Marinara Dipping Sauce

5 from 3 votes

This post may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure policy.

This easy marinara dipping sauce is made with canned or fresh tomatoes, olive oil, onion, garlic, salt, and fresh basil. That’s it! 

A basket of breadsticks next to a bowl of marinara dipping sauce.

Marinara Dipping Sauce

This homemade marina dipping sauce only uses a few simple ingredients and only takes minutes to prepare! It is simmered to perfection and pairs perfectly with breadsticks, mozzarella sticks, garlic bread, or pizza crust. 

Dipping Sauce vs Pasta Sauce

The main difference between a marinara dipping sauce and a marinara pasta sauce is that dipping sauce is thicker. Pasta marinara sauce tends to be more watery and the tomatoes aren’t as blended. However, they can be used interchangeably depending on your taste. 

A small bowl with marinara dipping sauce.

Marinara Dipping Sauce Ingredients

The ingredients to make homemade marinara dipping sauce are simple. You can make it as fancy or as simple as you would like. The easiest thing to do is to just use what you have on hand. Here are the basics:


These can be fresh tomatoes from the garden or canned from the store. If using canned tomatoes, the best quality is D.O.P. tomatoes from Italy. We wrote an entire post on D.O.P. tomatoes from Italy so you can see why the quality is better. We like to use whole, canned tomatoes for this recipe. You can also use crushed tomatoes. We don’t recommend using tomato sauce for this recipe since the tomatoes are too blended and may give the sauce an odd aftertaste. 

A can of tomatoes from Italy.

Olive Oil 

I like using infused olive oils when I cook Italian food. I usually reach for garlic or basil infused extra virgin olive oil. It gives the sauce more depth and adds to the rich flavors. 

Onion, Garlic, and Basil 

Fresh is best for all these ingredients. Always add the basil at the very end for the most fresh flavor. 


Sea salt complements tomato dishes beautifully. Use enough to cut the acidic taste of the tomatoes. Add salt throughout the process and taste often until you get the flavors just right. Kosher salt or Himalayan sea salt will work fine too. 

Serving Hot vs Cold

What’s great about homemade marinara sauce is that it can be served hot or cold. It completely comes down to what your preference is. Many people like to serve it hot if the dish itself is hot so the sauce doesn’t cool down the food before biting into it. Sometimes mozzarella sticks come out piping hot and you may prefer that the sauce is on the cooler side to cool off that first bite. Personally, I like my marinara dip at room temperature or slightly warmer. I think that is the perfect temperature to bring out the true flavor of the tomatoes without cooling down your food too much. 

Make it Thicker

The beautiful thing about this recipe is that you can make it as thick as you would like and it doesn’t take any extra ingredients. All you have to do is simmer it down until it reaches the thickness you like. That’s all it takes. Just more simmering time. Some suggest adding tomato paste to thicken instead but in my opinion the flavor is better when simmered down.

A mozzarella stick being dipped in marinara sauce.

Make it a Cheesy Dip

Add a little cheesy pizzazz to your dip by placing it in a shallow oven-safe dish and adding a few pieces of fresh mozzarella cheese over the top. Bake at 400-degrees F for 6-8 minutes or until cheese has melted. This kind of dip is best for baguette slices, crackers, chips, or vegetables. 

What to Serve with Marinara Dipping Sauce 

How to Store Leftover Sauce

Store leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. You can also freeze marinara sauce for up to 6 months. You can also re-purpose your dipping sauce by using it as a pizza sauce, pasta sauce, or as a tomato based thickener to Italian soups.

More Italian Sauce Recipes

How to Make Marinara Dipping Sauce

A small bowl with marinara dipping sauce next to fresh tomatoes

Marinara Dipping Sauce

5 from 3 votes
This easy marinara dipping sauce is made with canned or fresh tomatoes, olive oil, onion, garlic, salt, and fresh basil. That's it! 
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Dip
Cuisine Italian
Servings 12 servings


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes (D.O.P. tomatoes from Italy are best)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste, salt until acidity from tomatoes is mellowed out)
  • 4-5 fresh basil leaves


  • Place olive oil in a heavy sauce pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. When oil is hot, add chopped onion and garlic. Sauté until onions become transparent.
    chopped onions sautéing in a Dutch oven
  • Add tomatoes and reduce to low heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until tomatoes become softer. Add salt as needed.
    A can of tomatoes from Italy
  • Mash tomatoes with a potato masher until juices are released. You can also add the tomatoes to a blender or food processor and pulse a few times until roughly blended.
    Crushed tomatoes simmering in a Dutch oven
  • Add more salt if needed and continue to simmer until sauce has reduced to desired thickness.
    Tomatoes that have been reduced in a Dutch oven to make marinara dippings sauce
  • Tear basil leaves into smaller pieces and add to the sauce. Stir to combine.
    Cooked marinara in a Dutch oven sprinkled with fresh basil
  • Remove from heat and serve hot or allow to cool before serving .
    a basket of breadsticks next to a bowl of marinara dipping sauce

Nutrition Information

Calories: 24kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 0.1gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0.3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 194mgPotassium: 13mgFiber: 0.1gSugar: 0.3gVitamin A: 7IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 3mgIron: 0.05mg

Love this recipe?

We want to hear from you! Please leave a review.

Rate and Review

Share This With the World


About the author

Erica Walker

Erica lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Jared, an attorney, and her three beautiful girls. Beyond the world of recipes, she loves adventuring with everything from kayaking, to cruising, to snowboarding and taking the family along for the thrill ride.

More about Erica Walker
5 from 3 votes (1 rating without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How many stars would you give this recipe?


  1. 5 stars
    This was the perfect dipping sauce for our Italian breadsticks. I can’t wait to try it with mozzarella sticks soon!

  2. 5 stars
    So glad I found this recipe! We make mozzarella sticks a ton and i’ve been looking for a good marinara sauce for them — thank you!