Smoked Tomato Marinara Sauce

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Smoked Tomato Marinara Sauce is an incredible and crowd-pleasing sauce made from your garden tomatoes roasted on the smoker or grill. Smoke roast tomatoes and then blend them into the most flavorful homemade tomato sauce, with that sweet kiss of smoke and natural tomato flavors. 

A bowl of smoke roasted tomato sauce with pasta and meatballs
Simple flavors complemented by smoked meatballs.

Tomatoes are one of the greatest things to roast in the grill, and take well to the subtle smoky flavors.

We smoke tomatoes year round to use in recipes like Smoked Bloody Mary’s, salsas, or even Smoked Tomato Bisque. But this is hands down a staple in my house, and one I make often to use in recipes throughout the year.

Smoked Tomato Sauce

A mason jar with smoked tomato sauce
Store in a mason jar for up to 10 days.

For this recipe we start with garden fresh tomatoes, and a few simple ingredients, in order to bring out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes with that sweet kiss of smoke. Summer tomatoes are certainly the best, since they are fresh and naturally sweet, but you can make this smoked sauce year round (you just may need to supplement with some sugar in the winter if the tomatoes aren’t very sweet).

This sauce is rich enough to use as a sauce for pasta, or even a base for pizza or lasagna.

We keep the flavors simple by sautéing onions, a few seasonings, a splash of wine, and a bunch of the smoked tomatoes. This way the tomatoes are the star of the show.

The Best Homemade Sauce

The key to making this fresh and delicious sauce starts with smoking fresh tomatoes. And during peak tomato season I’m sure there are plenty of folks looking for uses for the bounty of tomatoes coming your way. If not, store bought tomatoes work just great (and it’s what we use throughout the year when we don’t have any in our garden).

If you only have canned tomatoes, the best to use are the 28-ounce whole tomatoes (use 2 cans). San Marzano are our favorite. Simply add them to a smoker safe dish and smoke for 90 minutes, stirring once. Then use that with the recipe for the sauce.

How to Smoke Tomatoes

A sheet pan of tomatoes roasting on the grill
  1. Preheat the grill to 250 degrees F. You can use whatever smoker you have for this. We go back and forth between our offset stick burner and our MAK Two-Star General pellet smoker, or grill using indirect heat.
  2. Start by quartering your tomatoes, then toss them in some olive oil, salt, pepper, and bay seasoning.
  3. Line them on a foil lined baking tray. I like to place the tomatoes on a thin drying rack on top of the baking sheet for better ventilation and ease of transferring.
  4. Smoke them at 250 degrees for about 2 hours.
  5. Let them cool just enough to work with, then peel the skin immediately. They peel so easily if you do it while they’re still a bit warm. They just glide off… like buttah.
A pan full of smoked tomatoes
If you don’t peel, you will pick out the skin after the sauce is done.

Once the tomatoes are peeled you can start your sauce.

How to Make Smoked Tomato Marinara Sauce

  1. Start by sautéing some onions in olive oil in a stock pot for about 10 minutes, just to let them get soft and sweet. Then add some garlic and some simple seasoning (salt, pepper, a pinch of red chili flakes). Sir those together for about a minute, then add some wine. Bring wine to a simmer for 3-4 minutes, then add your smoked tomatoes, and continue simmering for an additional 20 minutes.
  2. If the sauce is chunky you can use a hand immersion blender to break up the chunks, or transfer to a blender, depending on how chunky or smooth you like your sauce.
  3. Taste and adjust for preferences. The tomatoes taste a little different each time we make this recipe (it will depend on how ripe and sweet they are pre-smoking). Sometimes they’re naturally perfectly sweet and we don’t need to add any sweetener at all. If your sauce isn’t as sweet as you’d like feel free to add a pinch of sugar, honey, tomato paste, or whatever you like for sweetness. Slowly adjust the flavors until you get to the sauce you love.
A pot full of smoked tomato marinara sauce
Add basil at the end for a fresh bright flavor.

What to use Smoked Sauce in

A plate with smoked tomato sauce, pasta, and meatballs
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A plate with smoked tomato sauce, pasta, and meatballs
4.79 from 14 votes

Smoked Tomato Marinara Sauce Recipe

Smoke fresh tomatoes to add an incredible mild smokey flavor to a traditional Tomato Marinara Sauce. This Smoked Sauce an be used for pasta, pizza, lasagna, or meatball sandwiches.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
To smoke tomatoes: 2 hours
Total: 2 hours 35 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients 

For the Smoked Tomatoes:

  • 8 whole beefsteak tomatoes, Any large ripe tomato works
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay Spice seasoning

For the Smoked Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup red onion, finely diced, small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • pinch of red chili flakes
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 4 cups smoked tomatoes,, (should be the equivalent of all 8 of them, smoked and peeled)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 4 whole basil leaves, diced

Instructions 

To Smoke the Tomatoes:

  • Prep your smoker to 250 degrees.
  • Quarter the tomatoes, remove stems, and then toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and old bay seasoning, and place them on a foil lined sheet pan. Smoke them for up to 2 hours or until they look slightly soft and roasted.
  • Remove from smoker and peel the skins from the tomatoes while they are still warm. Set aside.

For the Smoked Sauce:

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet set to medium. Add onions and let them cook about 10 minutes until soft and sweet. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, chili flakes, and let cook 1 additional minute.
  • Add the red wine and cook 3 more minutes, until the sauce has reduced. Add the tomatoes and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes. Blend the sauce with a hand immersion blender to break up the chunks, or use a potato masher to get to a consistency you like. Taste the sauce and add sugar if it is not sweet enough. This will vary depending on the ripeness of the tomatoes.
  • Add basil and stir them in. Just before serving.

Notes

A note on sugar: if using fresh summer tomatoes you will likely not need sugar. I like to make the sauce, and then taste while it’s simmering to see if I like the flavor. If you want it a it sweeter consider adding about a tablespoon of sugar, honey, or tomato paste to add some sweet flavor. 
Canned Tomatoes: If all you have is canned, then use two 28-ounce cans of whole tomatoes like San Marzano. Open cans, place into a smoker safe dish and smoke for up to two hours, stir once during the 120 minutes. Then follow marinara recipe.

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
To smoke tomatoes: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes
Course: Entree
Cuisine: American, barbecue, Italian
Servings: 4 servings
Keyword: smoked marinara, smoked marinara sauce, smoked sauce, smoked tomato sauce, smoked tomatoes
Like this recipe? Leave a comment below!

*This recipe was originally published in August of 2015, and updated in August 2020 with updated photos. The recipe remains the same.


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About Mary


I'm Mary, a wine/food/travel writer, Certified Sommelier, mom of twins, former vegetarian turned BBQ fanatic, runner, founder of Vindulge, and author of Fire + Wine cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

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11 Comments

  1. This sauce is DELICIOUS. I am going to make a bigger batch next time and can it. One question. How would you recommend thickening it up?

    1. Sheri great question. Two methods or a combination of both. The first is time at simmer. The more you simmer the more the water boils out and concentrates the flavor profile, 2 hours will reduce by another 15%. The second option is adding 1/4 cup of tomato paste. It will help thicken as well. Or do both if you are in a hurry. It’s a great question and one we’ll add to the recipe.

    1. Smoke it with the liquid. The liquid will help absorb the smoke flavor as well. Then when you blend it together you can choose to thicken it more if you want.

  2. 5 stars
    This smoked marinara sauce is phenomenal! I made this to use for your smoked sausage lasagna! It was totally worth the time to smoke the tomatoes and make the sauce. It was not overpowering, just a hint of smoke. But it took the lasagna to the next level! Next time, I’ll make multiple batches and freeze some.

    1. Anne – yes. We freeze it after making it. Great question for us to update the details on. You can use any canning process, or if you are like us just drop it in a freezer safe container for several months.

  3. I just discovered your blog this weekend and have already made 2 of your recipes ( leftover brisket chili and the smoked marinara sauce) . Each was wonderful! Can you tell me, what type of wood you use in your smoker? I used 2 ounces of hickory to smoke the tomatoes.Though I love the smoky taste, it was a bit strong for my husband. I am wondering if I should try a different wood versus decrease the amount of chips?

    1. So glad you’re enjoying the recipes! Yes, we use apple wood a lot. Or oak. You will get much less campfire and more delicate smoke.