Cookbook:Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce
Ravioli Marinara.jpg
Category Sauce recipes
Servings 6
Time 45 minutes

Cookbook | Ingredients | Recipes | Cuisine of Italy | Sauces

Marinara (mariner's) sauce is a southern Italian tomato sauce usually made with tomatoes, garlic, herbs (such as basil), and onion.[1][2][3] However, there are many variations. Some of these include the addition of capers, olives and spices.[4][5]

Traditional southern Italian cuisine utilizes this sauce to add flavor to pasta, rice, seafood and pizza.[6][7] This sauce is also widely used in Italian-American cuisine which has diverged significantly from its Old World origins.

Italians refer to marinara only in association with other recipes. For instance, spaghetti alla marinara literally translates to mariner's spaghetti. However, tomato sauce alone in Italy is called salsa al pomodoro or pummarola.


There are at least two folk theories as to the origin of this sauce: One says cooks aboard Neapolitan ships invented marinara sauce in the mid-16th century after Spaniards introduced the tomato (a New World vegetable) to Europe. This meat-free sauce was easy to make and resisted spoiling due to the high acid content of tomatoes. This made it ideal for lengthy sea voyages hundreds of years before refrigeration methods were invented. Another theory states this was a sauce prepared by the wives of Neapolitan sailors upon their return from sea.[8]

Historically, however, we know the first Italian cookbook to include tomato sauce,[9]Lo Scalo alla Moderna (The Modern Steward), was written by Italian chef Antonio Latini and was published in two volumes in 1692 and 1694. Latini served as the Steward of the First Minister to the Spanish Viceroy of Naples. [10][11][12]


The following recipe is based on the one by world-renowned chef Mario Batali cited in the references section below.


  • 6 tablespoons virgin olive oil
  • 225 grams (8 ounces) Spanish onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or one half teaspoon dried)
  • 4 teaspoons fresh basil leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 85 grams (3 ounces) red bell pepper, diced
  • 1.3 kilograms (1 pound and 14 ounces) skinless plum tomato, crushed by hand
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • salt to taste


  1. Heat oil in a sauce pan until it shimmers.
  2. Saute onions and garlic over medium heat for about 2 minutes until onions are translucent.
  3. Add the thyme, basil and bell pepper.
  4. Cook five minutes more.
  5. Add the tomatoes and sugar.
  6. Bring to a boil and then lower to a light simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.
  7. Season with salt to taste.
  8. Serve hot by ladling over pasta, seafood or rice.

See AlsoEdit


  1. Definition of marinara sauce on the Oxford Dictionary website
  2. Definition of marinara sauce on the Encarta website
  3. Definition of marinara sauce on the Your Dictionary website
  4. Giada Delaurentis' recipe for marinara sauce
  5. Mario Batali's recipe for marinara sauce on the Serious Eats website
  6. Spaghetti marinara recipe on the Taste website
  7. Penne marinara recipe on the Foodnetwork website
  8. Info on the origin of marinara sauce on the Italian Chef website
  9. Elizabeth David, Italian Food (1954, 1999), p 319, and John Dickie, Delizia! The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food, 2008, p. 162.
  10. Alan Davidson, "Europeans' Wary Encounter with Tomatoes, Potatoes, and Other New World Foods" in Chilies to Chocolate: Food the Americas Gave the World, (University of Arizona Press) 1992.
  11. Elizabeth David, Italian Food (1954, 1999), p 319, and John Dickie, Delizia! The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food, 2008, p. 162.
  12. Origins of Italian tomato sauce Retrieved 23 April 2011