Is marinara sauce the same as pizza sauce?

In this article, we will answer the following question: Is marinara sauce the same as pizza sauce? We talk about the differences between marinara and pizza sauce. We also teach you how to make a delicious marinara sauce that is good for both pizza and pasta dishes. 

Is marinara sauce the same as pizza sauce?

In theory, marinara sauce and pizza sauce are the same, since the basic ingredient is tomato or tomato puree. Besides, there is no “official” pizza sauce, as it can often be improvised. However, pizza sauce is often (but not always) two things:

Thicker. The finer sauce will tend to run in the oven and will also steam up the pizza crust as it cooks if it’s loaded with toppings, otherwise the thin one is fine.

The thickness of pizza sauce depends on the crust, the heat of the oven, the toppings above the sauce, and its water level, it may not be necessary. If you just had some crushed tomatoes and some chunks of cheese in a super hot oven, the sauce should be fine without reducing beforehand. If you’ve loaded a cube of sauce and a pound of cheese, pre-cook and reduce the sauce.

It is often simpler. Many pasta dishes like spaghetti bring out the sauce and spend hours of slow cooking for the sauce to bring it to perfection. They are all about the sauce. However, pizza is really about the crust and what makes it stand out. 

The reality is that there really is no “pizza” sauce. There is pizza and whatever toppings you choose. Some delicious examples: basil pesto, bechamel, tapenade, olive oil, heavy cream, and tomato sauce used for the bases, to name just a few.

However, for tomato-based pizza lovers:

You probably didn’t know but restaurants don’t have pizza sauce and pasta sauce: they have a single tomato sauce used as a broth, as a building base for other items!

The norm for most restaurants is a traditional homemade tomato sauce. Canned plum tomatoes (canned are better than fresh), onion, garlic, oregano, basil, sugar, and any secret items the chef uses, cooked for 30 minutes to 4 hours to the desired consistency. It will usually blend to make it smoother and easier to use in other dishes or as a possible pizza crust if needed.

The difference in flavors: the texture will depend on what has been added to the dish and the cooking time/method. You will see a reduction in the sauce from a pasta sauce and evaporation/caramelization with the sauce on a pizza. They both produce a difference in flavor and texture that will make you think they’re two different sauces –  which are once you’ve added things to them, but they both started from the same batch of cooked canned tomatoes.

Tomato sauce in a pizzeria is usually prepared without cooking. Since pizza ovens can reach temperatures above 800 ° F (430 ° C), the sauce cooks on the pizza. Pre-cook sauce can be “overcooked” in the pizza oven.

Also, the traditional philosophy of Neapolitan pizza is “less is more”, so the sauce tends to be very basic with little or no added ingredients. I add oregano, salt, and pepper to a can of crushed tomatoes (though I’ve been skipping the salt lately for my hypertension). 

I’ve even stayed away from oregano as it can make the sauce bitter if left unused for a day or two. I will substitute with parsley. When I make a Pizza Margarita, I don’t add anything to the sauce. Simply sprinkle fresh basil over pizza with fresh mozzarella. Sometimes I don’t use sauce at all – just thinly sliced tomatoes. That’s the beauty of pizza – no rules!

Other FAQs about Sauces that you may be interested in.

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How to make your own marinara sauce for pizza and pasta dishes

The ingredients you need are:

  • 1 can of 28 Oz. whole tomatoes
  • 6 garlic chopped or julienned
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dried red pepper, crushed to taste (optional)
  • 1 cup of water

To prepare it, heat a pan over medium heat, when it is hot add the olive oil and the chopped or minced garlic and fry them a little without letting them brown. Next, add a little crushed red pepper (this step is optional), the can of tomatoes, 1 cup of water and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Smash the tomatoes with a spoon, fork, or kitchen masher and simmer for 25 minutes and voila!

This recipe is very basic but you can modify it to your liking. Sometimes in addition to the crushed dried red bell pepper and garlic, I add carrots, onions, celery, minced green bell pepper, and fresh basil.


Traditionally, pizza sauce was simply ground sparsely seasoned tomato paste. The sauce was actually cooked in the oven as part of the pizza, however, there are many variations today. Some even require the sauce to be cooked and reduced.

In general, pasta sauce tends to be more complex in flavor than pizza sauce. Pasta sauce tends to be the dish’s highlight, while pizza sauce is used as a base ingredient on pizza.

While both sauces are different, there have been many instances where they have been used interchangeably, more commonly by home cooks than professionals. Using a pasta sauce on a pizza just makes it taste a little different and more complex!

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