Difference Between Marinara vs. Tomato Sauce

Main Difference

The main difference between marinara and tomato sauce is that marinara is a quick sauce and tomato sauce is a complex sauce.

Marinara vs. Tomato Sauce

Marinara sauce is a quick sauce which is seasoned with garlic, basil, and crushed red pepper. Tomato sauce is a more complex affair, starting with pureed tomatoes that are seasoned with onion, celery, carrot, and bay leaf and then left to simmer until thickened and rich in flavor. The texture of the marinara is fairly loose. Its taste is that of fresh tomatoes. The taste of tomato sauce is spicy. The ingredients of traditional marinara are very few. They are; olive oil, ripe tomatoes, garlic, chilies, oregano, and basil. It is best when made with plum tomatoes or whole San Marzan, coarsely crushed by hand or passed through a food mill. Different types of tomato sauces use a variety of ingredients. The ingredients of tomato sauce are; anchovies, seafood, olives, capers, garlic, meat stock, wine, ground beef, and cheese. Many chefs cook marinara by sautéing the finely-sliced garlic in olive oil. Then they add ripe tomatoes and simmer it for just under half an hour. For the tomato sauce, there are dozens of ways to cook, ranging from the Pomodoro sauce that take twenty minutes to cook and bolognese sauce, which takes an hour and three-fourths to cook. Marinara is the quick-cooking sauce. Most diners describe it as a chunky, thick, sauce with ripe tomato flavors and a hint of herbs and spices. Tomato sauce can be very cheesy, meaty, or spicy, depending on the chef. The name ‘marinara’ comes from the word ‘mariner’s.’ It describes how fishers use the sauce on their freshly-caught fish. The first person who wrote about what may have been a tomato sauce was Bernardino de Sahagún.

Comparison Chart

MarinaraTomato Sauce
Tomato based sauce that is quick in its recipeTomato based sauce that is complex in its recipe
Cooking Time
Under 20 minutesMore than 20 minutes
Ingredients
Olive oil, ripe tomatoes, garlic, herbsTomatoes, meat stock, wine, herbs, cheese, ground meat, olives/capers
Texture
Chunky, or fairly looseThick, cheesy, or meaty, or spicy
Taste
Of fresh tomatoesSpicy

What is Marinara?

Marinara is a tomato-based sauce. It traces its origins to the city of Naples. A theory states that the name, which means “mariner’s” in Italian, came from the sailors who after getting the tomatoes from Spanish-occupied territories, introduced the sauce to Naples. The name ‘marinara’ comes from the word ‘mariner’s.’ It describes how fishers use the sauce on their freshly-caught fish. Marinara sauce is a chunky, thick, sauce with rich, ripe tomato flavors and a hint of spices and herbs. It has few ingredients, such as garlic, onions, herbs, ripe tomatoes, chilies, and olive oil. It often contains herbs such as oregano and basil. The most classic marinara sauce recipe has crushed San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, a pinch of chili flakes, salt, and basil. Marinara is cooked somewhat differently from many other Italian tomato-based sauces. Traditional Italian marinara sauce is quite thin, whereas many Americanized variations are pretty thick. Marinara never contains meat, anchovies, or cheese. Adding these things will rather make it bolognese or spaghetti sauce. Traditional Italian-American chefs cook marinara for just under twenty-five minutes by leaving large tomato chunks and use hefty portions of thinly-sliced garlic. Marinara is the most common and popular Italian tomato-based sauce.

What is Tomato Sauce?

Tomato sauce refers to any of the variety of tomato-based sauces that contain different ingredients. Tomato sauce is also known as salsa di Pomodoro (in Italian), or Neapolitan sauce, salsa Roja (in Spanish). It refers to a large number of different sauces made primarily from tomatoes. It is also served as part of a dish, rather than as a condiment. Tomato sauce is common for vegetables and meat. In countries like New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, and South Africa, the term tomato sauce is often used to describe a condiment that is similar to ketchup. The first person who wrote about what may have been a tomato sauce was Bernardino de Sahagún. He made a note of a prepared sauce that was offered for sale in the markets. The use of tomato sauce with pasta for the first time was in 1790. The common ingredients for the tomato sauce are same as marinara. Other ingredients include anchovies, seafood, olives, capers, garlic, ground beef, and cheese. The traditional Italian tomato sauce ranges from the simple sugar di Pomodoro to the more complicated Bolognese. Sugo di Pomodoro has cheese on top of the tomato base. Bolognese contains ground meat, wine, tomato paste, lamb, and wine. Tomato sauce is one of the main sauces of the Italian seasoning. Every chef has their take on it. Some use tomato paste instead of fresh tomatoes, some add meat stock or wine, or some change the cooking time. As a result, the flavors of the tomato sauce range from meaty, cheesy to spicy.

Key Differences

  1. Marinara sauce is a tomato based sauce which is seasoned with garlic, basil, and crushed red pepper. Tomato sauce is made by starting with tomatoes puree that is seasoned with onion, celery, carrot, and bay leaf and then left to simmer until thickened and rich in flavor.
  2. Marinara is a quickly made sauce on the flip side tomato sauce has a complex process to make.
  3. The ingredients of traditional marinara are very few. They are; olive oil, ripe tomatoes, garlic, chilies, oregano, and basil, on the other hand, the ingredients of tomato sauce are; anchovies, seafood, olives, capers, garlic, meat stock, wine, ground beef, and cheese.
  4. The texture of marinara is chunky, fairly loose, and the taste is that of fresh tomatoes conversely, tomato sauce can be very cheesy, meaty, or spicy.

Conclusion

Marinara and tomato sauce are the two popular ingredients in Italian cuisine. Both sauces use tomatoes as a base, but they are different from each other in their other ingredients.

Author:

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson

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