How to Make Meatless Italian Marinara Sauce

This is a recipe for a simple to make Meatless marinara sauce.  It is my defacto for making pasta sauce.  I grew up having pasta with meat.  I loved my mother’s sauce growing up, but I never recall that she ever made it without meat.

meatless marinara sauce

I’m sure it wasn’t even an option considering she made it exactly as my dad’s mother showed her.  My dad liked it, we all liked it, so why change?

So, once I got married to my Italian husband, I learned through his Sicilian mother how to make a meatless sauce.  I’ve never been much of a meat eater per se, so knowing how to make a great sauce without meat was really important to me.

Benefits of Meatless Sauce

A big benefit to a meatless sauce is the cost savings.   Meat prices keep going up and I don’t like using cheap quality meat.  So until I hit the lottery, most of my sauces will be meatless.


I really need to write out a recipe for a smaller batch of sauce for a single meal.  I did this here with this recipe for sauce using tomato paste as a very economical choice. But this particular recipe uses a size #10 can of crushed tomatoes.  You can get these at any large wholesale club, I only wish they had organic.   You can also use multiple smaller cans, but I don’t know the equivalent.

This recipe will yield a nice big pot of sauce, approximately 160 oz., so I break it down to 20 servings but this really depends on your portion sizes.  Either way, you’ll get a lot and it’s perfect when preparing large meals such as for an Italian Christmas day dinner or other holiday!

You can then divide the sauce up into smaller containers and freeze them.  Just make sure to date and label the contents because come 5 months down the road I promise you’ll be wondering what it is.

marinara meatless sauce recipe

If you aren’t sure how to store them, there is no real secret.  We use glass Pyrex containers, but we have also used yogurt containers which work great.  If you’re wondering why we use glass, we feel like it is more long term and don’t have to be concerned with the chemicals in plastic.  I don’t really know if it’s a valid concern, but regardless, the glass in my opinion helps keep things better sealed.

How Long to Cook the Sauce

Since we are dealing with a large batch of sauce, it will take quite a few hours, mostly unattended.   You need to make sure to stir occasionally so it won’t stick and burn to the bottom.  But this is what is required to make a good sauce.   The stereotypical image of the Italian woman cooking sauce all day is actually true when making a large pot.

So although this particular recipe is very simple, it does require time.  Don’t skimp and always use it with pasta when done cooking to enjoy it right away!  It’s sooo good!  🙂

meatless marinara sauce

Meatless Marinara Sauce

4.25 from 4 votes
Print Rate
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 8 hours
Servings: 20 people


  • Size #10 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 18 oz. can tomato paste
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 medium onions chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • distilled/purified water
  • 1 whole carrot washed


  • Pour about 3 TBLE olive oil in deep pot and heat over medium heat
  • Add onions and reduce to simmer. Stir so onions are coated with olive oil. Cover and simmer 5 – 8 minutes.
  • When onions are translucent, add in chopped or minced garlic and simmer for 3 more minutes.
  • Add in crushed tomatoes and stir well.
  • Fill can about 1/3rd of the way with water and pour into sauce. Stir well. If you added too much water, leave the lid off.
  • Add bay leaves.
  • Take some sauce out and mix the tomato paste with it until smooth and then pour back into sauce and stir well.
  • Put carrot into sauce. This is used to absorb the acid from the tomatoes. It will not affect flavor and will be removed later.
  • Bring to boil stirring frequently so it won’t burn on the bottom.
  • Reduce to simmer and let cook down for about 2-3 hours making sure to stir every once in a while. Cover and let stand for a few more hours. I let it stand over night and then do a reheat in the morning, then freeze the sauce in smaller containers so I can use them on a need be basis.
  • Discard carrot.


Tip #1: Don’t eat the bay leaves. Discard if you find them before freezing.
Tip #2: Let the sauce stand overnight and then do a quick reheat in the morning. The flavor will be more well bodied. Tasting the sauce when you first mix it and when it is finished is very different!
Tip #3: If you do not have a carrot, use 1/4 tsp of baking soda and stir well. This helps cut down the acid.
Tip #4: Try freezing the sauce in smaller containers so you can use the sauce on a per meal basis.

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How to Make Meatless Italian Marinara SauceHow to Make Meatless Italian Marinara Sauce


  1. 5 stars
    I tried this sauce and it tasted exactly the same as my mom used to make and she made it the exact same way. It brings back such a pleasant memorie of my mom’s cooking and I’m 63 years young.

  2. 3 stars
    Marinara does not have meat in it by default. So saying a meatless marinara is a little pointless. Marinara does not have onions and this recipe is missing some key ingredients. When you deviate from traditional recipes the result may be good but it’s not what you intended to make. This may taste great but it’s not marinara.

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