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A fantastic, authentic Marinara Sauce recipe from Boston’s famous North End Italian neighborhood.

Marinara Sauce


Boston’s historic North End neighborhood has a long-standing American heritage, and it is famous for being the home of patriot Paul Revere and other colonial-era American landmarks.  But the North End is also sometimes referred to as Boston’s Little Italy, and it is equally famous for its Italian heritage!  The neighborhood is home to numerous restaurants serving fantastic, authentic Italian cuisine and it attracts crowds of locals and tourists alike!

This recipe for Marinara Sauce is adapted from The North End Italian Cookbook by Marguerite DiMino Buonopane, one of the North End’s most celebrated cooks!  An old friend of mine who came from a large Italian family originally told me about this wonderful cookbook. I knew that I had to buy it for my cookbook collection when she told me that everyone in her family referred to this book as “our family cookbook” because the recipes were so similar to their own Italian grandmother’s recipes. (My husband Jack agrees – this is a great Italian cookbook!)

best marinara sauce recipe

What is Marinara Sauce?

Marinara Sauce is a quickly-cooked tomato sauce with bright and wonderfully complex flavors! It’s a staple in most Italian-American households, and delicious as a sauce over pasta and meatballs, but it’s also fantastic as as a dipping sauce with fried mozzarella, eggplant fries, or arancini (aka risotto balls).

How do you make Marinara Sauce?

You’ll start by sauteeing onions and garlic in extra virgin olive oil until the onions are soft and translucent. Then, add canned San Marzano tomatoes that you’ve crushed by hand, along with some finely shredded carrot, fresh chopped basil, chopped fresh mint*, a pinch of red pepper flakes, as well as salt and pepper to taste.

(*Don’t be afraid to add the mint! It adds a very subtle flavor that perfectly complements the tomato and basil, and it really makes this a special marinara sauce!)


easy marinara dipping sauce

We hope you enjoy this authentic taste of Boston’s North End neighborhood in your own home!


You may also like these other Tomato Sauce recipes:

This post originally appeared on A Family Feast in December 2012. We’ve made some minor updates.

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Marinara Sauce - A Family Feast

Marinara Sauce

  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 1 quart
  • Category: sauce
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian


1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

½ cup chopped yellow onion

34 cloves minced garlic (1 1/2 tablespoons)

1 28-ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand (just reach in and squeeze the tomatoes)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup finely shredded carrot

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (or ½ teaspoon dried)

1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Few grinds of black pepper


Place olive oil, onions and garlic in a cool sauce pan and gradually bring up heat to medium high. (Heating it this way makes the onions very soft.) Once the oil is hot and the onions and garlic are bubbling, cook for 3 minutes stirring frequently.

Add all of the other ingredients. Stir and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree until desired consistency. (We like our marinara sauce to be a bit chunky.)

Use as a dipping sauce or over pasta.

Keywords: Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce


Marinara Sauce recipe

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  • Meagan | wrote:

    I made this last night for a dinner party. It was absolutely delicious! I made it almost exactly as your recipe calls, but I did add a few extra ingredients to kick the flavor up a notch. I added bell peppers in with the onions when sautéing. I also put 1 roasted red pepper and a handful of sundried tomatoes in the food processor with a bit of the sauce, then added a little more sauce and pulsed and then left some of the sauce chunky. That seemed to make a really great consistency. I cooked on low for a few hours so I added 2 cans of tomato sauce to keep the liquid levels right. And I did add fresh herbs because I had them on hand. And added meat to make it a meat sauce because that’s just what I like.

    So so good! I’ll definitely be using this as my base recipe from now on.

    • Martha wrote:

      So glad you enjoyed the recipe Meagan – the changes you made sound wonderful!

  • Leigh wrote:

    I made this tonight. The Italian market was closed so I couldn’t get any San Marzano tomatoes, I just used regular canned. And the grocery store was out of fresh basil so I used dried. I had planned to serve it with meatballs but left the meat at the grocery store. I ended up just frying up some hamburger from frozen and this was still fantastic. It will be added to my regular rotation and will be making double batches.

    • Martha wrote:

      So glad you enjoyed the recipe Leigh! Good to know that the sauce is delicious even with the substitutions.

  • Patti wrote:

    these look delicious, definetly going to try Marinara been looking for one and from a true Italian its got to be delish. thank you for sharing

    • Martha wrote:

      We hope you enjoy the recipe Patti!

  • Melissa wrote:

    A simple and easy recipe that produces wonderful results. I love this marinara! I have used it for so many recipes; stuffed peppers, Italian, meatloaf, over zucchini noodles….. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

    • Martha wrote:

      You’re very welcome Melissa – we’re glad you are enjoying the recipe as much as we do!

  • Johnatha Jones wrote:

    Hmmm! This was delicious! Reminds me of Italy.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Johnatha!

  • JoAnn wrote:

    what brand of tomatoes do you use?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi JoAnn – we usually purchase Cento or Pastene canned tomatoes – or fresh tomatoes will also work well for this sauce! Hope that helps!

  • Aimee @ ShugarySweets wrote:

    Love this recipe!!! We go through a lot of marinara in our house!!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Aimee! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Rachel @{I Love} My Disorganized Life wrote:

    This looks so good! It is seriously making me want pasta, or pizza, or just bread for dipping, like right now!

  • Sockmonkeys Kitchen wrote:

    Wonderful recipe and I love the story behind the cookbook =0)
    PS: also am now a new subscriber to your blog.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks for stopping by and for the follow!!

  • Aubrey @ Real Housemoms wrote:

    Mmmmmm I’m so glad you posted this recipe and about this cookbook! I love the North End. I recently took my husband back to Boston with me. When I think Boston I think about the North End.

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