Pasta nights at our house range from anything like a quick ziti bake to ravioli or even simple spaghetti. Sometimes I’ll use something basic, be it a regular red homemade sauce or an alfredo, but other times when we’re in the mood for heat, I whip up this simple spicy marinara sauce.
What I love about this recipe is that it’s made with all natural ingredients so it’s healthy. But it comes together in no time, too.
You can also easily switch out some ingredients for handier ones if you’re making it on the fly.
It’s also great on anything you would use a typical tomato sauce for. Use it on any plain pasta but the acidity of the tomatoes and the overall spiciness also makes it perfect for pairing with a pasta stuffed with anything from cheese to mushrooms.
Next time you’re looking to heat up your pasta night (or an evening of Italian style comfort food) try this easy recipe.
Toss it with (or spoon it over) your favorite pasta. Grab some crusty bread to dip into it, and settle in for a spicy night.
What is Spicy Marinara Sauce?
Spicy marinara sauce is a kicked up version of your traditional red sauce. If you want a touch (or a ton) of heat to pour over pasta, this is the recipe for you.
This may not be the sauce (or gravy) your Grandma served on Sunday, but it packs a bit of a punch to elevate it from the typical marinara. It also may be used atypically for anything from a burger topping to an addition to soups, stews, and chilis.
Basically, spicy marinara sauce is the marriage between traditional red sauce and some spiciness. Take Sunday from solemn to spicy in one saucy move.
- Virgin olive oil – Using a high quality olive oil will give your sauce fantastic flavor. Extra virgin works well but just make sure your olive oil is the best quality you can find (at a good price point, of course).
- Small yellow onion – Chop the onion finely. You can use any type of fresh onions but I prefer the flavor that yellow onion imparts in this recipe.
- Garlic cloves – Using fresh garlic is key to achieving a top-notch garlicky taste.
- Whole tomatoes – Make sure to use fresh ripe tomatoes. Pick them from your garden or get them from your best grocer or farmers market. You can also save a bit of time by using roasted tomatoes in the oven.
- Tomato paste – Grab this at the grocery store and keep a few cans around for random recipes — it’s a pantry staple for me. You can also use tomato puree.
- Fresh oregano – Make sure to grab good quality oregano chop it up and pack it tightly in the measuring cup.
- Fresh basil – Pick it from your garden or get it at the store and pack it just as tightly as the oregano.
- Freshly ground black pepper – You can use pepper from your typical table shaker but it will bring more flavor to the sauce if it’s freshly ground.
- Coarse sea salt – Using a higher end salt makes your sauce superior.
- Red or white wine – Red wine will bring earthier depth to the sauce while white will impart more brightness. You can choose which you prefer but always cook with a wine that you would drink (for non-drinkers, you can substitute non-alcoholic cooking wine).
- Balsamic vinegar – The slight sweetness mixed with the acidity of this ingredient helps to balance the sauce.
- Crushed red pepper flakes – The amount of heat you want this sauce to deliver is up to you. If you want a hint of heat you can reduce the quantity and if you want a ton just add loads of red pepper flakes.
How to Use Spicy Marinara Sauce
Of course this marinara sauce recipe is perfect for pasta, but there are lots of other options for using it.
- Potatoes – Use it as a substitute for ketchup when dunking fries. You can also pour it over a baked potato and sprinkle mozzarella or parmesan on top.
- Chicken parmesan – Instead of a generic jarred sauce, spice up your homemade chicken parm with this marinara.
- Sloppy Joes – Add a bit of spicy sauce to your Sloppy Joes to sauce and spice them up.
- Portobello pizzas – Spread over a portobello mushroom followed by a heavy addition of shredded cheese and your favorite toppings.
- Pizza dip – Layer cream cheese, sauce, and shredded cheese (and any desired additions like pepperoni or veggies) in a prepared baking dish. Bake and serve with crackers, pita, baguette slices, or tortilla chips.
- Shakshuka – This incredible egg dish is made perfect with spicy sauce and this marinara is the perfect one to use.
- Chili – Swap out some of your plain diced tomatoes or sauce for this to add depth to your chili.
- Soup – Add spicy marinara to soups like chicken tortilla — it’s a great way to use up extra marinara and to spice up your soup.
- Mozzarella sticks or Pizza Logs– Dunk your bread-crumb coated cheesiness into this dipping sauce instead of a bland alternative.
- Pizza sauce – Treat pizza night right by spreading this sauce over the dough before covering it with your family’s favorites.
- Veggies – Toss it with roasted or steamed veggies to entice the pickiest of vegetable eaters in your house.
- Heat – Add any other elements of spiciness to the sauce that you like. Try jalapenos, chili peppers, or any other hot ingredients you like to spice it up.
- Southern twists – Add andouille and veggies for a Louisiana-inspired sauce. Or, experiment with some maple syrup, coriander, cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder, and apple cider vinegar to make a southern bbq-style marinara perfect for meatballs and wings or a creative pizza.
- Balsamic vinegar – A little sweet acidity will add layers of flavor.
- San Marzano tomatoes – If you don’t have access to fresh tomatoes, opt for some canned San Marzano tomatoes to bring that full flavor and appropriate acidity to the dish.
- Cayenne pepper – If you really want to pack a heated punch, add some cayenne to your sauce.
- Italian seasoning – Add a dash or two of Italian seasoning to kick up those herbs and spices.
- Smooth it out – If you want a less chunky sauce, you can use an immersion blender to make it smooth.
Storage & Freezing
Storage: Store this sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.
Freezer: You can also freeze it for 3-6 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight or on using the defrost function on the microwave. Reheat on the stovetop or microwave from there.
More Savory Sauces
Spicy Marinara Sauce
- 2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion chopped
- 3 garlic cloves chopped
- 28 ounces whole tomatoes*
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons fresh oregano packed and chopped
- 2 teaspoon fresh basil packed and chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1/2 cup red or white wine
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions, sautéing until starting to soften, approximately 4 minutes.
- Add the garlic and continue to sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring to prevent burning. Add the tomatoes, cutting coarsely with a paring knife, add the remaining juices from the can, but discard any large pieces of herbs like basil.
- Stir in the tomato paste, oregano, basil, pepper, salt, wine, vinegar and crushed red pepper flakes. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently.
- If you enjoy a chunky sauce, leave as-is and serve it up! If you want a smoother sauce, blend with an immersion hand blender, taking care to blend larger pieces, but not totally juicing it.
- If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.