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Pizza Sauce vs. Marinara Sauce (Most Important Differences)

Choosing Between Pizza Sauce vs. Marinara

You have a seemingly-endless number of tomato-based options in front of you, but no idea which to choose for the night— sound familiar? If you’re choosing between pizza sauce vs marinara sauce, then you’ve come to the right place. This is a succinct guide to the differences between the two, and how to choose which to use.

We all know that both pizza sauce and marinara are made from tomatoes, but that’s about where the similarities run out. The main difference between pizza sauce and marinara is in the levels of spice and the consistency of the sauces. Both can taste great on a pizza, but it just depends on the flavor you’re seeking.

For tomato lovers choosing between pizza sauce vs marinara sauce, the applications of each may seem endless. Can you substitute pizza sauce for marinara sauce? How about vice versa? Can you use marinara or pizza sauce on pasta? What about in recipes? In this article I’ll give you the lowdown on both sauces, as well as which to use in any situation.

What Is Pizza Sauce?

Pizza sauce is a creation originally designed to make the most flavorful pizza possible. It’s a simple and relatively thick sauce compared to marinara, as it’s also meant to be able to hold on to cheese and any other toppings you may want to put on your pizza. Like marinara it contains spices, almost always oregano and basil, as well as salt and crushed tomatoes. It’s cooked with all the ingredients together until it thickens up, and some sort of tomato paste is often added to strengthen the tomato flavor.

For example, a very popular brand, Rao’s Homemade’s Pizza Sauce contains: Italian Whole-Peeled Tomatoes, Italian Cherry Tomatoes, Olive Oil, Carrots, Onions, Salt, Oregano, Garlic, Basil.

The addition of cherry tomatoes and carrots here are to sweeten the sauce in a way that seems to appeal to Americans, while the garlic makes it even more savory. However, pizza sauce is different from tomato sauce used on pasta in part because of how much less sweet it is, and adding sugar to pizza sauce would be a travesty to most Italians. The key difference in pizza sauce vs. marinara is the emphasis upon a sweeter tomato-based sauce (pizza sauce) or a more savory tomato-based sauce (marinara sauce).

What Is Marinara Sauce?

Marinara is a much more diversely-applicable sauce than pizza sauce. If you’re not sure what you’ll use it for, but you want to keep some tomato-based sauce in the pantry and they’re all on sale, opt for the marinara. Not only does it notoriously take longer to make, as all the ingredients are supposed to be slow-roasted, but it’s got a much more basic flavor profile.

To compare to the their pizza sauce, Rao’s Homemade’s Marinara Sauce contains: Italian Whole Peeled Tomatoes, Olive Oil, Onions, Salt, Garlic, Basil, Black Pepper, Oregano.

At first glance this may look incredibly similar to the pizza sauce— because it is. But if you look more closely, you’ll notice that their marinara doesn’t contain cherry tomatoes nor carrots, like the pizza sauce does. This results in a lighter and somewhat less sweet sauce, and the sprinkle of black pepper and oregano on there are nothing compared to the punch of oregano flavor you’d get from a pizza sauce.

Yet the marinara is often thought of as more savory, and this is due to the addition of allium. Both modern marinaras and pizza sauces usually contain garlic, at least in the US, but marinara features the onion in a different way. Onions for a marinara sauce are roasted slowly, browning them until they’re sticky sweet & savory, and then blending them into whole crushed tomatoes before lightly cooking the mixture.

Quick FAQ

Can you substitute pizza sauce for marinara sauce?

This depends on the use. For pizza making you can substitute pizza sauce for marinara sauce, but more dips or pasta sauces you’d probably want to substitute canned crushed tomatoes for marinara rather than pizza sauce.

Are pizza sauce and marinara sauce the same?

No. Pizza sauce is generally a thicker and slightly sweeter sauce with more flavor of oregano and basil than marinara sauce.

Can marinara sauce be used for pizza?

Yes. But if you’re going to use marinara sauce for pizza, you may want to add more dried oregano and basil, and know that it will be less thick than a normal pizza sauce.

How do you make pizza sauce with marinara sauce?

To make pizza sauce with marinara, simply add extra oregano and basil to the sauce and cook it over low heat on the stovetop for 10-15 minutes in order to thicken it up.

Can you use pasta sauce for pizza?

While you can use whatever sauce you’d like on pizza, a pasta sauce will usually have a lot more basil and a lot less oregano than pizza sauce. Add extra dried oregano to the sauce, and also use slightly less of it than you’d normally prefer or else blend it until no longer chunky before spreading.

How long will pizza sauce last in the freezer?

Pizza sauce that’s frozen the day it’s opened should last at least 6 months in the freezer if store in an air-tight container.

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