Ultimate Clean Eating Freezer Recipe: Basic Marinara Sauce

eMeals Clean Eating Recipe

The basic principle of clean eating is to eat more fresh, homemade foods and less processed food. Making the transition to clean eating can be daunting, as cooking fresh foods has the potential to take more time. Meal planning can help simplify the process and make clean eating a practical, healthy lifestyle fit for any schedule.

In our previous post, “Top 3 Tips for Clean Eating in a ‘Dirty’ World,” we discussed the importance of being prepared. Preparing in advance for busy nights by stocking your fridge and freezer with make ahead meals is a great way to stick to a clean eating lifestyle even when things are hectic.

This Basic Marinara Sauce makes a large batch, perfect for freezing; plus it can be used in a limitless number of different ways. Prepare a batch on Sunday night, and use some for lasagna or a baked pasta casserole. Freeze the rest and thaw for a quick and easy spaghetti night later in the month. The possibilities are limitless.

Basic Marinara Sauce


2 tablespoons olive oil

3 medium yellow onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 (28 oz) cans no-salt-added crushed tomatoes

3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil (or substitute 1 tablespoon dried basil)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or substitute 1 teaspoon dried oregano)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional


  1. Heat oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add onion, and cook, stirring frequently, 6 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Add garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds.
  4. Add vinegar, and cook 1 minute.
  5. Add tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes, if desired.
  6. Increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least 1 hour, or until thickened.

Nutrition Information (for 1/20th of total yield): Calories: 50; Total Fat: 1.5 g; Saturated Fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 130 mg; Total Carbohydrates: 8 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 4 g; Protein: 1 g

Freezing Instructions:

Cool sauce to room temperature, and ladle into plastic containers or zip-top freezer bags. We recommend freezing in 3-cup portions, which is equivalent to 6 servings of sauce, or in 1-cup portions for a smaller household. Store in freezer up to 4 months.

Thawing and Reheating Instructions:

Thaw sauce in refrigerator overnight. Alternatively, place frozen sauce in a saucepan over medium heat, and stir occasionally until sauce comes to a simmer. Sauce can also be thawed in microwave until heated through.

Mix-Ins and Variations:

  • Add chopped, roasted vegetables or sautéed mushrooms for a chunkier sauce.
  • Stir nonfat plain Greek yogurt in warm sauce to create a creamy texture and add a boost of protein.
  • Puree sauce with roasted red peppers.

Meal Ideas:

  • Serve over sautéed fish or chicken.
  • Create a quick minestrone by combining sauce, chicken or vegetable broth, canned beans, and greens, such as spinach, escarole, or kale.
  • Use as a pizza sauce.
  • Add sautéed shrimp, mussels, or jarred clams and serve over pasta.
  • Puree with canned white beans and broth for a filling tomato soup.
  • Add smoked paprika and chili powder to sauce, and toss with diced, roasted potatoes for a quick version of the Spanish tapas dish, Potatoes Bravas.

Need more help simplifying your clean eating lifestyle? Check out the eMeals Clean Eating Meal Plan for simple, easy to prepare recipes every night of the week.


4 thoughts on “Ultimate Clean Eating Freezer Recipe: Basic Marinara Sauce

  1. Wendy Harvey

    Are there canned tomatoes that don’t line the cans with BHT?? I am thankful to find a way to make my own sauce without HFCS, but want it chemical free also. Thanks

    1. Jessica Cox, RD

      Wendy – There are several brands of organic canned products that are BPA-free. Some of the most widely available brands are Amy’s, Eden Foods, Muir Glen, Trader Joe’s brand, and Whole Foods Market 365 brands. If you’re unsure, you can always call the manufacturer and ask.

  2. sheryl

    If you are eating “clean” why would you have a recipe with canned tomatoes? Avoiding processed foods is one thing but also need to avoid canned foods. They have the aluminum which seeps into the foods in the cans.

    1. Jessica Cox, RD

      Sheryl – You can certainly substitute chopped fresh tomatoes in this recipe if you prefer. There are also some brands of organic crushed tomatoes available in amber glass jars (which are BPA-free).

Leave a Reply

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