Pizza Sauce vs Marinara

When it comes to pizza, the sauce plays a crucial role in enhancing the overall flavor and satisfying our taste buds. Two popular options that often find themselves at the center of the debate are Pizza Sauce and Marinara. 

Both of these tomato-based sauces have their unique characteristics and are used in various culinary applications. While some may argue that they are essentially the same, several factors set them apart. 

This blog will delve into the intriguing world of pizza sauce vs marinara and explore their distinctive attributes.

What Is Pizza Sauce?

Pizza sauce is a crucial element that adds depth and flavor to any pizza. Typically, it’s a simple blend of ripe tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and a dash of salt, simmered until the flavors meld together.

However, recipes can vary widely, with some incorporating ingredients like onions, basil, and even a hint of sugar to balance the tomatoes’ acidity. 

The sauce is generously spread over the dough before the toppings are added, serving as a moist base that prevents the pizza from becoming dry while baking.

What Is Marinara Sauce?

Marinara sauce is a savory and slightly tangy Italian sauce made from tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herbs. 

Unlike pizza sauce, it’s usually cooked for a shorter time, resulting in a brighter, more robust tomato flavor.

This sauce originated in Naples, where it was often prepared by mariners – hence the name Marinara. 

It’s a versatile sauce used in many Italian dishes, including pasta, and seafood, and as a dipping sauce for bread or cheese sticks. While Marinara shares some similarities with pizza sauce, its distinctive taste and texture set it apart.

Is Marinara Sauce The Same as Pizza Sauce?

So whether Marinara sauce is similar to pizza sauce – is a common question posed by many people. 

The answer is no. Pizza sauce and marinara are not the same. Although they both contain tomatoes and similar herbs and spices, their flavors and cooking methods differ.

Pizza sauce is usually cooked for a longer time to create a richer, more concentrated flavor that complements the other ingredients on a pizza. 

In contrast, Marinara sauce has a brighter, tangier taste due to its shorter cooking time, making it a better match for pasta dishes.

However, both sauces serve as a delicious base for many Italian recipes and are essential components of traditional Italian cuisine.

Pizza Sauce vs Marinara: Main Differences

You already know that these two sauces are different. So what’s the difference between them? The truth will be revealed after this.

1. Ingredients

While both pizza sauce and marinara sauce use tomatoes as their base, the other ingredients vary somewhat and contribute to their unique flavors and textures.

– Pizza Sauce:

Pizza sauce usually begins with a base of ripe tomatoes – often a specific variety such as San Marzano.

Fresh or dried oregano is added for a burst of herbal flavor, and garlic provides a pungent kick. Some pizza sauce recipes also incorporate finely chopped onions, which are cooked down until they add a subtle sweetness.

A hint of salt enhances the other flavors without overpowering them. Occasionally, a touch of sugar might be used to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes.

– Marinara Sauce:

Marinara sauce also uses tomatoes as its base, but it typically includes a broader range of flavors. Onions are a common addition, cooked until they’re soft and translucent.

Garlic is often used more liberally in marinara sauce than in pizza sauce, contributing to a robust, hearty taste. Fresh basil leaves provide a fragrant, peppery note that’s typically absent in pizza sauce.

The seasoning for marinara sauce often includes a blend of herbs such as oregano, thyme, and bay leaf. Similar to pizza sauce, salt is added to taste, but unlike pizza sauce, marinara rarely includes sugar.

2. Texture

The texture of these two iconic Italian sauces is another distinguishing factor.

– Pizza Sauce:

Pizza sauce tends to have a thicker consistency because it needs to stick to the pizza dough and not make it soggy.

It’s typically pureed until smooth or left slightly chunky, depending on personal preference. The longer cooking time helps reduce the sauce, contributing to its dense texture.

– Marinara Sauce:

On the other hand, Marinara sauce usually has a thinner, more fluid consistency. It’s cooked for a shorter period, allowing it to retain some of the tomatoes’ natural juices.

The ingredients in marinara are often coarsely chopped, giving the sauce a rustic, hearty texture that’s perfect for clinging to pasta or dunking breadsticks. 

Its texture is one of the reasons why marinara sauce is often preferred as a dipping sauce or a sauce for pasta dishes.

3. Flavor

Certainly. Each sauce has a different flavor.

– Pizza Sauce:

Pizza sauce has a deep, rich flavor that’s the result of simmering it for an extended period. This allows the flavors of the tomatoes, garlic, and oregano to meld together, creating a delicious symphony of tastes that perfectly complements the cheese and toppings on a pizza.

The sauce is typically savory, with just a hint of sweetness if sugar is added. Its bold profile helps it stand up to the robust flavors of the toppings, ensuring that it doesn’t get lost beneath them.

– Marinara Sauce:

Marinara sauce, on the other hand, has a fresher, more vibrant flavor. The shorter cooking time retains the tomatoes’ bright acidity and the punchy flavors of the garlic and herbs.

This makes it tangier and more robust compared to pizza sauce. The use of fresh basil in marinara sauce imparts a peppery note that adds complexity to its flavor profile.

It’s a versatile sauce that adds a burst of flavor to any dish it’s paired with, from pasta and pizza to seafood and breadsticks.

4. Cooking Method

The cooking methods for pizza sauce and marinara sauce also differ, contributing to their unique flavors and textures.

– Pizza Sauce:

To prepare pizza sauce, the tomatoes are first blanched, peeled, and crushed. The crushed tomatoes are then simmered with garlic and oregano for an extended period.

This slow, low-heat cooking allows the flavors to develop and infuses the sauce with the herbs’ aroma. As the sauce simmers, it thickens to a paste-like consistency that adheres well to the pizza dough.

– Marinara Sauce:

Marinara sauce, on the other hand, is cooked for a shorter period.

The tomatoes are first sautéed with garlic and onions until they soften. Fresh herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, and bay leaf are then added, along with a dash of salt.

The sauce is simmered just enough for the flavors to meld, but not so long that the tomatoes lose their natural brightness. This results in a thinner, more vibrant sauce perfect for pasta dishes and dipping.

5. Usage

Pizza sauce vs marinara is served for each type of dish.

– Pizza Sauce:

Pizza sauce is often reserved primarily for pizza, thanks to its robust, concentrated flavor that stands out even when topped with cheese and a variety of toppings. It adheres well to the pizza dough, ensuring each bite is flavorful.

This sauce is also often used as a base for calzones or a dipping sauce for breadsticks or mozzarella sticks. However, its bold flavor profile tends to limit its use in dishes where a strong, tomato-forward sauce is desired.

– Marinara Sauce:

Marinara sauce’s versatility stems from its fresh, tangy flavor that pairs well with a wide range of dishes. Its lighter texture and taste make it an especially great choice for pasta dishes.

Besides, it’s also commonly used in Italian-American cuisine as a base for meatballs, chicken parmesan, and lasagna.

Additionally, marinara is an excellent sauce for seafood dishes, such as shrimp marinara or mussels marinara. Its light consistency makes it an ideal dipping sauce for cheese sticks, garlic bread, or other appetizers.

The versatility of marinara sauce is one reason it’s a staple in many Italian and Italian-American kitchens.

Nutritional Facts Of Pizza Sauce vs Marinara

Both pizza sauce and marinara sauce can be considered low-calorie food items, offering approximately 50 calories per 100g serving. The comparative nutritional breakdown of both sauces is as follows:

1. Carbohydrates: Pizza sauce has around 8.7g of total carbohydrates per 100g, including 2g of dietary fiber. In comparison, marinara sauce contains 8g of total carbohydrates, with 1.8g being dietary fiber.

2. Protein: While pizza sauce does contain slightly more protein than marinara sauce (2.18g versus 1.41g per 100g respectively), the difference is not significant.

3. Fats: Both sauces contain less than 2g of fats per 100g, categorizing them as low-fat foods.

4. Vitamins: Both sauces are good sources of vitamins A and B6. However, pizza sauce contains 5.5 times more vitamin C compared to marinara sauce, while marinara sauce holds the advantage in vitamin B3 content by being 2.7 times richer than pizza sauce.

So, both pizza and marinara sauces are not only flavorful but also contain substantial nutritional value.

Which Freezes Better: Pizza Sauce Or Marinara Sauce?

Both pizza sauce and marinara sauce freeze well due to their high acidity and low oil content. However, marinara sauce may be a better option for freezing as it has a thinner consistency than pizza sauce.

The thinner texture of marinara allows it to thaw more quickly and evenly, resulting in less risk of freezer burn or loss of flavor.

Pizza sauce can still be frozen successfully, but its thicker texture may require more time to thaw fully. It’s recommended to freeze pizza sauce in smaller portions, so it thaws quickly and avoids any waste.

In terms of shelf life, both sauces can be stored in the freezer for up to 3-4 months without significant changes in flavor or quality. After this period, they may still be safe to consume, but their taste and texture may be compromised.

Does Marinara Go With Pasta Or Pizza?

Marinara sauce pairs exceptionally well with pasta dishes, such as spaghetti and meatballs, linguine marinara, or fettuccine alfredo with marinara. Its tangy flavor complements the starchy pasta perfectly, making for a delicious combination.

However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be used on pizza. Marinara is commonly used as the base for Neapolitan-style pizza, giving it a fresh, light flavor that balances the richness of toppings like mozzarella and fresh vegetables.

Is Pizza Sauce The Same as Spaghetti Sauce?

While pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce may look similar, they’re quite different.

Pizza sauce, typically thick and rich in tomato flavor, is used as a base layer on pizzas. It’s made with tomatoes, garlic, and oregano, and cooked down to a thicker consistency.

Spaghetti sauce, or pasta sauce, is generally thinner and more varied in ingredients. It includes not only tomatoes but also a wider range of spices, vegetables, and sometimes meat, resulting in a more complex flavor profile.

The consistency and flavor nuances ensure that each sauce complements its intended dish perfectly – pizza sauce for a robust pizza base and spaghetti sauce for a hearty pasta dish.


In summary, the debate between pizza sauce vs marinara comes down to personal preference and the specific culinary application. 

Pizza sauce, with its bold, concentrated flavor and thicker texture, is ideal for dishes requiring a robust, tomato-forward profile. On the other hand, marinara sauce, with its bright, fresh flavor and lighter consistency, lends itself to a wider variety of dishes, particularly pasta and seafood.

Both sauces hold their nutritional benefits and freeze well, making them both valuable additions to any home cook’s repertoire.

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