Marinara sauce is a classic Italian tomato sauce that is typically made with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and basil.
But there are so many other herbs and spices that you can add to marinara sauce to take it to the next level.
So if you are wondering what herbs and spices go in marinara sauce, then you are in the right place.
I’m sharing 13 of the best options including oregano, thyme, parsley, red pepper flakes, and more.
What Herbs and Spices Go in Marinara Sauce?
There are many herbs and spices that go well in marinara sauce, such as basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. For a more robust flavor, you can also add some red wine, mushrooms, and green peppers.
Still looking for ideas?
Then simply keep scrolling!
Here are 13 herbs and spices that go in marinara sauce:
1. Bay Leaves
The almost minty flavor of bay leaves pairs perfectly with the acidity of tomatoes in marinara sauce.
I usually add two or three leaves to a batch of sauce, and remove them before serving.
Other complementary herbs and spices for marinara sauce include oregano, basil, garlic, and black pepper.
If you’re using fresh herbs, add them near the end of cooking so they don’t lose their flavor.
Bay leaves are also a great addition to soups and stews.
This woodsy aromatic herb has notes of evergreen, citrus, and mint.
Rosemary is a great choice to add to marinara sauce for a bit of depth and flavor complexity.
I suggest using about 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon of dried rosemary.
You could also add other complementary herbs and spices like thyme, oregano, garlic, and red pepper flakes.
To really bring out the flavor of rosemary, add it near the end of cooking.
Rosemary is great in pasta dishes, on pizza, or in roasted vegetables.
Here’s a tip: if you’re using dried rosemary, crush it between your fingers before adding it to the sauce to help release the essential oils.
Sage has a pronounced herbal flavor that is earthy, slightly peppery and minty with a hint of lemon.
It’s one of those spices that’s really versatile and can be used in a lot of different dishes.
When it comes to marinara sauce, I would recommend using about 1/4 teaspoon of sage per cup of sauce.
Other herbs and spices that go well with sage are thyme, basil, oregano, and parsley.
You can add sage to the sauce when you’re cooking it, or sprinkle it on top of the finished sauce.
Some dishes where you can use both marinara sauce and sage are pasta dishes, pizza, and casseroles.
Here’s a funny little tip: if you have fresh sage, you can freeze it in ice cube trays and then just pop a cube or two into your sauce when you need it.
A sweet and woody flavour, cinnamon is a warming spice that goes wonderfully in marinara sauce.
You only need a little bit – maybe a quarter teaspoon for a big batch of sauce.
To really bring out the flavour of the cinnamon, add it towards the end of cooking, or even after the sauce is done.
Cinnamon goes well with other herbs and spices like basil, oregano, and thyme.
All of these herbs are common in Italian cuisine, so they’re perfect for marinara sauce.
If you want a little extra kick, add a pinch of red pepper flakes.
There are so many ways to enjoy marinara sauce with cinnamon.
Serve it over pasta, use it as a pizza sauce, or dip some bread in it.
For a really fun twist, try cinnamon sugar pita chips with marinara sauce – they’re delicious!
The pungent, bittersweet flavor of tarragon is often compared to licorice, anise, or fennel.
It’s a perfect addition to marinara sauce, as it can help to round out the acidity of the tomatoes.
I would recommend using about 1/4 teaspoon of tarragon per cup of sauce.
Other herbs and spices that go well with tarragon in marinara sauce include basil, oregano, and thyme.
You can add tarragon at the same time as these other spices, towards the end of the cooking process.
Some dishes where you can use both marinara sauce and tarragon include pasta dishes, pizza, and chicken or fish.
Tarragon can also be used to make aioli, a flavorful mayonnaise-like sauce.
Here’s a tip: if you have fresh tarragon, chop it up and add it to your marinara sauce just before serving.
This will give the sauce a bright, fresh flavor.
6. Fennel Seed
These seeds have a light, sweet, anise-like taste and a slightly bitter aftertaste.
They go well with other spices like oregano, basil, and thyme.
You only need to use a small amount of fennel seed, as too much can make your marinara sauce taste bitter.
To use, simply add a pinch of fennel seed to your sauce when you start cooking.
This spice is also great in other dishes like pasta with fennel and sausage, or fennel and tomato soup.
7. Caraway Seed
Nutty and bittersweet caraway seed is a classic ingredient in marinara sauce.
I recommend using about 1/2 teaspoon per pound of tomatoes.
Caraway seed is also delicious with other herbs and spices like basil, oregano, and thyme.
Add it early on in the cooking process so the flavors have a chance to meld together.
Caraway seed is great in pasta dishes, on pizza, and in stews.
For an extra bit of flavor, toast the seeds before adding them to your dish.
8. Celery Seed
These seeds have a strong, warm, bitter and astringent taste and are used as a flavoring agent in many cuisines.
They go especially well with tomatoes, making them a perfect addition to marinara sauce.
To get the most flavor out of celery seed, grind it up before using.
You can add it to the sauce when you first start cooking, or sprinkle it on top just before serving.
It’s also great on pasta, pizza, and in chicken or beef dishes.
Reminiscent of parsley and citrus, coriander is a versatile herb that can liven up any dish – including marinara sauce!
I recommend using about 1/4 teaspoon of coriander per cup of sauce.
You can add it in when you’re cooking the sauce, or sprinkle it on top just before serving.
Coriander pairs well with other herbs and spices like basil, oregano, and garlic, so feel free to experiment.
Try it on pasta, pizza, or even in a frittata! Just remember – a little goes a long way.
Rich and hearty, earthy and warm, cumin is the perfect spice to add to your marinara sauce.
Just a pinch or two of cumin will do – any more than that and the flavor will become overwhelming.
Cumin goes especially well with other common Italian spices like oregano, basil, and thyme.
You can add cumin to your marinara sauce when you’re cooking the onions and garlic at the beginning, or you can wait and sprinkle it in just before serving.
It’s delicious on pasta, of course, but also try it on pizza or in a vegetable soup.
And here’s a tip: if you’re using canned tomatoes, a pinch of cumin can help to disguise any off-flavors.
11. Anise Seed
Anise is known for its natural sweetness and licorice flavor, which is a great complement to the acidity of marinara sauce.
Just a pinch or two of anise is all you need to add a unique depth of flavor to your sauce.
Other complementary herbs and spices for anise include fennel, cumin, and cloves.
To use, simply add the anise seeds when you would add other herbs and spices like garlic, at the beginning of cooking.
Anise is a great way to spice up traditional dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, and chicken parmesan.
Here’s a tip: if you want a more pronounced anise flavor, try toasting the seeds before adding them to your sauce.
12. Lemon Zest
Lemon zest has an intense lemon/citrus flavor that can really brighten up a dish.
It’s a great way to add a little acidity and freshness to a marinara sauce.
I like to add a teaspoon or so of lemon zest to my marinara sauce, along with some other herbs like basil and oregano.
You can add the lemon zest at the beginning of cooking, or right at the end.
Either way, it’ll give your sauce a nice zing.
Try it on pasta, chicken, or fish dishes.
13. Orange Zest
Citrusy, tangy orange zest is the perfect addition to marinara sauce.
Just a little bit of this spice can go a long way – too much and it will overwhelm the other flavors in the sauce.
Try pairing orange zest with other Italian herbs like basil and oregano, and add it near the end of the cooking process so it retains its bright flavor.
Use this combination of flavors in classic dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, or get creative and use it as a pizza sauce.
As a tip, zesting the orange directly into the sauce can help to evenly distribute the flavor.
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What Herbs and Spices Go in Marinara Sauce? (13 Options)
- Bay Leaves
- Fennel Seed
- Caraway Seed
- Celery Seed
- Anise Seed
- Lemon Zest
- Orange Zest
- Pick your favorite herbs and spices from this article to use in your delicious sauce.
- Prepare the rest of your tasty dish.
- Enjoy in no time!