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!!
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 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.
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.
Marinara Sauce Recipe FAQ
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.
Absolutely! There’s no dairy, eggs, or meat to be found in this Olive Garden sauce.
It takes just under an hour to make a robust, flavorful, slowly simmered 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!
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
Other Copycat Olive Garden Recipes
Olive Garden Marinara 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.
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.
Originally published September 2022
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