Marinara Vs. Tomato Sauce – Difference Between Marinara Sauce And Tomato Sauce

Sharing is caring!

Most of the time, people will never tell tomato sauce and marinara sauce apart because they likely look the same and taste the same. Things become even more confusing when you are asked to spot the difference between both sauces.

The two sauces are not the same.  We know both sauces contain tomatoes, yet there are a lot of differences between the two.

A regular marinara sauce contains garlic, some onion, oregano, and herbs. In contrast, tomato sauce has the same ingredients as marinara sauce, but there are additional condiments like anchovies, meats, seafood, carrots, and sometimes cheese.

Luckily, this article seeks to break down the difference between these two sauces, and I hope you will be more enlightened after reading.

Cooking Times

Tomato sauce usually takes hours to cook and simmer because it is influenced by the ingredients you add to the sauce. These ingredients might require a longer time for them to cook and become a sauce. For example, if you add meat to your sauce, you will need a longer time than when there is no meat.

While you can prepare a marinara sauce, usually under 30 minutes, the onion and garlic are prepared in olive oil, tomatoes are added with a little bit of basil or oregano. This usually cooks and simmers faster than a tomato sauce.


Usually, marinara sauce is described as being chunky, rich, and thick with the fresh tomato taste. The marinara sauce has less water than tomato sauce. On the other hand, some chefs prepare the marinara sauce by putting the tomatoes in a food processor to achieve a much smoother feel for the sauce.

Tomato sauces have a different process of preparation. You start the process by pureeing the tomatoes and cooking them with different spices, meats, and other ingredients.

They are almost all the time, thickened by simmering, and this happens because you need to let all the different ingredients in the sauce blend into the tomato. The benefit of your tomato sauce’s long-simmering is that you will get a very rich taste. This taste is much more complex than its marinara rival. So, if you are keen and observant, you can tell the difference between a marinara sauce from a tomato sauce just from the taste.


Since the marinara and tomato sauces have many differences, they will have different functions and uses.

Marinara sauce is a lot thinner, and its flavor is very simple. It is usually used best to complement your pasta meal or spread it on your pizza crusts. The lightness of the sauce and the tomato flavor makes it possible for the sauce not to overshadow the taste of your meal.

Usually, when you go to a grocery store, if there is a “pizza sauce’’ or “spaghetti sauce’’ plastered across a bottle, you can almost bet that it is marinara sauce.

On the other hand, tomato sauce has a very rich and creamy texture, the same as a sausage gravy can be used with pasta dishes, almost like a marinara sauce or splattered over meats. While marinara is always used as a pizza sauce, it is rare to find people using tomato sauce on their pizzas.

1. A Simple Marinara Recipe


There are a few things you can take into consideration when preparing a marinara sauce.

  1. Use whole tomatoes; if you like your marinara sauce to hold some bit of weight, it is very much advisable that you use whole tomatoes, crushing them as you cook them.
  2. The type of tomatoes; most cookbooks will recommend San Marzano tomatoes as the go-to tomatoes for making marinara sauce because they are very sweet and have a pure original tomato taste. The best part about this is, you can walk into any grocery store and have them readily available without much hassle.
  3. Unnecessary simmering; as earlier stated in the article, you do not need to simmer your marinara sauce for a very long time. A lot of folks enjoy it for its sweet and refreshing taste. If you simmer it for too long, you will take away this fresh taste that makes it awesome. This is the reason why it doesn’t have to be overly prepared.
  4. Water; if you are the type that likes to use just the sauce from the tomatoes, you will have a situation whereby your sauce will be spilling over, left, right, and center. The little trick of adding water will lighten the tomato paste and ingredients. It will give your marinara recipe a more sauce-like appearance. So, it is vital to know the trick behind adding the right amount of water.
  5. No sugar is needed; you may have come across many recipes advising you to add sugar to your marinara sauce to downsize and reduce the acidity level in your tomatoes. This addition of sugar might not be necessary at all. If you add the right ingredients and follow the proper simmering time, you will get a perfect sauce that does not require sugar.
  6. Basil is needed; one of the most fragrant herbs in the world is basil. This makes it a commonly used garnish and spice, and it gives your food an outstanding taste. It is recommended that you add it to your sauce to add to an already excellent taste.


  • ¼ c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 (28- oz.) can whole tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large sprigs of fresh basil.



  1. Get a large skillet, heat oil in it (medium heat). Add some onion to the oil and let it cook until you feel the softness. This usually goes on for about 4- 5 minutes. Add garlic, stir until the aroma comes out.
  2. Pour the tomatoes inside the skillet, ensure to divide the tomatoes. After this process, add the can of tomatoes into the skillet. Add to the sauce a sprinkling of red pepper flakes, oregano, salt, and red pepper. Put in the basil and stir while allowing the mixture to simmer.
  3. It would be best if you lowered the stove or burner’s heat and allow the mixture to keep simmering until some water has dried up.

The whole simmering and cooking process usually takes about 30 minutes. After this, you can take out the basil, then serve your delicious sauce.

2. Tomato Sauce

It is one of the most common sauces that you can make out of tomatoes.

It all comes down to cooking your fresh tomatoes until you get a thick sauce. Generally, tomatoes have the qualities of being soft, low liquid; they possess a rich flavor and have the ability to thicken up when you cook them. Tomato stands out as the best ingredient in a tomato sauce.

The most straightforward and most simple tomato sauce usually consists of tomato flesh that has been chopped, cooked in a little oil, flavored with spices and salt, and then simmered to the right texture. This sauce is usually served along with meat, vegetables, and sometimes pasta.



Basic Tomato Sauce Recipe

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, finely sliced
  • 1 small carrot or ½ large carrot evenly sliced.
  • 1 small stalk of celery, including the green tops
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 (28 oz.) can of whole tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet, then Cook the onion, celery, parsley, carrot gently. Stir continuously. Reduce the heat, cover your skillet, and allow your mixture to cook for 10- 15 minutes. Make sure the vegetables are softened at the end.
  2. Peel some garlic, wash them and add them to the mixture. Endeavor to turn up the heat, then cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, salt, and pepper to the mixture.
  4. Allow the mixture to simmer at low heat, cook until the mixture is thickened.


Another way you can prepare a tomato sauce;


  • 5-pound tomatoes
  • ¾ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 basil sprig
  • 2 tablespoon of ground black pepper.


Step 1; after washing your tomatoes thoroughly, cut them in half, discard the seeds or leave them, depending on your preference. Grate the tomato flesh into a bowl. The result should be four cups of fresh tomatoes.

Step 2; place the grated tomato in a large saucepan or skillet, heat it while adding salt, olive oil, tomato paste, garlic, and basil leaf. Allow your mixture to boil, then lower the heat and allow it to simmer for a while.

Step 3; reduce the sauce by half, stir the sauce continuously to produce a thick sauce. Continue this process for 15 minutes.

Final thoughts

You will find that marinara sauce does not have a complex flavor because of fewer ingredients added to it and the little time given to simmering. On the other hand, Tomato sauce possesses a lot of flavors because of the ingredients added to it. The long period of simmering allows the tomato sauce to absorb all the flavors.

Therefore, if you are looking for a sauce with many flavors, tomato sauce should be your ideal sauce. If you are looking for something less complex, you should try out the marinara sauce. This article has given you a lot of information about the differences between these two sauces.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment