Hearty Marinara Sauce Explained: All You Need to Know

A lot of the Italian dishes you may be familiar with have a red sauce – but are they all the same? No, in fact there are several variations of tomato based sauces ranging from quick cooking sauces to all day affairs. 

A hearty marinara is a tasty tomato sauce, packed with lots of flavor and cooked in a minimal amount of time. Hearty marinara sauce can be used in a variety of different dishes, allowing the home cook to get a lot of use out of it. 

What is Hearty Marinara Sauce?

Traditionally, a marinara sauce is a fast cooking sauce and contains only a few ingredients: olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. Crossing over to a hearty marinara, you may find the addition of other vegetables to give it more substance, along with butter, cheese, and even sometimes wine. 

Adding carrots to your marinara, for example, will give a natural sweetness that balances well with the acidity of the tomatoes. The addition of mushrooms and zucchini to a simple marinara also help to make this red sauce more hearty.

What Do You Use Marinara Sauce For?       

One of the great things about marinara sauce is how versatile it truly is. You can of course use it as a pasta sauce, but it is great in so many other ways:

  • Eggplant or chicken parmesan 
  • Pizza sauce
  • Italian style pot roast
  • As a base for soups
  • Pasta sauce
  • Hunter’s chicken
  • Italian sausage sandwiches
  • Meatballs
  • Calzones
  • As a dip for breadsticks or mozzarella sticks
  • On top of a baked potato 
  • Italian styled burger 

The possibilities of using hearty marinara sauce are almost endless and its healthy ingredients make this sauce a great one to keep on hand.

Canned or fresh tomatoes? 

Normally using fresh ingredients is the best bet, especially when making something from scratch. However, when making marinara, using a good quality canned tomato yields a product that’s just as tasty. 

However, if you have some extra time and do decide to use fresh tomatoes, here’s what you will need to do:

  • Wash several Roma tomatoes – these tomatoes are the best to use as they have fewer seeds, a thinner skin, and lower acidity than most other tomatoes.
  • Score an “X” on the bottom of each tomato before placing them in a pot of boiling water. Only drop in 3-4 at a time so the pan doesn’t get too crowded.
  • After about 30-45 seconds, carefully pull the tomatoes out with a skimmer or tongs.
  • Immediately put the tomatoes into a bowl of ice water.
  • Continue this process until all of the tomatoes are done. 
  • Once cooked and cooled, the skin should easily slide off of the tomato.
  • Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds before dicing them up to use in your sauce. 

You can store any unused tomatoes in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

What is the Difference Between Pizza Sauce and Marinara Sauce?

Marinara sauce uses crushed tomatoes while pizza sauce typically uses a tomato puree. Pizza sauce also usually just contains herbs and spices along with the tomato purée. 

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Although you can use marinara as a pizza sauce, it would be chunkier than a pizza sauce. Blending your marinara sauce helps achieve the right consistency for pizza sauce.

How to Make Homemade Hearty Marinara Sauce

Making homemade hearty marinara sauce is a lot easier than you may think. There is minimal prep work and it doesn’t require a long time to simmer. Gathering all of your ingredients ensures the simplicity of making this delicious sauce.


  • Olive Oil – you may want to consider a good quality extra virgin olive oil since there are so few ingredients in the sauce. This will make a huge difference in the overall taste.
  • Crushed Canned Tomatoes – The preferred type of tomato for marinara (and most other Italian tomato sauces) is the San Marzano. The San Marzano is a variety of a plum tomato that has fewer seeds and less acidity making for an excellent choice in this sauce with so few ingredients. If you can’t find San Marzano, look for canned whole plum tomatoes and just know you will have to crush them yourself.
  • Garlic – how much you use is a personal preference, but adding at least 2 large cloves is a good idea.
  • Herbs – you can use fresh, dried, or even a combination of the two. Oregano, parsley, and basil make a great addition, along with salt and pepper. 
  • Parmesan Rind – cut off a small piece from a wedge of parmesan and save the rest to grate on top of your dish.
  • Carrots – adding carrots to your marinara sauce gives it a subtle sweetness and also helps to balance any acidity from the tomatoes.
  • Mushrooms – the addition of mushrooms gives the marinara sauce a boost in protein to make this a well rounded meal. Button or portobello mushrooms work fine. 
  • Red Wine – you won’t need a lot, but it will add a very robust flavor to the sauce. The wine doesn’t have to be expensive, but you should choose a wine that you don’t mind drinking.


Step 1: Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Once the oil is hot, add the minced garlic and stir it around so as not to burn it. 

Step 2: Next, add your diced carrots and sliced mushrooms to the pan and cook until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Be sure to stir a few times.

Step 3: Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and any dried herbs you are using and stir for another minute.

Step 4: Pour in your wine and let it simmer and reduce down for 2-3 minutes. This will ensure the alcohol is cooked out and give your sauce a bold flavor.

Step 5: Add the crushed tomatoes parmesan rind to the pan. Be sure to add the tomatoes slowly so they don’t splash on you! Once the tomatoes and parmesan rind are added to the pan, reduce heat to low.

Step 6: Simmer sauce for 10-15 minutes, then add fresh herbs if using, salt and pepper to taste.

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Step 7: Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top right before serving.


  • Having all of your ingredients prepped ahead of time helps with the overall cooking process.
  • Shred your carrots to cut down on the cooking time – or buy a bag of already shredded carrots!
  • Buying sliced mushrooms is much more convenient and they will already be washed and ready to use.
  • If you do use whole mushrooms, the best way to clean them is by wiping the tops with a damp paper towel. Never run them under water, as it removes nutrients and all of the flavor!
  • If using fresh basil, stack up your leaves in order of size. Starting with the largest leaf and adding several leaves on top. Roll the stack up and slice into thin strips, making a chiffonade or ribbon cut.
  • Don’t skimp on the parmesan rind – this flavors the sauce in the same way a bay leaf does. Simmering it in the sauce adds an amazing flavor.
  • Cooled marinara can be frozen for up to 3 months so you can make a large batch and freeze some for later!

Frequently Asked Questions

With all of the different tomato based sauces out there, you are sure to have some questions. Let’s find out some answers to common questions.

Is marinara sauce still good if not refrigerated?

If you are making homemade marinara sauce, you should store it in a food safe container or bag and keep it in the refrigerator once it cools down. This will ensure bacteria does not form. Of course, an unopened jar from the store does not need to be refrigerated. 

Is Domino’s hearty marinara sauce vegetarian?

Technically, yes. Domino’s hearty marinara sauce contains both butter and milk products (two different cheeses). Most vegetarians still consider milk products okay to eat. 

Is hearty marinara sauce good on pizza?

Hearty marinara can be a great sauce for pizza. Because it can be on the chunky side, blending the finished sauce or even using an immersion blender is a good idea.

Can I add meat to my marinara?

Marinara is traditionally a simple tomato sauce with only the addition of herbs and vegetables. While you can add ground meat to your marinara sauce, it would become more of a spaghetti sauce. 


Italian food is a favorite across many kitchens. From lasagna, pizza, and spaghetti – we can’t get enough of the bold, flavorful, and comforting food. 

Hearty marinara sauce is a flavorful, tomato based sauce that doesn’t take hours to simmer on the stove like other sauces. It is also healthy and can be tailored to fit your taste buds by adding the herbs and vegetables that you like.