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What makes marinara marinara?

What is the difference between marinara sauce and regular tomato sauce?

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  1. To me it is the consistency obtained by adding olive oil and leaving the tomatoes in small chunks. It seems to taste fresher than sauce. I'm sure this question will yield a bounty of answers ranging from definitions from 92 year old Italians to what the Olive Garden's menu says.

    1. I've often wondered the same thing. When a recipe calls for "your favorite marinara sauce," do they expect it to already have herbs in it? Or is it just tomatoes, onion, garlic and oil?

      1. < just tomatoes, onion, garlic and oil> you've got it! That's it. anything else may be great tomato sauce, but it's not Marinara.

        1. Tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onions, cheese (parm/romano)salt/pepper, and parsley/basil cooked briefly. I think the cooking time is another difference. Some of the best marinara (assuming good quality tomatoes) can be made in 10 minutes.

          1. Marinara is essentially the Italian word for sailor or seafarer and it was a sauce developed in Naples to feed the sailors when they came back to port. Older style marinara sauces typically had anchovies.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Den

              So, carbonara is for miners and marinara is for sailors. I wonder if they had a sauce for lawyers?

              1. re: Summerfield

                Let's not forget the Putanesca.

                The lawyers were needed after the other three groups got together.

                1. re: Summerfield

                  No, but there's puttanesca (for streetwalkers) and arrabbiata (for mad people)...

                2. re: Den

                  I've read a couple different versions. One is that this is the simple sauce the fishermen would make on their boats while on long runs. Because they needed to sell the seafood, they didn't use any of the fish they had caught. But I also once had an Italian chef insist that marinara meant "of the sea" and always had some kind of seafood in it. I think the first version sounds more likely.

                  1. re: bryan

                    I thought that they added some of their catch to the sauce for their own meals.

                    1. re: prunefeet

                      The version I heard that seems very plausible is that marinara refers to the sailor's wife. They would keep an eye on the harbor and when they saw their husband's boat pull in they had very little time to ensure that a meal was on the table by the time hubby reached home. Hence the quick tomato sauce. Onions and garlic and a sometimes anchovies were sauteed in olive oil and tomatoes simmerd for 20 to 25 minutes.

                  2. re: Den

                    Den is corrrect. Marinara also implies the sauce was not made with meat. Wars are still waged about herbs (oregano and basil), and whether or not to use tomato paste, and when to add it, or if you need to caramelize it. One thing for certain: fresh garlic, the best green olive oil, and ripe, sweet tomatoes are essential.

                    Anchovies are used in the south as follows: While you are very gently frying your garlic, add a few anchovies and with a fork, mash them until they disintegrate into the oil before you continue making your sauce. You will understand what I mean when you smell your kitchen.

                  3. -----

                    I believe by all modern intentions, marinara sauce is just a seasoned or prepared tomato pasta sauce. However looking up the definitions it could be what we may refer to as Seafood Cocktail Sauce here in the US.

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