What Is Marinara Sauce?

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Marinara sauce is a staple of Italian cooking and can be used to top simple pasta dishes or as a dipping sauce on the side. Hundreds of marinara sauce recipes exist, but all are variations of the same basic combination of ingredients.


The name marinara comes from the Italian word "marinaro," which means "seafaring" or "sailor."


This simple red sauce was first made for 16th century Italian sailors in Naples upon their return from a voyage at sea.


Recipes vary, but a basic marinara sauce is made of tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil, salt and pepper. While other pasta sauces contain meats like minced meat or sausage, marinara sauce does not.


Food Network chef Giada De Laurentiis adds chopped carrots, celery and onions to her recipe. Other recipes call for herbs such as oregano or parsley.


In addition to serving marinara sauce over pastas such as spaghetti and ravioli, it is often used for dipping mozzarella sticks and other finger foods.


Because the origin of the word marinara is associated with the sea, many people mistakenly believe the recipe includes seafood, such as anchovies.