Pizza Sauce vs Marinara

Pizza Sauce vs Marinara Sauce (aka Pasta Sauce)

Pizza Sauce vs Marinara Sauce?

When it comes to pizza, some people might think that there are only two kinds of sauces: marinara sauce and plain old tomato sauce. But in reality, the difference between them can be quite significant even though both are considered to be a tomato sauce.

While both have plenty of herbs like garlic or olive oil added in addition to spices such as basil for flavor; one contains tomatoes while the other doesn’t (Marinara).

The base ingredient is also different — tomato paste versus cooked fresh ones which give off more juice when sliced into salads, but they’re not just about taste. It’s what ingredients make up each type that matters most here.

Fun fact: there is an original Italian recipe called “alla Mariana”. This refers to a sauce which has in it tomatoes, oregano and basil.

Pizza Sauce vs Marinara Sauce

As mentioned above, most people are aware of the existence of marinara sauce as well as pizza sauce. The only problem is that the two sauces often get mistaken for one and the same sauce.

Continue on as we elaborate more on the differences between marinara and pizza sauce.

What Is Pizza Sauce/Tomato Sauce?

In the late 1800s, pizza was invented as an easy meal for people who worked at harvest time. The sauce has been around since ancient times and comes from a technique called “tomato pie.”

Pizza sauce is an essential ingredient in many classic Italian dishes, such as spaghetti al Pomodoro and lasagna. It is also a key component on a pizza crust. 

Pizza sauce is a red sauce made from fresh tomatoes or pureed tomatoes, garlic, and other spices. It is used as a base for Stromboli pizza or as a dipping sauce. 

Pizza sauces are typically made from crushed or puréed tomatoes, with added garlic and onion powder, oregano, basil, and salt.

Some pizza sauces also contain tomato paste, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and black pepper.

What Is In Pizza Sauce

Making a basic pizza sauce is not rocket science and can be made by anyone as long as you have the correct ingredients. A good thing to remember is that the base of any pizza sauce is of course tomatoes.

When making a pizza sauce we would advise you to use fresh tomatoes; if however you feel this is too much work, canned tomatoes will also do the trick. If you want to go really Italian, get yourself some San Marzano tomatoes. They are a bit on the expensive side, but they are definitely worth using.

Sugar is another vital ingredient of a good pizza sauce. Both brown and white sugar will do. Sugar is necessary to cut through the acidity of tomatoes. If you do not want to have a bland sauce, then be sure to add sugar.

Be sure to have some salt, pepper — preferably freshly ground — and Italian seasoning to give that sauce some additional flavor. If you cannot find premixed Italian seasoning, simply make your own by mixing dried oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary.

Like with everything Italian, adding garlic is vital.

Other Ingredients

Here are a few other ingredients that we recommend you add to your pizza sauce. They are however not necessary:

  • Diced onions
  • Fennel seeds
  • Parmesan cheese — not necessary if you are adding it as a topping as well.
  • Olive oil — typically used to thin the mixture, but also adds  a better flavor than other oils such as canola or sunflower oil.
  • Garlic powder
  • Crushed red pepper

Guide To Making Pizza Sauce

Here is our take on a pizza sauce recipe.

Follow these simple steps to make an easy homemade pizza sauce in the comfort of your own home.

Note that this sauce does not need any cooking. If you want to, you can fry your onions and garlic before using them, but this is definitely not a necessity. 

As for the tomatoes. Above we mentioned that you can choose between using tinned tomatoes or fresh ones. If you go for the canned ones, we suggest that you use equal parts of whole tomatoes and chopped tomatoes. If you choose to use whole fresh tomatoes, peel them and then chop them up.

To make all the ingredients into a sauce, simply add all the spices along with the tomato chunks to a blender or food processor and purée them to a consistency of your liking. Remember that you want a thicker pizza sauce on your pizza dough; you do not want it running down the sides. 

Tip: if you do not use all the sauce, simply freeze it and use it at a later stage.

Side note: transform your pizza sauce into a lovely salsa by adding some hot sauce.

What is Marinara Sauce/Pasta Sauce?

Marinara sauce refers to a type of tomato-based sauce that is typically used as a dipping sauce — for mozzarella sticks, for example — or a topping for pasta dishes. It can easily be served together with Italian sausage, meatballs or ground beef to make a spaghetti sauce in the pasta dish. The Italian word for this would be ragù.

Marinara sauce is made with tomatoes, garlic, onions, and other herbs and spices.

Marinara sauce — which is commonly referred to as tomato sauce — is usually red and has a slightly chunky texture. It can range from being sweet to tangy in taste and is typically lower in fat and calories than other types of sauces. Marinara sauce can be made fresh or store-bought and can be served either hot or cold.

The sauce dates back to Italy’s first tomato arrival in Europe in the 16th century. Its name, “Marinara or Mariana sauce,” is derived from a cook named Maria who whipped up this dish for some hungry sailors, and it has been an audience favorite ever since.

Tomatoes and garlic are the main ingredients in marinara sauce. It’s made with olive oil, salt, pepper along with other spices that give it a unique flavor.

Marinara sauce is a classic pizza sauce that is made with tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. It is simple, yet flavorful, and pairs well with all types of toppings.

What Is In Marinara Sauce

Marinara is considered to be a traditional tomato sauce.

The main component of marinara is a premade tomato sauce. Note that by tomato sauce we do not mean ketchup — the two are very different in taste. If you want to add more texture to your sauce, simply throw in a couple of diced fresh tomatoes.

Fresh basil, garlic — lots of it — and onions are also found in this sauce. Other spices may include bay leaves and red pepper flakes.

Salt and black pepper are always essential spices to use in cooking. Just make sure that the tomato sauce that you are using as a base does not already contain enough of it. Some tomato sauces can be bought spiced.

Add a splash of balsamic vinegar to the mix if you want the flavor to be more tangy.

Guide To Making Marinara Sauce

Unlike a homemade pizza sauce, the marinara sauce requires a bit of cooking. 

To begin with, you need to sauté your onions in olive oil. When your onions start to become translucent, add to the pan your garlic and spices and let that cook together with the onions for a bit. Doing this will give the sauce a more robust flavor.

Up next, add your smooth tomato sauce, turn down the heat and let the mixture simmer for a while. And last but not least, add the fresh basil leaves and voilà you have a marinara sauce.

Side note: many people choose to blend the mixture, but an authentic marinara sauce is left as is. The choice is yours.

The Difference Between Pizza Sauce and Marinara Sauce

So, what are the major differences in pizza sauce vs marinara?


  • The pizza sauce is a bit more complex when it comes to ingredients when compared to marinara. It also has a slightly different flavor.
  • The difference between marinara sauce and pizza sauce is like night vs day but yet they are so similar. Marinara sauces contain tomato sauce, garlic, olive oil with basil whereas the pizza sauce relies on fresh or tinned tomatoes for its base. Pizza sauce also contains sugar, which gives it a slightly sweeter taste, in comparison to marinara sauce that can contain vinegar, making it more tangy.


  • Pizza sauce is generally thicker than marinara, which has a thinner consistency. This consistency comes from the addition of tomato paste, which gives it more flavor and makes up for whatever thickness you might notice in your dish when compared to other sauces on restaurant menus today.
  • Pizza sauce is typically made with crushed  tomatoes, which have more liquid than whole peeled ones. This means that it’s thinner and not as consistency-driven when you make the dish yourself.
  • Marinara sauce typically goes great as an appetizer or dipping choice, while Pizza’s signature ingredient status has it being used in almost every dish imaginable – including pasta dishes.
  • Pizza sauce is red and has more salt than marinara. It also contains sugar, which helps cut through the strong flavors of cheese or meat on top of a pizza pie.


  • For those who are looking for a traditional marinara sauce, it will have an acidic and tart flavor because there are no added seasonings. However, if you spice up your dish by adding spices such as onion powder or olives to the tomatoes in this recipe, then expect more flavors that cozy up on your taste buds.
  • The addition of tomato paste makes this sauce thicker and more concentrated, allowing all the flavors to stand out.
  • One of the most popular pizza styles across cultures is definitely red sauce-based. However, there are other types that use white or yellow sauces instead – these have herbs and butter combined with cheese on top for extra flavor.

The Cooking Process

  • The main difference between pizza sauce and marinara is the cooking method. Pizza sauce uses whole peeled tomatoes, and whole garlic cloves are embedded in the canned versions of the latter. The flavor profile across both dishes also varies depending on whether they’re cooked by boiling or steaming; this means there’s no single way to make either dish.
  • Pizza sauce is not cooked before it is used, whereas marinara is.

Marinara vs Pizza Sauce: Similarities

The first thing you’ll notice if comparing these:

  • Both pizza sauce and marinara are red sauces that are used as a pizza topping as well as on pasta dishes.
  • Both tomato sauces belong to Italian cuisine.
  • Both pizza sauce and marinara sauce use tomatoes as a base ingredient and most of the same spices are included in both recipes.
  • Both tomato based sauces can be blended and have a similar consistency. They are quite runny, but not as runny as tomato juice and not as thick as tomato puree either.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and which of the two sauces you prefer. Some people swear by the flavor of pizza sauce, while others find marinara more savory. Try both and see which you like better.

Can One Interchange The Two Sauces?

As you may have noticed from the information above, the marinara sauce and the pizza sauce are very similar to one another but yet somehow quite different.

So, can one be used instead of the other? The answer is somewhat yes.

Pizza sauce being a type of tomato sauce, we would not suggest that you replace marinara sauce with it. But you can use pizza sauce as a base tomato sauce to make a marinara sauce.

Before using marinara sauce on top of pizza, blend it and then add some tomato puree to give it a thicker consistency. You want a thick consistency to avoid it from running over the sides.

Just remember that when you use marinara sauce instead of a pizza sauce, the flavor of your pizza may be slightly altered. This is because the marinara sauce will provide you with a more herbaceous flavor rather than a sweet one.

Conclusion on Pizza Sauce vs Marinara

So my fellow pizza lovers, which sauce is right for you? 

It really depends on your preferences and what you are looking for in a pizza. Pizza sauce and marinara are both delicious red sauces that can be used to top pizzas and pasta dishes. If you want a classic, traditional pizza sauce, go with marinara sauce. If you are looking for something a bit sweeter or spicier, then pizza sauce may be the better choice.

Either way, both will give you a lovely taste of Italy no matter where in the world you are.

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