Fresh and flavorful, this sweet basil marinara sauce is begging to be tossed with spaghetti and slurped up tonight. It's delicious as a oil-free marinara dipping sauce, as a pasta sauce or a base for lasagna.
If you love the Classico brand sweet basil pasta sauce, then you'll enjoy this homemade copycat version, minus the oil. Use this homemade tomato basil pasta sauce to make pasta rosa, too!
🧄 Ingredient notes
To make this tomato pasta sauce without oil, you'll need the following ingredients:
- canned crushed tomatoes
- sweet yellow onion
- garlic cloves
- dried basil or fresh basil leaves
- sea salt and black pepper
Transfer marinara sauce to glass jars or containers, allow to cool, then store in refrigerator for up to 5 days. Freeze up to 3 months. If freezing, leave an inch of space at the top of container to allow for expanding.
Yes! You'll save a lot of calories by preparing your spaghetti without oil. Cook your noodles in salted water, drain well then toss spaghetti in oil-free pasta sauce. No oil needed. Enjoy!
Saute your onions and garlic in a small amount of water to prevent sticking or burning, instead of using oil. You'll save 100-400 calories just by making this simple switch.
Use sweet onions and diced carrot, which will both add natural sweetness to your marinara sauce. To sweeten more, add a teaspoon or two of brown sugar, coconut sugar or cane sugar.
They are the same thing.
Marinara sauce should be slightly sweet, but not overly sweet.
Mushroom marinara sauce
After cooking onions, carrot and garlic, add 2 cups of sliced white button or baby portabella mushrooms to pan and cook for 3-4 minutes. Then, add crushed tomatoes and follow instructions.
Lentil spaghetti sauce
Cook brown lentils (whole masoor lentils from the Indian grocery store are my favorite) in water until just tender (not falling apart). Then, add cooked lentils, a vegan "beef" bouillon cube and dried oregano to sweet basil marinara sauce while simmering.
Zucchini mushroom marinara sauce
After cooking onions, carrot and garlic, add 1 cup of sliced white button or baby portabella mushrooms and 1 cup of chopped zucchini to pan and cook for 3-4 minutes. Then, add crushed tomatoes and follow instructions.
Spicy marinara sauce
Add crushed red chili flakes or Aleppo pepper to the sauce to spice it up and enjoy more of an arrabbiata sauce without oil.
🗺 Cultural influences
Although no one really knows, marinara sauce is thought to have originated from Neopolitan mariners or sailors. Traditionally, it is made with tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil and salt, though additions of other herbs, black pepper and red chili flakes are common.
💜 More recipes you'll love
If you love this easy homemade marinara sauce recipe, then check out my other Italian-inspired vegan, plant-based recipes!
Sweet Basil Marinara Sauce (oil-free, vegan)
- 1 sweet yellow onion diced
- 1 carrot minced
- 4-5 cloves garlic minced or crushed
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes canned
- ½ teaspoon dried basil or ½ cup fresh basil, packed and leaves torn
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar optional, can omit or substitute coconut sugar
- Heat a sauce pan or dutch oven over medium heat.
- Sauté onions, carrot and garlic until onions are translucent. Stir frequently, adding a tablespoon of water as needed to prevent sticking or burning.
- Add crushed tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper and sugar (if using). Turn heat to medium low and stir every few minutes to prevent it from burning on the bottom. Once the tomatoes are heated through, reduce heat to low and cover loosely with lid, leaving a vent for steam to escape.
- Simmer for at least 30 minutes (or up to 60 minutes, if you have the time).
- Toss with 1 pound of cooked spaghetti. Or, enjoy as a dipping sauce for bread, base for lasagna or other dishes that require a delicious marinara sauce.
- sliced white or baby portabello mushrooms
- zucchini or yellow squash
- red chili flakes
- dried oregano
- brown sugar or coconut sugar, to tame acidity of tomatoes