A satisfyingly simple and hearty marinara sauce made with fresh roasted tomatoes, walnuts and lightly roasted garlic. This homemade pasta sauce from scratch is fabulous with Lemon Basil Pesto, on spaghetti, lasagna, baked ziti or zoodles! Fresh Marinara Walnut Sauce is freezer friendly, vegan and gluten free.
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Walnut Pasta Sauce, A Pantry Staple
A simple marinara sauce recipe is always good to have in your back pocket, especially if it involves fresh tomatoes! Add lightly roasted garlic and toasted walnuts (and more pepper flakes for a spicy marinara sauce), well, then, you’ve turned a basic marinara sauce into a hearty marinara sauce!
This is not the meat-based pasta sauce of my childhood. And I don’t miss that Ragu. But when I first tried marinara with walnuts, I was pleasantly surprised at how much texture, flavor and richness the walnuts add. Too, walnuts are a nutrient-dense alternative to meat in this hearty walnut sauce.
Marinara Sauce vs Spaghetti Sauce
When researching for this easy homemade pasta sauce, I was curious about the differences between marinara and spaghetti sauce. Here’s what I found:
- Marinara sauce is a tomato-based sauce with only a few ingredients like herbs, spices, and sometimes a splash of wine. It’s a vegan sauce.
- Spaghetti sauce (aka pasta sauce) is an American variant of Bolognese sauce; a meat-based sauce.
This fresh marinara sauce recipe falls somewhere in between. Not purely a marinara or spaghetti sauce. But who cares when it tastes this good?
Ingredients You’ll Need
The freshest tomatoes in this homemade marinara sauce make all the difference! Use in-season ripe tomatoes from the garden or farmers market if possible. Here’s what you’ll need to make this easy pasta sauce from scratch:
- Fresh Summer Tomatoes – mix it up! I like stupice, roma, early girl, San Marzano style and/or a variety of heirloom. A few cherry tomatoes thrown in are nice too.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Tomato Paste
- Garlic – fresh for best flavor
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Italian Seasonings such as Oregano and Fresh Basil
- Salt and Pepper
The tomato paste helps thicken the sauce, and adds a bit of umami punch to this hearty marinara sauce.
Quick Guide: How to Make Homemade Pasta Sauce from Scratch
This easy sauce is so versatile regarding spice and how much herby flavor you like. It’s an easy sauce to play with! In summary, here’s how to make it (see recipe card for details):
- First, cut the tomatoes in half and place them on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Toss with olive oil. Wrap fresh garlic in foil with a bit of olive oil and place it on the same sheet pan. Roast the tomatoes and garlic.
- Next, toast the walnuts.
- Last, process the tomatoes and all their juices, garlic, walnuts, herbs, olive oil, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender until desired consistency.
For a spicy marinara sauce, more red pepper flakes can be added!
How Long Does Marinara Sauce Last?
This vegetarian marinara sauce can be enjoyed right away warmed on medium heat and served simply with your favorite pasta. However, if longer storage is desired, it’ll store in the refrigerator for up to three days and freezer for up to a year.
- Equivalents: this recipe makes right at 4 cups (1kg), equivalent to about 2.6, 24oz jars of pasta sauce.
- Freezer Friendly? Yes please! Store the sauce in large Mason jars for up to one year!
- Serve it With: this hearty marinara sauce with your favorite pasta, tortellini or ravioli. Thin with reserved pasta water and serve with Parmesan or vegan parm, fresh torn herbs and top with Garlic Scape Pesto or Lemon Basil Pesto. Don’t forget the crusty bread, Kale Caesar Salad and a bottle of red!
- Make it Spicy! I include 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes in the recipe. Add up to 1 tsp for a spicy marinara sauce, or more if you like!
More Tomato Recipes to Love
- Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup
- Zoodles with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
- Mediterranean Lentils with Roasted Eggplant
- Grilled Panzanella Salad with Chickpeas
Fresh Marinara Walnut Sauce Recipe
- 3 lbs (1.37 kg) Fresh Tomatoes I like stupice, roma, early girl and/or a variety of heirloom.
- 1/4 C (60g) + 2 Tbs + 1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil divided
- 3-4 Cloves of Garlic large and plump
- 3/4 C (75g) Walnuts
- 1 Tbs Tomato Paste
- 1/2 - 1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes For a more mellow spice, add 1/2 tsp or take it up, using 1 tsp.
- 1 1/2 tsp Fine Sea Salt plus more to taste
- 1 tsp Dried Oregano
- 5-6 Leaves of Fresh Basil optional
- 1/2-1 tsp Sugar optional but helps balance the acidity of the tomatoes. Taste your sauce before adding. If too acidic, add a little sugar.
- For Serving (optional): Favorite Pasta, Pesto, Parm and fresh torn Basil
- Remove stems of the tomatoes and slice in half. Place on prepared sheet pan and toss with 2 Tbs of olive oil. Arrange tomatoes evenly on the pan. Place the garlic (skins removed) on a small piece of foil, drizzle with 1 tsp of olive oil and wrap loosely. Place the foil packet on the sheet pan with the tomatoes. Roast the tomatoes and garlic for 25-30 minutes rotating the pan once while roasting. If you have time, the garlic will benefit from another 10 minutes in the oven. When done, the tomatoes should be soft, juicy and with some charring. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- At some point while the tomatoes and garlic are roasting, toast the walnuts in the oven on a small sheet pan for 4-5 minutes. This is a high heat for walnuts, so they can burn quickly if left in the oven too long, so keep an eye on them! They'll be golden and fragrant when ready. Set aside to cool.
- In the work bowl of a food processor, or blender add the roasted tomatoes and all their juices, garlic, walnuts, tomato paste, pepper flakes, sea salt, oregano and basil if using. Pulse ingredients a few times, then pour remaining olive oil (1/4 C / 60g) in a steady stream while pulsing the blender or processor. Taste for salt and sugar adjustment. Add a few grinds of black pepper if desired. An immersion blender can be used as well.
How to Store Marinara Sauce
- Store in a lidded container in the refrigerator for up to three days or in the freezer for up to one year. I use Mason jars to store this recipe.