Olive Garden Marinara Sauce

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Olive Garden Marinara Sauce has all of the authentic, robust Italian flavors you could ever want in a great Italian pasta sauce. The great news is, now you don’t have to pay the high prices at the restaurant! My copycat marinara sauce recipe comes together in a snap, for a savory and rich tomato sauce that’s even more delicious than theirs!!

olive garden marinara sauce.


I’m a firm believer in making everything you can from scratch. And, for me, that includes my favorite restaurant recipes!

I think everything tastes better when it’s made fresh at home.

The Olive Garden™ knows how to make fantastic Italian meals, but honestly, a traditional marinara sauce is super easy to make at home!

We also have a copycat version of their cheese stuffed shells and chicken parmigiana that is bursting with Italian flavor!

It doesn’t take a lot of know-how, ingredients, or skill – just a little bit of time.

olive garden sauce ingredients.

Olive Garden Marinara Sauce

So what is marinara sauce, really? After all, there are so many Italian red sauces out there – pomodoro, bolognese, vodka sauce – the list is huge!

Marinara sauce is actually as simple as tomato sauce recipes get. All you need are canned tomatoes and a few herbs and seasonings – garlic, herbs, and pepper. 

Unlike creamy sauces like Alfredo, marinara is intended to be chunky. The little bits of tomato highlight its incredible flavor.

If you don’t have 50 minutes available to make the marinara sauce Olive Garden style, I have a much quicker version! 

My 5-Minute Simple Pasta Sauce recipe is an awesome solution when you’re in a hurry!

It’s not quite as flavorful as this slowly simmered version, but it does the trick in a pinch.

making olive garden marinara sauce in pot

Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Canned Crushed Tomatoes and Tomato Paste – The two things we need to make our tomato base! Any brand of either of these will do.
  • Crushed Red Pepper – This doesn’t add too much heat at all! If you’re sensitive to spicy flavors, simply add it to taste just before serving.

    Or, add more if you’d like! It’s your sauce, after all.
  • Minced Garlic – I really don’t recommend substituting garlic powder for fresh garlic, but if you have to, replace each clove with ⅛ teaspoon of powdered garlic.

    Wait until about half way through the simmering to add it, as garlic powder’s flavor cooks away pretty quickly.
  • Italian Seasoning – I’ll always advocate for using fresh herbs instead of dried if possible. Basil, thyme, rosemary, and oregano are the key players here.
  • Granulated Sugar – Just a bit of sugar goes a long way in cutting through the acidic tomatoes in marinara sauce.

    This recipe calls for 1 teaspoon; that amount creates the closest flavor to the original marinara sauce from Olive Garden.

    If you like a sweeter flavor to your pasta sauce, you can use more sugar right off the bat. I prefer to wait until the end and add more, only if necessary.
adding basil to marinara sauce.

Marinara Sauce Recipe FAQ

What is the difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce?

Spaghetti sauce usually has some sort of meat component, while marinara sauce does not. 

And unlike spaghetti sauce, marinara is often used simply as a dipping sauce. It also has a thinner consistency than spaghetti sauce.

Is Olive Garden marinara vegan?

Absolutely! There’s no dairy, eggs, or meat to be found in this Olive Garden sauce.

How long does it take to prepare traditional marinara sauce?

It takes just under an hour to make a robust, flavorful, slowly simmered Olive Garden marinara sauce. 

spoon of olive garden marinara sauce.

Tips and Tricks

  • Want a thicker sauce? Simmer your marinara sauce longer for a thicker consistency.

    Another alternative is to mix equal parts cornstarch and cold water to the simmering sauce. 

Storing and Reheating Marinara Sauce

Airtight containers are a must for homemade sauces to maximize their shelf life.

Your Olive Garden sauce will keep for about 5-7 days, assuming it’s not left at room temperature for more than a couple of hours.

Frozen, it can last for up to 3 months!

To reheat, place the sauce in a pot over medium heat on the stovetop. You can microwave it, but it’s best to cover the dish – marinara sauce splatters easily!

traditional marinara sauce .

With love, from our simple kitchen to yours. 

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olive garden sauce.

traditional marinara sauce closeup

Olive Garden Marinara Sauce

Donna Elick
Olive Garden Marinara Sauce has the robust flavor you expect in an authentic marinara. With my copycat recipe, you can skip the restaurant!
5 stars from 5 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Sauce
Cuisine Italian
Method Stovetop
Servings 6 makes 6 cups sauce



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 56 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/8 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar


  • In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, saute the garlic and olive oil over medium heat, just until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add remaining ingredients except for salt, pepper, and sugar. Bring marinara to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium low, cover the pan, and cook for 30-45 minutes.
  • Discard the basil leaves. Taste the sauce and add sugar, salt, and pepper to taste.

Donna’s Notes

Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for 5-7 days, or freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
Feel free to add fresh herbs to the sauce, such as oregano, bay leaf, and thyme.
The sugar takes some of the acidity out of the finished sauce. Stir it in at the end so that you can balance the flavors to your liking.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 136cal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 393mg | Sugar: 13g | Fiber: 5g | Calcium: 101mg | Iron: 4mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
olive garden marinara sauce.

Originally published September 2022

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  1. Can’t wait to try this recipe. I would love to use my tomatoes from the garden. How would I incorporate fresh tomatoes instead of canned ones?

  2. 5 stars
    Definitely think it is worth the extra work to use fresh tomatoes. It gives such a good flavor to the sauce, maybe now I’ll stop buying marinara and start making it myself!

  3. 5 stars
    I have to say that I am one of those who don’t like Italian food or any red sauce (crazy I know!) But! This sauce is amazing! I use it took make it with your lasagna recipe. My son loves this sauce and he doesn’t like red sauce either. My husband, who is Italian, said this is the best sauce ever. It’s easy, simple but amazing!

  4. Now I know why my Italian neighbors left their sauces cooking so long! Thicker sauce! This was Chgo years ago growing up. Oh the delicious smells from Italian kitchens!

  5. 5 stars
    Made this today and it is 100% delicious !!! Picked about a dozen fresh basil leaves right from the garden. Went sparse on the crushed red pepper flakes because it too was homemade (hot) and glad I did. Also added one bay leaf because we love that herb .. otherwise went right by recipe. Served with angel hair pasta, grilled eggplant topped with mozzarella and toasted Italian loaf bread. Soooo very good!!! Will make again! Husband raved and raved how perfect a marinara it is! Thank you!

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