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.
Marinara 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 marinara 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 for Fresh Marinara Walnut Sauce
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 and/or a variety of heirloom. A few cherry tomatoes thrown in are nice too.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Tomato Paste
- 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 with regards to 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.
A Few Recipe Notes
- This recipe makes right at 4 C (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!
- Share this hearty marinara sauce with your favorite pasta. Thin with reserved pasta water and serve with Parmesan or vegan parm, fresh torn herbs and top with garlic scape pesto or vegan pesto or lemon basil pesto. Don’t forget the crusty bread and bottle of red!
- The recipe calls for 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes. Add up to 1 tsp for a spicy marinara sauce, or more if you’re so inclined!
More Ways to Enjoy Fresh Marinara Sauce
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
- Preheat oven to 450f (232C) and set oven rack in the center. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- 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. 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 canning jars to store this recipe.
Easy Serving Suggestion
- Share this hearty marinara sauce with your favorite pasta. Thin with reserved pasta water and serve with Parmesan, fresh torn herbs and top with pesto. Don't forget the crusty bread and bottle of red!
Super easy to make and so tasty! Will definitely share this with my sister who is allergic to onions. As my son said, “it’s a keeper”.
Hooray! Thank you for your note and giving the recipe a go, Mary!
I made this tonight and it was delicious!
Hooray! Thank you for sharing Kelly! SO happy to hear!
This recipe is the type that I like. Simple! I’m making dinner soon for a visitor who is also a vegetarian but she’s following the keto diet. Do you think that this recipe would be suitable? Keep the simple recipes coming!
Hi Joan! Thank you for your note! You’re going to love how simple this is. I hope you enjoy the recipe! Unfortunately, I’m unable to comment on the keto diet. I know nothing about it.
Our tradition is to make big quantities of tomato salsa ( pasta sauce ) to freeze but I have never made a single batch using walnuts. Well, this has to be changed Traci. Grazie milla ! :-)
Geraldine | Green Valley Kitchen
This looks amazing. When I first saw you were using walnuts I thought of romesco sauce but see that this is tomato based. I can’t wait to try this – lots of tomatoes here so this would be a great way to use them up. Thanks, Traci!
This was so simple and so delicious. This happy vegetarian also loves the awesome health benefits of getting that many walnuts in a recipe! I like to cook up some finely diced mushrooms when adding this to a pasta dish to make up for that lack of richness/umami you get from beef or lamb in a traditional Bolognese. Making a ton more batches of this with the rest of the summer tomatoes to freeze for winter!
Hi Jamie! Oh my you are fast! Thank you for your note, and five star review – Hooray! Agreed on the mushrooms… I love sautéing some crimini and adding shallots too. So happy to hear you found it as easy as I do! All the yesses for whippin up a ton and freezing it! Here we come tomato-less winter!
Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen
You know I’m loving my summer Jersey tomatoes Traci! And I have never tried marinara with walnuts, but I bet I’d totally love it. I think you know who would love it too! Pinned and anxious to try!
Yes! Fresh tomatoes are such a celebration of Summer! We’re eating SO many too, Mare. I know you’d love it, and I bet Tom will too! LMK! xo
Looks like Yum…must try…..love the addition of walnuts…and topped off with pesto…oh my!
Thank you Sue! I knew you’d appreciate the walnuts!
Sarah | Well and Full
This sauce looks absolutely delicious!! My mom’s side of the family is Italian, so this is my type of comfort food! :)
I’m SO with you Sarah!
I have never had marinara with walnuts but I’m sure I would love it! How can you go wrong when a recipe starts with fresh roasted tomatoes? I want to dive into that pan of pasta!! Beautiful, my friend!!
I’m with you Annie! Fresh roasted tomatoes are the essence of summer! Since you are an expert on the matter, I’d love to know what you think! LMK if you give it a gooo!
I’m glad I saw this post before my trip to the farmer’s market this morning. Extra tomatoes will be purchased for this recipe now! I enjoy eating tomatoes everyday until the local farmers have picked their last ones!
Hooray! Just in time! LMK if you give it a go, Jean!
Made this last night and it was so good! Something magical happens when you puree tomatoes and olive oil in a blender. The sauce is so rich and the addition of roasted walnuts adds another layer of flavor.
Hooray! Thank you for your note, Jean and five star review!! So happy to hear you’re enjoying the recipe… and yes to olive oil and tomatoes! Goodness, I know :D
Liz @ Floating Kitchen
Yes tomatoes! So so happy to have lots of yummy tomatoes (finally!). I always make sauces too, once they become overwhelming. Love the walnuts in here. I need to try this ASAP!
Finally, right? I’ve missed them terribly, Liz! That and I know for you too, watermelon. LMK if you give it a gooo!