This easy Instant Pot Marinara sauce tastes like it has been simmering on the stove all day, but it is ready to eat in less than an hour. Made with fresh tomatoes, basil and parsley it makes a rich and flavorful sauce for pasta!
Marinara sauce is a staple ingredient in my house. It is perfect served on top of pasta, as a dipping sauce for toasted ravioli, meatball crescent rolls, or as an ingredient in a more complicated recipe like baked manicotti.
This recipe is for a very simple Instant Pot Marinara sauce. It is made from lots of fresh ingredients – fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, parsley, basil and carrots. Sauce made from fresh tomatoes is my favorite, because it tastes so robust and rich.
Using a pressure cooker means the sauce doesn’t need to simmer on the stove for hours. The high pressure cooking makes the ingredients come together and develop a deep, rich flavor.
What is the Difference Between Marinara Sauce and Spaghetti Sauce?
The main difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce is that marinara sauce is a simpler sauce, based on just tomatoes and a few flavorings, like garlic and basil.
Once you start adding extra ingredients like Italian sausage or Parmesean cheese or cream it becomes spaghetti sauce. In addition marinara sauce frequently has a thinner consistency than spaghetti sauce.
Tomatoes for Marinara Sauce
The most important ingredient in the sauce is, of course, tomatoes. Many people will tell you the best tomatoes to use for marinara sauce are San Marzano or Roma tomatoes. That is probably true, but any fresh tomatoes will make tasty sauce.
So if I have a bunch of extra tomatoes and want to make marinara sauce I just use what I have and don’t worry about what type they are. Don’t let not having the perfect tomato stop you from making fresh pressure cooker marinara sauce.
The color and consistency of the final sauce will vary depending on the tomatoes you choose. My favorite is to use about 1 pound of thicker paste tomatoes like Roma and 1 pound of heirloom tomatoes.
Other Instant Pot Marinara Sauce Ingredients
I also love to use fresh herbs like parsley and basil. They add a depth of flavor to the sauce. But if you don’t have them dried herbs can be substituted.
I also like to cook a carrot with my marinara sauce. The carrot adds sweetness without sugar. My family and I don’t like sweet tomato based sauces, so I prefer sauces without added sugar. The carrot adds just enough sweetness to offset the acidic tomatoes.
The other ingredients in my homemade marinara sauce are just what you’d expect – onions and lots of garlic. Don’t skimp on the garlic! Sometimes I add a pinch of red pepper to make the sauce spicy.
The sauce will be blended after cooking, so the vegetables don’t need to be finely diced. Cutting the tomatoes into quarters and the carrot into chunks is sufficient.
How to Make Instant Pot Marinara Sauce
1. Saute the Aromatics
The first step is to saute the garlic and onions briefly. Turn the Instant Pot on Saute and let it heat for 2 minutes or so. Then add the olive oil.
Add the onions and cook them, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Then add the garlic and let it cook for 30 seconds. Turn off the Instant Pot.
2. Deglaze the Instant Pot
Add the water to the Instant Pot and stir. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to release any bits of onion or garlic that are stuck to it. This reduces the chances of getting a Burn error later.
3. Add the Rest of the Ingredients
Now add the remaining ingredients to the pressure cooker. The tomatoes, carrot, basil, parsley and salt if desired. The vegetables and herbs don’t need to be finely diced because they will be blended later.
4. Pressure Cook the Marinara Sauce
Put the lid on the pressure cooker, checking to make sure the seal is in place and the vent it closed. Set it on Manual, high pressure, for 15 minutes. It will take 10-15 minutes for it to reach pressure.
Once the Instant Pot is done cooking let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes. Then you can release any remaining pressure manually.
5. Blend the Sauce
Using an immersion blender is the easiest way to get a smooth sauce. Or you can pour the sauce into a blender and blend. If you prefer a chunkier sauce a potato masher works well to break up the chunks of vegetables.
Why is the Marinara Sauce Orange?
When you are done it is quite likely your sauce will have an orange tinge to it, which you can see in my pictures. Sometimes it is even bright orange.
There are a few reasons for this, but most of the orange color is because the air introduced when you blend the sauce oxidizes the tomatoes which adds an orange color.
Some of the orange color is also dependent on the type of tomato that you used. And some is probably from the carrot too. This is why the final color of the sauce is difficult to predict.
The color of the sauce doesn’t effect the taste, so I just ignore it. But if you really hate it there are a few things you can do to minimize the orange color of fresh marinara sauce.
- Use a potato masher instead of a blender, so less air is introduced. Of course this also makes the sauce more chunky.
- Shred the carrot and briefly blend the tomatoes before you cook the sauce. If you are doing this just pulse the tomatoes a few times, don’t over blend them. This eliminates the need blend after cooking.
- Sitr in a small 6 ounce can of tomato paste after cooking. This will make it redder and thicker.
Why is the Marinara Sauce Thin?
The thickness of this Instant Pot marinara sauce is going to depend almost entirely on the tomatoes you use to make it. Some tomatoes have a lot of water in them and some have very little.
If you used a paste tomato like Roma or San Marzano the sauce will probably be thick. If you used beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes it might be thinner than you are used to.
Even if you use a paste type tomato the amount of water in the tomato can vary depending on how ripe it is, so you never know exactly what you are going to get until you are done cooking.
One of the disadvantages of cooking with fresh ingredients is that they just aren’t as predictable as processed ingredients. This is just a trade off you have to accept! If the consistency of the sauce really bothers you stir in some tomato paste to thicken it.
Can I Freeze this Sauce?
This is a great sauce to make when tomatoes are in season and freeze, so you can enjoy the flavors of summer during the winter. It will stay fresh for 5 days in the refrigerator or for about 3 months.
What to Serve With Marinara Sauce
I love to serve this Instant Pot marinara sauce as part of a simple meal, so the tomato flavor really stands out. It is delicious served over pasta, spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles.
It also makes a great dipping sauce. You can pair it with my Air Fryer Toasted Ravioli or with Mozzarella sticks for a tasty party appetizer.
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 pounds tomatoes, quartered
- 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh basil
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley
- salt to taste
- Put the Instant Pot on Saute. Let it heat for about 2 minutes. Add the oil and onion and cook, stirring for 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic to the Instant Pot and cook for another 30 seconds. Turn the Instant Pot off.
- Add the water to the pressure cooker to deglaze it. Stir, scraping the bottom of the Instant Pot with a wooden spoon, to make sure no bits of onion or garlic are stuck to the bottom. This reduces the chances of getting a Burn error.
- Add the remaining ingredients - tomatoes, carrot, basil, parsley, and salt if desired.
- Put the lid on the Instant Pot, making sure the seal is in place and vent is closed. Set on Manual, high pressure for 15 minutes. It will take 10-15 minutes for the Instant Pot to reach pressure.
- Once the pressure cooker is done let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes. Then you can release any remaining pressure quickly.
- Either mash the marinara sauce with a potato masher or use an immersion blender or blender to make the sauce the desired consistency.
The consistency and color of the final sauce will be highly dependent on the type of tomatoes used. I like the combination of 1 pound of paste type (Roma or San Marzano) tomatoes with 1 pound of heirloom tomatoes.
The fresh tomato sauce will probably have an orangish color - this is due to oxidizing the tomatoes when blending them and is nothing to worry about.
Adding a small (6 ounce) can of tomato paste will make the sauce more red and thicker.
I make and test my recipes in my 6 quart Instant Pot Duo. If you use another size or brand of pressure cooker you might need to make adjustments to the recipe. I'd expect that you'd need to add more water if using an 8 quart model.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 47Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 84mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 1g
Nutrition facts are estimates.