How to Make Marinara Sauce from Tomato Paste

Here’s a delicious recipe for making marinara sauce from tomato paste that is both economical and quick.

Sure, buying a jar of marinara sauce off the shelf is quick too, but don’t we buy enough prepackaged foods as it is?

Can You Make Marinara Sauce Using Tomato Paste

marinara sauce from tomato paste recipe

The short answer is yes, you can most definitely make a delicious Italian marinara sauce from just tomato paste and no other tomato products. It’s easy and we’ve done it here in our household many times.

In my Italian family when growing up we never used tomato paste in our sauce. We used canned tomatoes. However, my husband’s Italian family did. One day when I wanted to make sauce and upon discovering that we didn’t have any canned tomatoes on hand, I complained to my husband.

It was a complete surprise when he said no problem, just use tomato paste. What??? I thought it would be the worst marinara pasta sauce I had ever served over my pasta. But I was wrong, very wrong.

I’m happy and eager to share with you my recipe so you can also use canned tomato paste to make a delicious sauce!

Ingredients You’ll Need for this Sauce

This recipe uses 5 ingredients you are bound to have already in your kitchen pantry.

  • Tomato paste
  • Olive oil
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Sugar
  • and of course water

Making sauce with tomato paste will give it a slightly different flavor than a can of tomatoes, but that’s okay and not a bad thing. Tomato paste can be slightly bitter, that’s why I add in the sugar to help offset the bitter taste. 

You won’t need much sugar, this recipe calls for only 1 tsp. When you make the sauce, taste it before you add the sugar and afterwards, and you will be able to taste the difference.

With this recipe we’re creating a smaller batch that can provide enough sauce for two meals for a family of four.

How Long Does it Take to Cook the Sauce?

how to make marinara sauce from tomato paste

Rest assured, you do not need to cook this sauce all day long. This recipe is not a huge pot of sauce; it uses 3 1/4 cups of water, so in oz. it comes to 26 oz. of liquid.

Once all the ingredients are in the pan and well blended so there are no clumps of tomato paste lurking around, it only takes 45 to 60 minutes. If you’re satisfied with the flavor before then, it takes even less time. I recommend letting it cook on low (after you’ve brought it to a boil) for an hour.

Two steps are critical when making sauce from tomato paste.

  1. Make sure the onions are fully transparent and tender as they won’t have hours to cook through like they would in a large pot of sauce.
  2. Fully incorporate the tomato paste with the water. Don’t take short cuts.
  3. Bring the sauce to a boil first and then lower the temperature to low or simmer.
  4. Stir frequently to prevent sticking or burning if any of the paste should settle.

To elaborate on #2 above, it’s easier to water down the tomato paste in a separate medium bowl so that it incorporates it into the water more quickly.

Can Tomato Paste Marinara Sauce be Used for a Meat Sauce

marinara from tomato paste

We’re looking to create a marinara sauce with these cans of tomato paste, not a heavy, thick, meat based sauce.

Technically, marinara is a meatless sauce with minimal ingredients. That’s how my recipe is structured. We keep the ingredients simple, yet there is still lots of flavor.

If you’re looking to keep it as close to a marinara sauce as possible, then you need to avoid not only meat, but also too many varying herbs that complicate the flavor. In this recipe we are keeping things simple, however I provide tips on what other herbs you can also add.

Another trick you can use that keeps the integrity of a marinara sauce, but still allows for meat, is to add in some frozen pre-cooked meatballs. You can add the meatballs to the sauce directly to thaw or heat through in the oven in a covered baking dish at 350F for 30-45 minutes. You can also do this using a deep sauce pan on the stove. Make sure to add a small amount of water to create steam. When ready, serve on the side.

What Herbs Can be Used in This Pasta Sauce

With that said, you can certainly add whatever herbs you want to make it suitable for your tastes. If you enjoy parsley or basil in your sauce use it. Here are some common herbs that can be used, either dry or fresh.


My recommendation however is to keep the oregano light. Too much oregano will turn it into a pizza sauce and we don’t want that here. Personally, I never use oregano in my sauces, but that’s just how we do it here. Only pizza sauce.


I love basil in my marinara sauces, and using it with tomato paste can help create additional flavor. Now is a great time to use some fresh garden basil. If it’s off season and you happened to freeze the basil in ice cube trays, then simply drop a few ice cubes in the sauce.


Some people love using parsley in their pasta sauces. If you’re a fan of the oregano-basil-parsley trio then go for it. I personally am not, but that’s totally fine if you do!

Bay leaf

For extra depth to a sauce, bay leaf is a good choice. However, in this case, unless you’re letting it cook for a few hours, you may not get the full benefit it has to offer.

Here’s the video to show how easy it is to make.

how to make marinara from tomato paste

Marinara Sauce From Tomato Paste

Learn how to make a delicious marinara sauce using tomato paste.
5 from 1 vote
Print Rate
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Cost: $3


  • 2 6 oz. cans Tomato paste
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 1/4 cups water


  • Heat the olive oil over low/medium heat in a medium size sauce pan.
  • When hot, add in the diced onions and simmer for approx. 5 minutes until they start becoming translucent and tender. Do not let them brown.
  • Add in the garlic, give a stir and make sure not to let it burn, and let it simmer for about 3 minutes or until you can smell the garlic
  • Add in the tomato paste and water, and stir until blended.
    add tomato paste
  • Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil.
  • Once it starts to boil, lower to a simmer and stir.
  • Cover with a lid (you can have it off center so it lets steam out too if you want).
  • Let cook for at least 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every once in awhile.
  • Add in the sugar and stir as this helps the sauce not taste bitter due to the paste.
  • Add in a pinch of salt if you like – we don't since we try to cut out salt when possible – plus it will be in the cheese.
  • Taste the sauce and when it's good, you are ready to serve along with some grated Italian cheese.


  1. Make sure the tomato paste is fully blended into the water.
  2. Make sure the onions are fully cooked and tender before adding the water and paste. Since this is a quick sauce, we need to make sure the onions are fully cooked. 
  3. If the sauce seems to be too watery as it’s over half way cooking, then slightly raise the temperature and leave it uncovered so it can cook off. 



This post was updated Decembers 27th, 2022.

Welcome! This post may contain affiliate links which means I may earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. You can read my disclosure for more details.

How to Make Marinara Sauce from Tomato PasteHow to Make Marinara Sauce from Tomato Paste

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating