Weeknight Marinara Sauce


Weeknight marinara sauce is a simple classic you can make from scratch with just a few simple ingredients—many of which you probably already have on hand. Plus, you can easily double and even triple the recipe, so you’ll be able to recruit it for double duty – pizza one night, spaghetti, chicken parm.

We enjoy pasta every Wednesday, and we have tried many sauces; however, none of them taste as good as homemade, in my opinion. Growing up, we would go to my grandparent’s house on Sundays for a huge feast that always included “red sauce,” as we called it. However, my Grandmother’s recipe simmered for hours on the stove. Over the years, I have adapted that recipe to create an easy, speedy version perfect for making between correcting homework and packing school lunches for the next day.

Have you ever tried making marinara sauce from scratch? If not, you are in for a major treat when you realize how speedy and easy it is – and how much more delicious it is than store-bought. Even better, most of those 30 minutes are inactive, so once you get everything simmering nicely, you can turn your attention to toddler meltdown maintenance and/or wine-sipping, just popping in to give the sauce a quick stir now and again.

The speediness here is thanks to the miracle of canned tomatoes. With so few other ingredients, the tomatoes really shine, so I do think it’s worthwhile to seek out a high-quality brand if you’re shopping with this sauce in mind. I swear by San Marzano tomatoes, so I scoop those up whenever I see them (when they go on sale, buy LOTS).

We usually serve this simple marinara over plain pasta; however, we have also used it with zoodles and spaghetti squash.

Weeknight Marinara Sauce

Prep time: 5 – 10 mins

Cook Time: 20 – 30 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • One large onion diced
  • 1 Cup of carrots diced
  • 2 cans San Marzano tomatoes (diced, crushed, whatever you have on hand)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning
  • A handful of finely chopped basil leaves (while optional and NOT child approved it does add amazing flavor)
  • Salt and pepper – to taste


  1. Heat a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat
  2. Add olive oil and garlic and heat until garlic becomes fragrant and starts to sizzle (about 1 minute)
  3. Add onion and carrots to the saucepan and stir until coated with oil
  4. Let veggies sauté until they are soft and the onions are slightly translucent (3 to 5 mins)
  5. Pour tomatoes into the saucepan, then add seasoning, salt, pepper. Stir to combine.
  6. Reduce heat to LOW and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Once fully simmered to your desire (you can go longer if needed), take your immersion blender and blend away. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a standard blender, but you must do so in small batches and cover the top with a dishtowel.

Serve over pasta, zoodles, spaghetti squash, or whatever your heart desires (aka what your children eat) and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese and basil.

This sauce is extremely versatile and forgiving, so feel free to improvise. Feeling like you need some protein, throw in a bag of Trader Joe’s frozen meatballs. Have some extra wine on hand add ½ a cup for more depth of flavor. Wilting spinach in the produce drawer in your fridge, throw those greens in. Once it is all blended, the kids can hardly tell. (Mom Hack – don’t let them see you add the spinach).

I feel like when you read these recipes online, they always say serve with a side salad and bread, and that is all fine and dandy. And sometimes we do serve it with a Caesar salad (from one of those kits, obviously), but if we are honest here… usually, pasta + sauce is our entire MEAL! I mean, we usually open a bottle of wine. We are not heathens.

For more details, check out Nikki’s how-to video!

Weeknight Marinara from Nichole B. Miller on Vimeo.

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Nikki has called wonderful Fairfield County her home, her entire life. Growing up on a campus of a private school in Greenwich, CT Nikki swore to her educator parents that she would never be a teacher. Well life has a way of repeating itself and now Nikki and her amazingly supportive husband are happily working at a different independent school in Greenwich. A recovering “type a” perfectionist she is learning to let go of her color coding, alphabetizing ways and embrace the mess. Helping her enjoy life’s everyday messes are her two precocious girls Sofie (11/15/11) and Keira (9/7/13). Nikki loves all things mommy cliché including but not limited to walks on the beach, running, reality TV, organizing closets, wine, chocolate and having her kids help her out in the kitchen.


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