Simple Healthy Homemade Marinara Sauce ~
With A Kick!

This Simple Healthy Homemade Marinara Sauce has a nice, warming, slightly spicy kick to it, sure to warm you up a bit on a cool evening.  It's also a great way to take advantage of the amazing health benefits of tomatoes, which are especially potent when tomatoes are cooked in a little healthy fat. 

It's worth taking the little extra time it takes to make a homemade marinara sauce. 

Pasta - Chickpea Spaghetti with Slightly Spicy Veggie Marinara & Collard GreensHomemade Marinara Sauce over Chickpea Spaghetti

Why This Simple Healthy Homemade Marinara Sauce Is Worth Making

The main motivation for making your own Simple Healthy Homemade Marinara Sauce is so you can make it, well, healthy!  You can control the amount of sodium, add extra veggies, and use less or no added oil, according to your preferences and health goals.  

For example, adding some fine diced or shredded carrots boosts the carotenoid content, while also adding a little natural sweetness to the slightly spicy sauce.

Store bought spaghetti marinara sauces are pricey these days.  Some contain oils you may not want, and, almost all of them that I've looked at lately are pretty high in sodium, averaging at least 500 or more milligrams per 1/2 cup serving.  Considering you will likely consume at least one cup, or two servings ~ if not more ~ per actual serving, you'll be getting around 900mg or more of sodium, just in the sauce!

Using no added salt canned tomatoes ~ like my favorites shown below ~ help you better manage total sodium content.  Stock up on unsalted canned tomato products when they go on sale.  Then you can whip up a batch of  this Simple Healthy Homemade Marinara Sauce when the mood for pasta ~ or lasagna ~ strikes.

You can also use leftovers for Pizza Potatoes!

Lasagna with Tofu Ricotta & Spicy MarinaraLasagna with Slightly Spicy Marinara Sauce, and Tofu Ricotta
Lasagna with Tofu Ricotta & Spicy Marinara Sauce

Plus, this Simple Healthy Homemade Marinara Sauce can be modified to suit your tastes. Make it more or less spicy, and use more or less vegetables or other optional add-ins at your discretion.  

This summer, we grew a few varieties of tomatoes, one of which were these beefsteak-sized low-acid orange tomatoes, which cooked down into a nice, slightly sweeter sauce.   A really super simple healthy homemade marinara sauce can be prepared by simmering diced tomatoes with onion, garlic, oregano, basil, and little else.  Also good with seasonal zucchini and summer squash.

In fact, a homemade marinara sauce is the ideal recipe for sneaking in more vegetables ~ like spinach, carrots, mushrooms, peppers, and any others ~ when cooking for finicky kids. Or adults.

Contrary to current trendy diet advice, pasta noodles are actually considered highly digestible, as they are water rich, compared to say a baked potato, or bread. That said, some people with a sensitive digestive system may have digestive issues when combining an acid sauce like this slightly spicy Homemade Marinara with a starch.   

While we favor 100% whole wheat (whole wheat is higher in protein than most grains, and contains a good source of fiber, selenium, vitamin E, and other vitamins and minerals), brown rice, or other whole grain noodles, you can also try any of the newer pasta noodles made from either chickpea or lentil flour.

Whatever type of noodles you prefer, enjoy Homemade Marinara Sauce in a variety of pasta dishes including spaghetti, lasagna, stuffed shells, or use some in a lentil or vegetable soup.

Scroll to the end for a printable version of this recipe.

Pasta Whole Wheat Linguini with Fresh Garden TomatoesLinguini with uber simple marinara, made with sautéd garden tomatoes and herbs
Tomatoes from the garden1Amazingly sweet orange, low-acid tomatoes, and super flavorful red tomatoes from the garden
Spaghetti with 100% Whole Wheat Noodles & Garden Fresh Low-Acid Tomato SauceSimply Spaghetti Marinara

Simple Healthy Homemade Marinara Sauce Recipe 

Marinara Sauce Recipe - Ingredients

1/2 medium - large sweet or yellow onion, diced

1 shallot, diced

4 or more white button, baby portobello, oyster, or shiitake mushrooms, chopped or sliced

1-2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil 

2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1/2 tsp. fennel seeds, or ground fennel, optional

1/4 - 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes 

1/4 cup red wine, optional

Generous amount of dried oregano, basil, and parsley 

Fresh cracked black pepper (or pre ground)

2 large (28 oz.) cans strained (or 1 strained, 1 whole tomatoes )- My favorites are: Pomî Organic Strained TomatoesAlessi Organic Whole or Crushed Pear Shaped Peeled Italian Tomatoes, and Dei Fratelli No Salt Added Crushed Tomatoes (all are without added salt)~ available at supermarkets, Whole Foods, or online. There are plenty of others.

1/2-1 tsp. sugar or black strap molasses (balances acidity of tomatoes)

1 tsp. low-sodium tamari (I like  San-J gluten-free Tamari Lite) or a pinch or two of salt ~ as desired to taste

Pasta or lasagna noodles cooked as per directions

Note:  The cooking method below is how I start the marinara sauce whether using a little oil, or if cooking oil-free.   Adding the oil a little later in the cooking prevents the oil from over heating.  It provides a little fat to enhance flavor, but also to improve absorption of the carotenoids and fat-soluble vitamins.  That said, if you prefer to skip the oil, the cooking method will be similar.  

You can brown the onions and mushrooms (and any other vegetables) in a hot stainless steel pan first, then add a little optional red wine (or masala cooking wine), or juice from the canned tomatoes to deglaze the pan.  The pan should be hot enough for the onions to sizzle when added.

If easier, go ahead and add the oil first.

Tomatoes whole peeled for Healthy Homemade Marinara SauceCanned Italian plum tomatoes are really good added to the Healthy Homemade Marinara Sauce
Spaghetti with Healthy Homemade Marinara Sauce CookingVegetable-Rich Marinara Sauce simmering with mushrooms & spinach
Vegan Plant-Based High Protein Spaghetti MarinaraSpaghetti with Protein-Fortified, Healthy Homemade Marinara Sauce, using TVP granules

Healthy Homemade Marinara Sauce - Recipe Steps

Heat a large saucepan pan, then add onion, and stir, sautéing for 1-2 minutes.  

Add the shallots and mushrooms.  Stir, and let cook a couple more minutes, until the mushrooms begin to release their juices, and the onions become more translucent.

Now add the oil, garlic, and fennel seeds or ground fennel, and red pepper flakes. Stir, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Let cook another minute.  If not using oil, add a tablespoon or two of water, instead of the oil.

Add tomatoes.  Gently bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Add dried herbs, and let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes, and up to one one hour to bring out the deeper marinara flavor.

Add sweetener and optional tamari or salt. Stir, and do a quick taste test. Add more sweetener, pepper, dried herbs or salt to taste, then let simmer another 15 minutes or so. The flavors come out more as it sits, and especially by the next day.

Serve over whole wheat, brown rice, chickpea, lentil or other good quality Italian semolina or whole grain pasta noodles of choice, and either steamed greens or a salad for a perfect meal! 

Or, use this Spicy Marinara Sauce to make lasagna, or as a nice sauce for simmering beans like chickpeas or white beans.

See notes below for alternative preparation method, and optional extra ingredients to add to your Simple Spicy Marinara Sauce.

Spaghetti with Chickpea Noodles, Broccoli & Mushroom in Spicy Marinara SauceSuper Veggie-Rich, Healthy Homemade Marinara Sauce over Spaghetti
Spaghetti 100% Whole Wheat with Gardein Plant-Based Meatballs & Homemade Tomato SauceHomemade Marinara Sauce with Gardein Meatless Meatballs

Optional Extras To Add To Add To Your Healthy Homemade Marinara Sauce

Top with nutritional yeast in lieu of parmesan cheese.

Add 2-3 big handfuls of chopped spinach towards the last 10-15 minutes of cooking.

Garnish with thin sliced fresh basil.

Add 1/2+ tsp. (Vegan) Worcestershire sauce for a bit more robust flavor. (Natural Earth Organic Worcestershire Sauce has 105mg sodium per Tbsp., compared to Annie's which has 75mg per tsp., or 225mg per Tbsp.)

Add up to 1/2 cup red wine along with the tomatoes.

Pre-soak 1-2 dried shiitake mushrooms in hot or room temp water for about 20 minutes. At this point, they should be soft enough to cut into smaller pieces. Continue to soak until soft, or simply add along with the soaking liquid to the pot along with the tomatoes. You can just use the soaking liquid if preferred. It adds a nice beef stock like flavor. Plus, shiitake mushrooms are loaded with anti-tumor and other excellent health benefits.

Add any other chopped vegetables you like: Try fine chopped or shredded carrot and/or beets for added sweetness, diced red sweet or bell peppers, chopped or shredded zucchini, or any other vegetables cut into smaller pieces, like cauliflower or broccoli. 

For a more 'beefed up' / meatier style spaghetti sauce, add TVP granules (a great source of protein made from soy), crumbled tofu or tempeh, or lentils.  Alternatively, you may like trying the Gardein or other brand of Vegan Meatless Meatballs as a treat.  

(If transitioning to a more plant-based diet, this is an ideal recipe for adding just a few ounces of ground turkey or beef as desired.)

Add 1-2 pre-soaked sun-dried tomatoes, diced.

Add a few chopped olives. 

Add chopped eggplant and / or zucchini.

For a Low-Fat, Healthy Homemade Marinara Sauce, serve over spaghetti squash, or zucchini 'noodles' cut with a spiralizer or in long thin strips with a grater or knife.  I like to soften the zucchini noodles first by dunking them quickly in heated water.

Alternative Cooking Method For Lower Fat

I think it's best to get the full flavor and health benefits of tomatoes to cook them in some fat. To minimize the fat, you can cook the marinara sauce as suggested above, adding a little water or the wine as needed to the pan to prevent sticking.  

Alternatively, add a few granules of salt to your saucepan before adding the shallot, onion and garlic. Use a medium heat, and stir frequently.  Add mushrooms soon after, as they will release some moisture. 

Marinara Sauce Recipe Preparation Variation

In lieu of the 2 large cans of crushed and whole peeled tomatoes (or both crushed), you can use tomato paste combined with tomato sauce.

Add 1/2 to 1 small can tomato paste after the shallot, onion, garlic and mushrooms have begun to soften. Stir in tomato paste, red pepper flakes and dried herbs ~ just enough to sort of break down the paste. 

Add 1+ large can of tomato sauce, or crushed tomatoes, followed by about 1/3-1/2 cup red wine, or 2 tsp. or so of balsamic vinegar, and black strap molasses or sugar. Let simmer as above, adding either the tamari, Worcestershire sauce, or a pinch or two of salt and black pepper to taste.

I included these links for informational purposes, to be able to see the labels of some good canned tomato products you can find at your local super market, Sprouts, Fresh Thyme,  Whole Foods, or other local / natural food stores.  Some of these shown are for a full case. 

Any purchase you happen to make from my links are greatly appreciated, and provide a small commission.  

>>>Health Benefits of Tomatoes   >>>Healthy Homemade Marinara Sauce  

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