Marianra Sauce


What is Marinara Sauce? That’s a good one. And I can tell you there is no one single definitive answer. Doesn’t exists, unlike, Amatriciana or Bolognese Sauce, which both can have variations, they are still both pretty defined and the variations come after what defines a Bolognese or Amatriciana Sauce.

   Well, one thing that a Marinara Sauce is, it’s a Tomato Sauce, a type of Tomato Sauce and a Marinara Sauce will vary according to who makes it. 

     Italians (in Italy) refer to Marinara not as a Sauce but in association with a recipe as in Spaghetti al Marinara, this translates to Mariner’s Spaghetti or in the style of the mariner, or “Sailor,” and is of Southern Italy and Naples in particular. Southern Italian Spaghetti al Marinara does not contain any Seafood as some might think, and the name leads to imply.  

     Folklore has it that, Italian Sailors developed Marinara Sauce to cook on ships, as the high-acid content in tomatoes helped to preserve it well. Another theory is that the wives of Neapolitan Sailors cooked Spaghetti al Marinara for their husbands when they returned from sea.

     So what is Marinara Sauce? Renowned Cook-book author and Restaurateur Lidia Bastianich says of marinara sauce, “The difference between marinara sauce and tomato sauce is this: Marinara is a quick sauce, seasoned only with garlic, pepper, and, if you like, basil or oregano. The pieces of tomato are left chunky, and the texture of the finished sauce is fairly loose. Tomato sauce, on the other hand, is a more complex affair, starting with puréed tomatoes and seasoned with onion, carrot, celery, and bay leaf, and left to simmer until thickened and rich in flavor.” This is Lidia’s version, but you’ll see the one most often made in Italian Restaurants differ a bit from Lidia’s.

Marinara Sauce is widely used in Italian-American Cuisine, and the sauce can vary from person to person and, cook-to-cook, chef-to-chef, restaurant to restaurant, “there is no one single exacting specific recipe, but all usually have Olive Oil, Garlic, Tomato, Pepperoncino, and Basil and or Oregano. Oregano seems to be the biggest single factor in what a Marinara Sauce actually is, as many versions of Marinara Sauce seem to have Oregano included in it, which is not usually present in true Italian (of and from Italy) Tomato Sauce, or Sugo al Pomodoro. One other factor, is that Marinara Sauce is cooked quickly, in about 10-15 minutes as opposed to 45 minutes or longer for regular Tomato Sauce. 

     OK, now, my Marinara Sauce, what I think it is, and how I make it. It’s also how, not everyone but many others make it as well. Remember, I am of Italian-American ancestry; I cooked professionally for 20 years, in French, then Italian Restaurants. To me, the way I was taught and what I think is the best tasting Marinara Sauce of all, is as follows. To make Marinara Sauce, I already have my base, regular Tomato Sauce that I have made previously. When I was cooking in a restaurant and someone wanted Marinara Sauce, this is the one we made. We’d use about a cup and a half of our regular tomato sauce that was always on hand. When we got an order for Spaghetti Marinara, we’d put some Olive Oil and a single serving pan. Heat it, adding a good amount of chopped fresh Garlic. Cook the garlic, add a bit of Pepperoncino (Red Pepper Flakes) and a little dried Oregano. This was our flavoring base, and would considerably add much flavor to the base Tomato Sauce, making for an extremely tasty Marinara. Once the garlic has cooked to where it just starts to brown a bit, you add the Tomato Sauce and heat through. Once your spaghetti has finished cooking, you drain it, drop it in the pan with your Marinara Sauce, adding a bit of the pasta cooking water, toss the pasta, mix and serve. Voila, Spaghetti Marinara, my version and the one most accepted as Marinara when ordered at an Italian Restaurant in New York. Though there are others, this is not the defining Marinara Sauce Recipe, but I believe the one most widely used, and no matter, I can tell you it’s dam tasty and, I always get raves whenever I make it.

     So in the end, what is marinara? As I’ve said there is no one right singular answer, or description. But if you ask me and most any renowned Italian-American home cook or respected cooks and chefs in New York Italian Restaurants, they’ll tell you the one I describe as what I call Marinara Sauce is the one most excepted. Marinara Sauce is Tomato Sauce that has already been made, then it’s reheated and cooked in a pan that has a highly flavorful base of olive oil cooked while a good amount of garlic and a few flakes of Pepperoncini (Red Pepper flakes), add already cooked cooled tomato sauce to the pan with the garlic and olive oil, and possibly oregano, heat this and you have Marinara Sauce! Basta!

Homemeade Marinara Sauce




1 & ½ cups Home-Made Tomato Sauce

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 or 2 cloves Garlic, peeled and chopped fine

Pepperoncino (Red Pepper flakes), 1/8 of a teaspoon

Oregano is “Optional” ¼ to ½ teaspoon if you use it


  1. Heat olive oil with garlic over medium flame for 2 minutes.

 2.  Add Pepperoncino and Oregano if you are using it and cook 1 minute.

 3. Add homemade Sugo di Pomodoro (Tomato Sauce)

that you cooked previously. Cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

 NOTE: This is enough Marinara Sauce for one portion of Marinara Sauce. To make for 4 people, increase ingredients by 4 times or whatever amount of servings you’d like.

EXCERPTED From SUNDAY SAUCE  by Daniel Bellino-Zwicke


Marinara Sauce Recipe in Sunday Sauce

by Daniel Bellino Zwicke

Learn How to Make SUNDAY SAUCE alla CLEMENZA




by Daniel Bellino Zwicke