marinara sauce

Marinara: The Classic Italian Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce is a sauce made from pureed or mashed tomatoes.  Depending on where you are in the world in can refer to a sauce served as part of a dish or if you’re from New Zealand, Australia, UK, or South Africa you’re referring to a condiment, like ketchup.

Each part of the world has their own recipe of tomato sauce used for their traditional dishes.  But I think we all agree that the most famous tomato sauce dish would be pasta.

Some Juicy Facts about Tomatoes

Let’s take a closer look at the fruit…I mean vegetable…wait.

Tomatoes, are coined as the produce with an identity crisis because it’s classified as both a fruit and a vegetable.  Botanically, it is considered a fruit – a berry consisting of a seed-bearing ovary of a flowering plant. However, it is considered a “culinary vegetable” because it has lower sugar content than culinary fruits.  Other produce with this type of identity crisis are: bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplants and others. 

Marinara is composed primarily of tomatoes, we know it tastes good but is it good for our body?  Tomatoes, which comprise majority if not your entire marinara sauce, are rich in vitamin C, potassium, folate, vitamin K, beta-carotene, and lycopene – an antioxidant linked to reduced heart disease and cancer.  It’s also known to promote skin health.

Classic Marinara Sauce

Nothing spells traditional Italian tomato sauce better than Marinara Sauce.  Marinara derived its name from “Marinai” which means “sailors” in Italian. Its ingredients – oil, tomato, garlic and dried herbs – didn’t spoil easily and it was easy to cook which made it a filling, inexpensive and tasty meal for men at sea.  

Now, the history and the nutritional value of this sauce.  Make your own marinara!  Here’s a classic marinara recipe from But if you prefers to buy your marinara sauce, check out some of the more popular choice:

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Fancy up your Marinara Sauce

You can make your marinara sauce fancier by adding crumbled Italian sausage, mussels, shrimp, fish, mixed vegetables, or Italian meatballs.  Here’s an Italian meatball recipe from

Troubleshooting your marinara sauce

Tomatoes can be a bit tricky, since they are juicy and watery by nature.  This could spell a bit of a challenge with regards to the consistency of your sauce.   Consistency is important to any sauce. If it’s too thick or watery, it will not coat your pasta and pasta meats.  Besides, a watery sauce or super thick sauce, doesn’t really look appetizing.   So, here are some tips for your marinara woes. 

How to Thicken Tomato Sauce

Here are some tips from

  • Strain or Drain – if your sauce is too watery, you can strain it through a strainer or coffee filter to remove the excess liquid.  But don’t throw them away, you may need it to loosen it in case you strained too much liquid out of it.
  • Put it back in the heat – if the sauce is just a bit watery, you can try to simmer it after removing a bit of the water out of it. But save the water you removed in a bowl, in case you need it loosen the sauce.
  • Add Some Carrots –grate some carrots and dump them into your sauce. It will soak up the excess moisture and add a hint of sweetness to it. And also amps up the beta-carotene in your sauce. Add little by little until you reach the consistency you want.
  • Add some bread crumbs – if you do not like the idea of carrots in your sauce, you can opt to add breadcrumbs instead.  They soak up the excess water without changing the taste of your sauce.  Add little by little until you reach the consistency you want.
  • Add some tomato paste – tomato paste adds mass to your sauce thereby thickening it.  Just give it a taste, in case it’s got too tangy for you, add a bit of sugar to balance it out.
  • Bring on the Cheese – adding grated cheese or Parmesan to your sauce will thicken it and also add depth of flavor.
  • Add a bit of Pasta Water – this will also thicken your sauce and allow the sauce to glue to the pasta.  But add a ladleful each time and simmer after every addition.

How to Loosen Tomato Sauce

To loosen your thick pasta sauce, add a liquid that is already found in the sauce like maybe tomato puree.

Marinara Leftovers?  Don’t fret!

Marinara is the least of your problems as a left over.  It may seem like it’s limited to just making pasta but you would be surprised to know you can use it for a lot of dishes. 

  • Use marinara as a substitute canned tomatoes – a lot of non-pasta recipe like stews, chili con carne call for canned tomatoes.  Marinara is a nice substitute for this since its already seasoned.
  • Make cheesy tomato baked rice – simply heat your marinara sauce with a bit of minced garlic and bell peppers (optional), add in your preferred rice (white, brown, quinoa, or cauliflower), add your meats (chicken, fish, shrimp, or sausage), and add herbs, top with cheese, then bake!
  • Make homemade pizza using marinara as your base sauce before adding your preferred topping.
  • Use it on your nachos – use marinara as replacement for salsa in your nachos.  Simply use them as dip or make hearty baked nachos by adding seasoned ground beef and gooey cheese.
  • Use them on your bruschetta toasts – use marinara as the base of these mini delights then top with fresh vegetables or cheese.  You can also toast these babies.
  • Use them as a sauce for your sandwiches or pita creations – use your leftover marinara to make home-made meatball sandwiches or as an alternative to fresh salsa in your pita pockets.
  • Make tomato soup – when all else fails or if you have only a little left, simply make tomato soup!

Go Italian at Home!

Now, you know the basics and tricks to making the classic perfect Marinara!  Sometimes, it’s the simplest of things that bring the most joy.  Get cooking and share it with your loved ones.

Again, below are some of the top best selling marinara sauce:

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