes. In last 10 minutes of simmering, add the basil and stir. Season the sauce with more salt to taste.
- At this point you could leave it chunky or for a smooth sauce you could use a hand blender and puree or put in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Use over any pasta dish or meatballs and top with fresh chopped parsley and grated or shaved parmesan cheese.
- As this recipe is written, the flavors are amazing, although if cooking this low and slow (3-4 hour simmer stovetop), I would omit the tomato paste as this will thicken on it’s own. I use the tomato paste when time is tight.
- Per The Kitchn, San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the rich volcanic soil at the base of Mount Vesuvius, which gives them a sweet flavor and low acidity and they are coveted for their firm pulp, deep red color, easy to remove skin and low seed count. Feel free to use whatever brand you prefer. This recipe is good for 1 pound of cooked pasta.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
If I were to try this recipe in a crockpot, how long would you recommend and on what setting?
I’ve not tried making it in a slow cooker, but I would think 3 to 4 hours on low heat would be perfect.
It was good, but a little sour… how can I fix that?
A pinch of sugar goes a long way.
Would it work to use fresh tomatoes instead of canned? Do you think it would be alright to use canola oil instead of olive oil?
Sure Susan, you could substitute 4 cups chopped fresh for the 28 ounce can. As for the oil, that would work, too.
If the salt is going to dissolve, what earthly reason is there to specify kosher salt.
It’s what I’ve been using since working in restaurants and catering John, plus it has no add iodine that table salt has added to it. Feel free to use table salt if you prefer.
May the :Spaghetti Sauce (Marinara Sauce) be doubled? Plus, would you have a Spaghetti Sauce that is good for canning/ Thanks. I am looking forward to making this sauce. ~ Kathleen
This can easily be doubled. Hover your mouse over the Servings number on the recipe card on desktop and touch the same on mobile. A slider will pop up to allow you to change it there and the ingredient list changes with that number, too. Also I would follow any canning instructions from Ball’s website.
This is so much better than the store bought stuff. Love this recipe thank you Kev.