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Sweet marinara sauce over pasta

Simple and Sweet Marinara Sauce

  • Author: Jenna Braddock, RD
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 cups 1x


If you like your marinara on the sweet side, then this simple recipe is for you. Red wine, lots of fresh basil and oregano, and a little brown sugar create a delicious homemade sauce.


Units Scale
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, (finely diced)
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic, (minced )
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine, ((like merlot, cabernet, or malbec))
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar ((use less for less sweetness if that's not your thing))
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, (finely chopped (add more if desired))
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano, (finely chopped (add more if desired))
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, (finely chopped (add more if desired))
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herb blend
  • 1/2 pound ground meat of choice, cooked and drained ((optional or use more if desired))


  1. Heat a medium pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil.
  2. Add onions and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, or until onions are soft.
  3. Pour in red wine and deglaze the pan, carefully scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Allow the wine to reduce in volume in half by cooking for about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs. Then add the dried herbs by rubbing them between your fingers before sprinkling in to the pot (this releases their flavors and oils). Stir to combine.
  5. Reduce temperature to low or simmer. Add cooked, ground meat into sauce if using. Cook for a minimum of 1 ½ hours and as long as 8 hours.


  • If including meat in your sauce, cook that first in the pot over medium heat. Remove the cooked meat and use the remaining fat to saute the onions and garlic. Add the olive oil if needed. 
  • You can certainly make this sauce in less time by reducing the simmer time to just 30 minutes. I think it tastes better the longer it simmers, but it's still very tasty.
  • Red wine recommendations - Buy wine you would actually drink, not cooking wine. I suggest buying single serving wine bottles or boxed wine if you are not a wine drinker and don't want to waste a whole bottle. 
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Category: Entree, pasta, sauce
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: easy marinara, Sweet marinara sauce