Why is tomato sauce called marinara?

It was given the name marinara not because it was once a seafood sauce, but because it was the favorite food of Italian merchants during long expeditions at sea. Marinara (lit. Variations include capers, olives, spices and a dash of wine. Widely used in Italian-American cuisine, in Italy it is known as alla marinara, where it is usually made with tomatoes, basil and oregano, but also sometimes with olives, capers and salted anchovies.

It is used for spaghetti and noodles, but also with meat or fish. Marinara sauce is a quick sauce, seasoned only with garlic, chopped red pepper and basil. It's best when made with whole San Marzano tomatoes or plums, shredded by hand or passed through a food mill. The marinara can be left in pieces; the texture of the finished sauce is quite loose and the flavor is that of fresh tomatoes.

While you can add quite a few things to marinara sauce and still call it marinara sauce, it never contains meat, anchovies, or cheese. When you start adding these things, you start creating Bolognese or spaghetti sauce. A sauce similar to Italian-American marinara sauce is known in some areas of central Italy as sugo finto, literally fake sauce (without meat). The traditional Italian-style marinara sauce is quite fine, while many Americanized variations become quite thick.

When cooking, you can usually take a marinara sauce recipe and add meat to get the spaghetti sauce. If you're adding seafood to pasta, consider using marinara sauce instead to make the seafood flavors look better. This means that you usually add more tomatoes to a spaghetti sauce than to a marinara sauce and you'll reduce the spaghetti sauce a little more for the characteristic thicker texture. The name “marinara” comes from the word “sailor” and describes how fishermen used the sauce on their freshly caught fish.

If the tomato sauce in the pasta is thick, it's spaghetti sauce or Americanized marinara. If it's fine, it's most likely a more traditional Italian-style marinara sauce. You can also take a spaghetti sauce recipe, take out the meat and you'll usually get marinara sauce. If you don't have meat but have the other ingredients, making marinara sauce can save you a trip to the store.

Good explanation. In fact, in the last few days I met someone who had never heard of marinara sauce, and then I thought, hmm, what's the difference, so thank you for the explanation and now I'll be happy to tell you. This means that spaghetti sauce is best used when you want to flavor a dish and marinara is best used when you want to accentuate it.

Jeannette Klingenberger
Jeannette Klingenberger

Proud beer fanatic. Freelance web specialist. Subtly charming tv nerd. Wannabe coffee fan. Subtly charming tv ninja.