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How do you use marinara sauce from a jar?

Marinara sauce is a savory, tomato-based sauce that originates from Italy. It’s a versatile sauce that can be used in everything from pastas to pizzas, meat dishes, and more. While homemade marinara sauce made from scratch is ideal, store-bought or jarred marinara sauce can be a quick and convenient alternative when you’re short on time.

What is Marinara Sauce?

Marinara sauce is made from tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onions, and Italian herbs and spices like oregano, basil, and parsley. It’s a smooth, thick sauce that simmers for hours to develop complex flavors. The name “marinara” comes from the Italian word “marinaro” meaning “sailor” – the sauce was likely first made by sailors in Naples using tomatoes and spices they had on hand.

Marinara differs from tomato sauce in that it has more flavor from herbs and garlic. Tomato sauce is made from just tomatoes while marinara has added ingredients. Marinara also differs from pizza sauce which is spicier and usually contains oregano and red pepper flakes.

Benefits of Using Jarred Marinara Sauce

There are several benefits to using store-bought or jarred marinara sauce:

  • It’s fast – no need to simmer a sauce for hours, just open the jar and use.
  • Convenient – jars are readily available at most grocery stores.
  • Consistent flavor – store-bought sauces are carefully formulated for flavor.
  • Versatile – use for everything from pasta to chicken parmesan.
  • Cost effective – jars are an affordable option compared to making homemade.
  • Long shelf life – unopened jars can last 12+ months in the pantry.

While homemade sauce is ideal, jarred marinara is a suitable option when you’re low on time. It can help you quickly prepare delicious Italian dishes.

What to Look for When Buying Jarred Marinara

When purchasing a jar of marinara sauce, look for:

  • Ingredients – Tomato puree and/or crushed tomatoes should be first. Look for extra virgin olive oil, onions, garlic, spices.
  • No additives – Avoid added sugars, preservatives, and artificial flavors.
  • Certifications – Look for certifications like “Certified Organic” for quality assurance.
  • Cooking method – Jars labeled “slow-simmered” or “slow-cooked” indicate richer flavor.
  • Consistent texture – Sauce shouldn’t be watery or chunky.
  • Bright color – Deep red color indicates ripe, flavorful tomatoes.

Paying attention to these factors will help you select a jarred marinara sauce of high quality.

How to Store and Use Jarred Marinara Sauce

Storage Tips

To maintain freshness and quality, follow these storage tips for jarred marinara sauce:

  • Store unopened jars in a cool, dry pantry away from heat and sunlight.
  • Once opened, transfer sauce to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 5 days.
  • For longer storage, freeze sauce in freezer-safe bags or containers up to 4 months.
  • Let sauce come to room temperature before reheating to prevent separation.
  • Look for any mold, discoloration, or strange odors before using.

Uses for Jarred Marinara Sauce

Thanks to its versatile flavor, marinara sauce can be used in many Italian dishes:

Dish Uses for Marinara Sauce
Pasta Toss with spaghetti, penne, or any pasta shape for classic marinara pasta
Pizza Use as the base sauce in homemade or store-bought pizza
Eggplant Parmesan Layer in the classic Italian eggplant dish
Chicken Parmesan Top breaded chicken cutlets before baking
Lasagna Layer between noodles, cheese, and meat in lasagna
Soup Stir into minestrone or Italian wedding soup

Marinara also pairs well with seafood, vegetables, eggs, grilled meats, and more. Don’t be afraid to experiment beyond traditional Italian cuisine!

How to Cook With Jarred Marinara Sauce

When cooking with jarred marinara sauce:

  • Read label for heating instructions. Some varieties can be heated straight from the jar.
  • For best flavor, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil before adding sauce.
  • Simmer sauce on stove 5-10 minutes to meld flavors. Add herbs, spices, wine.
  • Add protein and veggies to sauce to make a complete one-pot meal.
  • Stir in cream or butter for a creamy, rich sauce.
  • If sauce is too thick, thin out with pasta cooking water, broth, or milk.
  • Avoid boiling or overcooking sauce to prevent it from separating.

Tweak jarred marinara to suit your tastes – add more garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, or other herbs. Personalize each dish for delicious results.

Marinara Sauce Recipe from Scratch

For the freshest, most flavorful marinara sauce, make it yourself from scratch. This recipe uses quality ingredients for an authentic homemade taste:


  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper


  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook 5 minutes until translucent.
  2. Add garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Be careful not to burn.
  3. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
  4. Bring sauce to a simmer. Reduce heat and let simmer 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove from heat and adjust seasoning as needed. Enjoy immediately or let cool completely before storage.
  6. Sauce keeps refrigerated up to 5 days or frozen up to 4 months.

This easy homemade marinara recipe yields 8 servings of rich, savory sauce. Adjust herbs and seasonings to your tastes. Use it for all your favorite Italian dishes.

Common Questions about Marinara Sauce

Can marinara sauce be frozen?

Yes, marinara sauce freezes very well. Allow sauce to cool completely then transfer to freezer bags or containers, leaving 1-inch headspace. Seal tightly and freeze up to 4 months. Thaw overnight in fridge before using.

How long does opened marinara sauce last in the fridge?

Opened marinara sauce will keep up to 5 days refrigerated in an airtight container. Look for any mold, discoloration, or off odors before using. For longer storage, freeze sauce.

What’s the difference between marinara and pizza sauce?

While similar, marinara has more herbs like basil, oregano while pizza sauce relies on oregano and red pepper flakes for spicy flavor. Marinara also tends to be thicker and richer than smooth pizza sauce.

Can I substitute crushed tomatoes for marinara?

In a pinch, you can use crushed tomatoes instead of marinara sauce. You’ll just need to season it with oregano, garlic, basil, and other Italian herbs and spices to approximate the flavor. Simmering will help develop the flavor.

What goes well with marinara sauce?

Marinara pairs well with pasta, seafood, chicken, veggies, eggs, and pizza. Some classic pairings include spaghetti and meatballs, shrimp scampi, chicken parmesan, ratatouille, and eggplant Parmesan.


Marinara sauce is a versatile Italian staple that can add flavor to many dishes. While homemade sauce is ideal, quality jarred marinara can be a handy shortcut for delicious Italian cuisine. Look for quality ingredients and follow proper storage methods. Use marinara in pastas, on pizza, with vegetables and proteins. With the right techniques, jarred sauce can make home cooking quick and easy.