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What Is Marinara Sauce?

Updated April 17, 2017

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.

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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.

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About the Author

I have been a professional historian, museum curator, and author for more than a decade. I have served as the Museums Editor at BellaOnline since 2004. I am qualified to serve as an expert in a variety of historical topics. My expertise includes the Victorian Age and McKinley's presidency, the Roaring Twenties, the 1950s, the flu, museum studies, material culture, architecture, and more. I have a BA in history and an MA in history museum studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program. Please see my bio on my employer's website for more: http://www.mckinleymuseum.org/speakers_bureau/speaker/2

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