Is marinara and pasta sauce the same? (A Complete Guide)

In this article, we will answer the following question: Is marinara and pasta sauce the same? We wrote a complete guide on how to choose the right sauce for the right type of pasta. Bon appetit!

Is marinara and pasta sauce the same?

Marinara and pasta sauce can be considered the same, although pasta sauces are very diverse and vary from culture to culture.

Marinara sauce is the basic sauce of Italian cuisine, made with patience and time, only with tomatoes and spices that enhance its fragrance. Every city and every Italian grandmother has its very special recipe!

In the United States, marinara is an Italian-style vegetarian tomato sauce and may contain olive oil and cheese like Parmesan. But never meat or anchovies.

In the United States, spaghetti sauce is culinary slang for manufactured tomato sauce served over spaghetti.

Marinara sauce is a thin tomato sauce originally used on fish feed, hence the name marinara! In Naples, Italy, when the fishermen returned home with the fish they caught on the day, the women prepared a thin tomato sauce used to cook and serve the fish. 

The marinara sauce doesn’t start with meat or a meaty flavor or onions like a thick tomato sauce for pasta. The spaghetti sauce begins by sautĂ©ing onions and meat such as neck bones, garlic, and olive oil at the bottom of a saucepan before adding the tomato sauce and paste or the adding meatballs to flavor the sauce in addition to oregano, garlic, basil, etc., while it cooks.

In the US, the marinara sauce does not have seafood, but it is a great compliment to fish or pasta. An old Italian version of marinara sauce did contain seafood in the original recipe, but nowadays it is uncommon to cook the sauce this way. 

The marinara sauce is a consciously prepared sauce that can mean the before and after in any ordinary dish. A good sauce in which to dip a rustic bread can end the monotony, give any ingredient a touch of flavor, and, in addition, make a dish that is characterized by having many vegetables in its preparation much healthier. 

If you are one of those who needs a good background of flavor in any dish, take note of the best seafood sauce you have ever tasted, by itself it is already a winning recipe.

Other FAQs about Sauces which you may be interested in.

What is the difference between Thai and Vietnamese fish sauce?

Is lasagne sauce the same as Bolognese sauce?

How do you make marinara less watery?

Choosing the right sauce for your pasta

An authentic Italian will also not cook pasta and fish, with which it is not advisable to combine cheese. On the other hand, the carbonara (no cream please), born in Rome and very popular, only has to be served with spaghetti, the canons say.

Like clams, unthinkable for small pasta, the Alfredo, invented in Rome, can be used for many different types. It was still created for fettuccine (ribbons), although it is more prevalent in the United States than in Italy itself.

Here is a modest paste to which is added an emulsion of butter and parmesan that the certain Alfredo Di Lelio prepared at the beginning of the 20th century to relieve his wife in the recovery of her first childbirth.

A clue to know when it has been wrongly combined is that the sauce remains at the bottom of the casserole!

In general, a distinction is made between long and short pasta (if they are very small, they are usually for soups), flat or rounded, with or without holes, smooth or with folds, filled or not, large or small. There is even a distinction between soft macaroni or grooves, which have a more excellent adherence surface.

Logically, long pasta works better with less thick sauces, especially if it is Bugatti (spaghetti hollow inside) or macaroni (very narrow) because it allows them to penetrate inside. It is even recommended to add a little of the cooking water if necessary. The thicker it is, the more consistent the sauce can be and can include more extensive pieces of meat, fish, or vegetables.

Small formats, such as bows (in Italy farfalle) or fusilli (recommended for salads), allow creamy textures and delicate sauces but with a certain consistency, like pesto, because they stay in their folds. The long ones, like spaghetti and derivatives, are somewhat more versatile, although not everything goes.

If orthodoxy is observed, it would be little less than an aberration to combine spaghetti with ragĂș (we would say sauce) with Bolognese (meat, tomato, vegetables, wine …), something prevalent in our kitchen. Because according to true Italian tradition, it should be made with tagliatella, a kind of broader noodle typical of the Bologna region. However, it is also correct to use it with lasagna.


Marinara is a simple and healthy sauce made with tomatoes, olive oil, and/or garlic (other ingredients are optional). Many use the marinara sauce for their pasta dishes, but it is not mandatory.

Marinara sauce is a healthy and popular Italian sauce, made with tomatoes, onions, and herbs, making it a bit spicier than other tomato sauces. You can easily reproduce this sauce at home. There are many alternatives to marinara sauce, four of them considered to be both delicious and healthy options! 

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know!


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.