Myrna is Forks Over Knives founder and president Brian Wendel’s mom. Her crowd-pleasing marinara sauce requires minimal prep: You just throw all the ingredients into a pot, bring it all to a simmer, and, half an hour later, your thick, rich tomato sauce is ready. Use this oil-free marinara sauce in Spaghetti Marinara with Lentil “Meatballs,” in Polenta Lasagna with Kale and Lentils, on pizza, or with your favorite whole grain pasta.

By Darshana Thacker Wendel,


  • 2¼ lb. ripe red tomatoes, seeded and chopped (5¼ cups)
  • 1½ 28-oz. cans no-salt-added or low-sodium crushed tomatoes
  • 12 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 6 pitted dates, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil


  • In a large pot combine the first five ingredients (through pepper). Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, puree tomato mixture into a smooth sauce. (If you do not have an immersion blender, transfer tomato mixture to a blender in batches. Cover and blend into a smooth sauce.) Stir in salt and basil. Transfer to an airtight container. Chill up to 1 week or freeze up to 1 month.

Comments (20)

(5 from 7 votes)

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Wonder why no onions?

Bob C

There is an old school / Italian way where it is garlic or onions but not both. Obviously not all Italians, regions of Italy and there are exceptions but that’s where this is coming from. And I think you answered your own question re: garlic sub. Or try shallots if you want it a little sharper


What can I substitute for garlic? ...have an intolerance.


This is now my go-to sauce for pasta and pizza! It is terrific! Good sized batch so you can freeze lots for easy meals. I got enough for 8 pizza's and 2 pasta dishes (for 2 people).

Cloudy Rockwell

I made this last week and I'm making another batch right now. I have been no-oil-added for 12 years and have been searching like crazy for a marinara that tastes anything like what I remember about sauce! This is the first recipe that works. I love it. I would like to add more herbs & spices, but I don't want to mess it up. It felt like it needed some oregano and more garlic. Is it better to add them after it's cooked, or during the cooking?


Hey Cloudy...if you want my 2-cents? I would add dried herbs and garlic while cooking and fresh herbs at the end. Good luck...I'm sure you wont mess it up! :)


What do the dates do to help this recipe? I am brand new to this so I’m unsure

Michael Mural Jr.

Sweetens the sauce a bit


If I want to use ALL fresh tomatoes, and no canned ones, how much should I use? Also, what is the purpose of deseeding the tomatoes? and can I use cherry tomatoes?

Christine Swanson

I make this in large batches and freeze in quart containers. It is our family favorite. I will add various vegetables depending on my pasta theme. Absolutely wonderful marinara!


How should I adjust the recipe if I want to use canned tomatoes instead of fresh, as they are not in season?

Liz D

I don't have fresh tomatoes so I want to use all canned tomatoes also. In Ella's response to Ilka's question about using all fresh tomatoes, she said the fresh tomatoes in the recipe equal the same amount as the canned tomatoes so I assume you can use double the canned tomatoes in place of the fresh and canned. I will try this now.


I made a good sauce using 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes & 1 -6 oz can tomato paste. It was nice & thick & very tasty. My go to sauce.

Alka Agrawal

I am in india Can I use fresh one type of tomatoes for crushed and diced both ? If yes Can u advice the wt.quantity


Alka, I too was curious about using all fresh tomatoes, so I googled the conversion. It appears they are using equal quantities of fresh and canned tomatoes, so you could just double the amount of fresh tomatoes. The texture will be a little different - canned tomatoes do not break down as quickly and remain more chunky. You may wish to add half of the tomatoes later during cooking so they don't disintegrate. Or, if you are in the practice of canning your own tomatoes at home, you could open up some jars of your own home-canned tomatoes.


Is it one and one half 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes? So 28 oz plus 14 oz of crushed tomatoes? Sounds like a great recipe. Please let me know about the canned tomatoes.


1 1/2 = 28+14

Liz Turner

Yes, 28 + 14 oz., which is 42 oz. total. —FOK editors

Christine Swanson

I saw this recipe in your magazine. We love it! I use it wherever marinara sauce is used.


Can you use canned tomatoes for the 2-1/4 lbs of fresh tomatoes? How much, do you think? Drained?

About the Author

Headshot of Darshana Thacker

About the Author

Darshana Thacker Wendel

Darshana Thacker Wendel is a whole-food, plant-based chef and former culinary projects manager for Forks Over Knives. A graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute, she is the author of Forks Over Knives: Flavor! She created the recipes for Forks Over Knives Family and was a lead recipe contributor to the New York Times bestseller The Forks Over Knives Plan. Her recipes have been published in The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook, Forks Over Knives—The Cookbook, Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health, and LA Yoga magazine online. Visit and follow her on Instagram for more.
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