When it comes to Italian cuisine, few dishes are as iconic and universally loved as spaghetti.
A plate of perfectly cooked pasta, smothered in a rich, tomato-based sauce, is a comfort food that transcends borders and brings joy to countless dinner tables worldwide.
However, a common question often arises in the world of pasta enthusiasts: Is marinara sauce the same as spaghetti sauce?
Those of you who enjoy Italian food have probably encountered both of these tomato-based products and wondered how they differ. I’ll let you in on a little secret: they are.
Marinara Vs. Spaghetti Sauce
The most popular Italian dinner staple that most Americans have at home and order at restaurants is pasta with tomato sauce.
When you’ve looked up a recipe on Google or browsed the menus of one or two Italian restaurants in your area, you may have encountered some confusing terms.
The distinctions between tomato-based pasta and other types can be subtle or major, depending on which sauce is used.
The terms commonly used with Italian noodles and sauce are outlined below, along with their similarities and differences.
There are so many similarities between the textures, colors, and flavors that they might as well be cousins! We’re going to explore marinara vs spaghetti sauce and get to the bottom of the issue. How do the two differ?
There might be a similarity at first glance between these savory sauces. We’ll explore the topic together, since there are similarities and differences.
What is Marinara Sauce?
Marinara Sauce is made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and seasonings, all of which are very simple to prepare. The dish takes under 30 minutes to make on the stovetop and does not require a lengthy simmer time.
There is no right or wrong type of tomato for this dish, but plum or San Marzano tomato works best. In addition to its uncomplicated ingredient list, marinara also has a fast cooking time, making it unique as its own signature sauce.
A tomato passata sauce is traditionally made from tomato puree, salt, and pepper; often it can include chili flakes, basil sprigs, and garlic cloves.
The consistency of classic marinara is thin and homogeneous; you won’t find chunks or tomato skins in it.
There are many recipes that may falsely lead you to believe different, but true marinara is a relatively plain sauce that focuses on the taste of the tomatoes without a lot of other ingredients getting in the way.
Traditional versions of Italian sauces are more popular in the United States than other American versions. You can also use marinara as a dipping sauce or as an ingredient for other recipes, like mussels marinara.
What is Spaghetti Sauce
Typically, spaghetti sauce is served with any variations of cooked pasta such as lasagna, spaghetti noodles, or manicotti and is composed of meat, vegetables, spices, and seasonings.
Generally speaking, pasta sauces include pesto, bolognese, Alfredo, and marinara, but they also include pesto, bolognese, and Alfredo. Generally, “pasta sauce” refers to a robust, flavorful tomato sauce.
When it comes to simply calling something pasta sauce, there are no hard-and-fast rules. However, it usually contains a mixture of tomato products, such as crushed tomatoes, passata, and tomato paste along with fresh and dried herbs, garlic, onion, salt, and pepper.
Most products are thicker, chunkier in consistency. It is more common to use this formula when making pre-made jarred pasta sauce, rather than when making classic Italian pasta sauces.
The term “tomato sauce,” also known as tomato sauce, may have appeared in an old French cookbook.
One of the five French “mother sauces” is a French-influenced adaptation of traditional Italian red sauce.
Pancetta or another cured pork product and meat stock also go into tomato sauce, along with the usual suspects like tomato products and seasonings.
It is usually thickened with roux, a butter and flour paste, which is not traditionally included in Italian cuisine.
There are some preparations where the final sauce is more like thin marinara than tomato paste. A version of tomato sauce billed as “pasta sauce” is common in recipes and restaurants.
What Are The Differences?
- The main difference between the two is that marinara takes less time to prepare and has fewer ingredients.
- Pasta sauces have a longer ingredient list and a richer flavor, making them more robust and complex.
- Since marinara usually does not contain meat, it has a thinner texture than spaghetti sauce.
- A dipping sauce such as marinara is traditionally used with spaghetti, while a sauce such as pasta sauce is not.
What Do They Have In Common?
- In both recipes, tomatoes are the main ingredient, and the basic ingredients are the same.
- There is only one essential ingredient in this recipe: tomatoes!
- Both of them are red because of the tomatoes.
- It has a similar texture and consistency.
- It is generally possible to interchange them and they serve the same purpose.
What About Meat Sauce?
Pasta sauces based on tomato paste and ground meat, such as Bolognese, are very traditional in Italy. Some people refer to this type of sauce as “pasta sauce” because it is often called “meat sauce” or “spaghetti sauce” in America.
Compared to classic Italian recipes, American versions diverge considerably from one another, resulting in an entirely new dish.
To make an authentic Italian bolognese, carrots, onions, and celery are slowly cooked in olive oil over a long period until they are nearly melted.
A deglazed ground beef and pork is then cooked for hours with a dollop of tomato paste and a splash of milk before being dusted with paprika.
As opposed to American “meat sauces” that typically consist of ground beef along with sofrito veggies and occasionally bell peppers or mushrooms.
Cooked for a shorter time span, this dish is usually mixed with crushed tomatoes or tomato passata, and seasoned with dry herbs.
U.S. households are very familiar with this type of sauce, known as “pasta sauce,” especially when it is paired with spaghetti.
Uses For Marinara and Pasta Sauce
- It is possible to use leftover sauce in a variety of ways if you have an abundance of leftovers.
- Cooked plain pasta of any kind can be topped with it.
- Whether you’re eating breadsticks, mozzarella sticks, zucchini fries, jalapeno poppers, or pizza bites, you can dip them in it.
- If you’re making baked spaghetti or baked ziti, you can use this sauce instead of store-bought sauce.
- Next time you make pizza, replace the pizza sauce with one of these alternatives. It’s easy to make your own pizza dough or use frozen pizza dough from the grocery store!
- Whether the sauce is red or white, either makes great lasagna or cheesy manicotti.
- Make spaghetti squash stuffing with it.
- You can add it to your morning eggs because eggs go great with everything.
How To Thicken Marinara and Pasta Sauces?
The following are a few ways to achieve a thicker consistency:
- Simmer until you reach the desired consistency on the stovetop.
- Slow-cook it!
- Mix in corn starch slurry.
- Tomato paste or tomato sauce can be added.
- Add a roux and mix together.
- You can add mashed potatoes as well.
Can You Use Marinara Sauce For Spaghetti?
Both pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce can be substituted with marinara because it has a simple ingredient list.
Can Marinara Sauce Be Used For Pizza?
Of course! It is definitely possible to use marinara sauce instead of pizza sauce. Typically, pizza sauce is thicker in consistency than pasta sauce, but the two can be substituted for one another.
- To make either sauce more flavorful, add red pepper flakes, fresh tomatoes or diced canned tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato juice, olive oil, fresh basil, bay leaves, grated Parmesan cheese, and fresh chopped onions, yellow or red.
- You can sweeten the sauce by adding a teaspoon of sugar (or another sweetener) at a time.
- Adding a little red wine will make the dish more complex.
- If you want to add more flavor and texture to pasta sauce, add meat such as ground beef, ground Italian sausage, or ground turkey.
- If you’re making spaghetti sauce, you might like to add green peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, or carrots chopped into it.
- Cheese adds a lot of flavor to a dish. Cheeses such as cheddar, mozzarella, cream cheese, and parmesan can be added up to 1/2 cup of the mixture.
- Season with salt and pepper. Salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, Italian seasoning, salt, oregano, and Italian seasoning are all great ways to add flavor.
- You can also use dried or fresh herbs that you like, such as basil leaves, Italian parsley, fennel seeds, or parsley leaves.
- To add bold flavor, splash Worcestershire sauce or balsamic vinegar on top.
We examined marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce in this article. Marinara sauce is closer to Italian pasta sauces than spaghetti sauce, despite neither of them being authentically Italian.
Spaghetti sauce tends to be thicker and involves ground beef, while marinara sauce is thinner and vegan.
It’s easier and quicker to make marinara sauce at home since it’s made with fewer ingredients.
When meat is added to spaghetti sauce, the nutritional value of the sauce is greatly improved. Marinara sauce contains less protein, cholesterol, and calories.