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Difference Between Marinara and Spaghetti Sauce – Marinara and Pizza Sauce

There are endless possibilities in cooking, especially when it comes to sauces. But where do you start when it comes to Marinara and Spaghetti Sauce? Whatever you decide, this post will tell you the difference between marinara and spaghetti Sauce.

Marinara and spaghetti sauce are both types of tomato sauces for pasta. Marinara is a simple sauce made with just a few key ingredients: tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and basil, while spaghetti sauce is a heartier sauce that contains most often tomato, onion, and ground beef as well as spices such as oregano and parsley.

Also, spaghetti sauce and marinara are very similar, but the two are prepared differently. Marinara is a quick red sauce made using fresh ingredients, including tomatoes and garlic. Spaghetti sauce tends to simmer all day, allowing time for the flavors of the herbs and meat to mix together. 

These sauces can also have differing amounts of seasonings that give them different tastes and consistencies. For example, marinara uses a lighter quantity of seasonings, while spaghetti sauce generally requires more seasonings and more cooking time to achieve its distinct taste.

Although tomato-based sauces that include ground beef, Italian sausage, or other meats are also often called spaghetti sauces, a true spaghetti sauce is made with only tomatoes. This type of spaghetti sauce is commonly called marinara sauce.

What’s Marinara Sauce?

What's Marinara SauceMarinara sauce is a simple sauce made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, seasonings like basil, oregano, and sometimes even a pinch of crushed red pepper. It is the kind of thing you can find in someone’s kitchen pretty much anywhere in Italy.


 Its origin as a sailors’ sauce is where the term “marinara” comes from—the “marine-style” sauce was one that a sailor would have been given on his ship. Marinara is great for pizza, pasta, lasagna, fish dishes, etc.

What Is Marinara Sauce Used For

Marinara sauce is most commonly used as a pasta sauce because its consistency is thinner than many other Italian sauces. Other foods which make use of this sauce include pizza and Italian bread.

It is an uncooked tomato-based sauce used in Italian cuisine. Frequently confused with spaghetti sauce, marinara sauce is thinner and brighter and does not contain meat. Marinara may be used on pasta, pizza, or a dipping sauce for breadsticks.

A simple marinara sauce can be made by adding olive oil and garlic to tomatoes, then seasoning it with salt and pepper.

What is Spaghetti Sauce?

Made from tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and spices, Spaghetti Sauce is a common sauce that accompanies pasta. There are many versions of the sauce in terms of consistency, tomato type, and cooking method.

It is seasoned with herbs, vegetables, and spices. The sauce may be made with meat or vegetables, and it can be made hot or mild.

 The sauce can range from very basic (olive oil, garlic, diced tomatoes, and fresh basil) to a sophisticated mix of ingredients such as anchovy filets, eggplant, capers, and spices.

There are many different varieties of spaghetti sauce, including marinara, meat sauce, and pesto.

Is Marinara and Spaghetti Sauce Different in Flavor?

Both have their roots in Italian cuisine, but it depends on where you are in Italy and which one you’ll be served. Spaghetti sauce is seasoned with oregano, while marinara is not. Marinara includes only tomatoes, while spaghetti can also include other vegetables. Marinara has a thinner consistency than spaghetti.

The marinara sauce has a somewhat sweet flavor, while the sauce for spaghetti has a sweeter taste. Marinara sauce is also lighter and thicker. It was originally made with tomatoes, garlic, and fresh herbs, similar to what we use today while spaghetti sauce is prepared with a tomato base and meat (or vegetarian). In Italian, it’s called “sugo alla bolognese” – Bolognese Sauce.

Meanwhile, Marinara sauce is just spaghetti sauce that hasn’t added any meats. Spaghetti Sauce has several types of meats like sausage and ground beef added to it. Usually refers to Italian Style sauces in the US. In other countries, it’s just a synonym for tomato sauce.

What Is the Difference Between Marinara Sauce and Spaghetti Sauce?

Marinara Sauce is a traditional southern Italian sauce made from tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and onions. It is quick to make, simple, and delicious. Spaghetti Sauce is an American term that simply means any type of sauce simmered with meat.

Marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce are two different kinds of Italian sauces. Marinara is a simpler, raw tomato sauce that includes garlic, olive oil, and herbs like oregano and basil. Spaghetti sauce is a thicker, heartier tomato sauce that includes more ingredients and simmers for a longer period.

Another difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce is that marinara is one of the most popular sauces in Italy, and not many people know it, but there is NO cheese in marinara. Instead, it is a red sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, onion, and sometimes basil. And it can be made from scratch using a tomato-based sauce deluxe kit from Target.

Are Both Marinara Sauce and Spaghetti Sauce Prepared the Same Way

Both spaghetti sauce and marinara sauce are not prepared the same way. Marinara sauce typically contains tomatoes, garlic, onions, and basil, which are all simmered for about a half hour. Spaghetti sauce is simmered for many hours. The sauce ingredients in a spaghetti sauce usually include garlic, onions, and oregano. Additionally, spaghetti sauce may contain meat and olive oil.

They are definitely in different categories, but they’re not prepared in different ways. So, for example, you might add sugar to a spaghetti sauce, but tomatoes that go into marinara sauce are compared to plain canned tomatoes.

Although, the basic preparation for spaghetti and marinara sauce is the same:

  • Start with a base of olive oil.
  • Add onion and garlic and saute.
  • Add other ingredients like ground beef or crushed tomato.

But the concluding part of the preparation might be different.

Can You Substitute Marinara Sauce as a Spaghetti Sauce?

Can You Substitute Marinara Sauce as a Spaghetti SauceYou can use a marinara sauce as a spaghetti sauce, but they’re not the same thing. Marinara sauce is most often used over pasta and is made with tomatoes and tomato sauce, basic spices, and other ingredients like onions, peppers, mushrooms, garlic, or herbs. Some of those extras are commonly used in spaghetti sauce, but you can also find other less common ingredients like meatballs.

However, with marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce, you can use either interchangeably depending on the style of pasta you are serving. For example, if you have meat in your dish, using a spaghetti sauce is probably your best answer. However, if you have no meat like a vegetable lasagne or something of that nature, then using a marinara is a great combination.

Marinara is essentially a sauce, whereas spaghetti sauce can be loaded with meat and cheese, or not, as you wish. You can use marinara on your spaghetti, but you can add any other ingredients you like to it as well.

Is Marinara Sauce the Same as Tomato Sauce

Marinara sauce is a tomato-based sauce typically made with tomatoes, garlic, oregano, or basil. Some cooks use crushed red pepper flakes to spice up the sauce. Marinara sauce is not the same as tomato sauce. It’s thinner than your typical tomato sauce and often more tart because it doesn’t contain added sugar.

On the other hand, the marinara sauce could refer to a fresh tomato sauce (i.e., one that hasn’t been cooked) or simply a tomato sauce made with onions and garlic but no meat. This last definition of marinara gets closer to the meaning of tomato sauce, a homemade Italian-American concoction intended to be paired with pasta. In addition, marinara has different flavors than an American-style ketchup-style tomato sauce–marinara is spicier and more acidic.

Although they are both made with tomatoes, marinara typically starts with whole peeled tomatoes puréed to the desired consistency. The marinara sauce doesn’t have to be cooked (although it’s fine if you do); you can use it right out of the jar as a dipping sauce or accompaniment to Italian food such as gnocchi and breadsticks. On the other hand, Tomato sauce is used for cooking other dishes. Usually starting as paste or puree that has been concentrated from dozens of tomatoes down to one jarful, tomato sauce is used to flavor dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, or chicken parmesan.

Difference Between Marinara and Pizza Sauce

The difference between pizza sauce and marinara paste and texture. Marinara sauce is typically chunkier, so it’s typically used on dishes where you want the chunks of tomatoes to show up, such as dipping with bread rather than pizza. On the other hand, pizza sauce tends to be smoother and more spreadable, so it’s easier to do a layer of sauce on the pizza or other dish without worrying about chunks getting in the way.

However, Pizza sauce and marinara sauce are often used interchangeably, but there is a slight difference between the two sauces. While marinara was the first tomato paste-based pasta sauce, today, marinara is generally thinner than pizza sauce and includes herbs (usually oregano, basil, and parsley). Therefore, marinara should be used as a dipping sauce for breadsticks or mozzarella sticks or as an accompaniment for Italian meats like salami and prosciutto. 

Pizza sauce is thicker than marinara because it does not contain cream. In addition, it tends to have more of a “spicy” flavor due to the addition of onions and garlic. For this reason, it should be used in dishes that already contain those spices and flavors. For example, suppose you make a meatball parmesan and add onion or garlic to your meatballs, breadcrumbs, or Parmesan cheese coating. In that case, you can try using pizza sauce instead of marinara.

In general, the main difference between pizza sauce and marinara sauce is that the first one was created to pair with pizza. The latter had ingredients like tomato, garlic, onion, and Italian herbs. At the same time, pizza sauce combines those ingredients, plus additional seasonings like sugar, oregano, basil, fennel, and red pepper flakes.

Can I Use Marinara Sauce for Spaghetti?

It’s a kind of pasta sauce made from tomatoes, onions, herbs, and garlic. It’s commonly used with spaghetti (in fact, spaghetti with marinara sauce is one of the most popular ways to serve spaghetti), but it’s also delicious with penne or fettuccine.

Classic spaghetti with marinara sauce is a great option for a healthy and delicious pasta dish. It tastes amazing, save on prep time (because you can just use jarred marinara), and it is incredibly nutritious.

Substitute for Marinara and Spaghetti Sauce

Substitute for Marinara and Spaghetti SauceThe following are substitutes for Marinara and Spaghetti Sauce:

1. Bolognese Sauce 

This thick, rich, sofrito-based sauce is the perfect substitute for Marinara and Spaghetti Sauce. Bolognese Sauce is a traditional meat-based sauce originating from Bologna, Italy. Unfortunately, most recipes are long, labor-intensive, and made with a bone broth with many calories. 

The quick and easy recipe uses minced meat to replace the broth and save you both time and calories. The sauce tastes great, or you can use it as a base for any other pasta dish. We recommend serving it over spaghetti with some freshly grated parmesan cheese for best results.

 If you want a true Italian sauce, use this Bolognese sauce. It’s thick, rich, and creamy.  

2. Amatriciana Sauce

Amatriciana Sauce is an interesting substitute for a Marinara or Spaghetti Sauce. It is more assertively flavored using Italian guanciale (cured pork jowl), red pepper flakes, and plenty of garlic and has no added sugar. 

Try our Amatriciana sauce, and experience the flavors of the Italian countryside. It is made with diced tomatoes, bacon, and onions; this sauce is a solid choice if you’re looking for a classic spaghetti sauce.

3. Alla Norma Sauce 

Alla Norma is the perfect ready-made pasta sauce. The rich taste of sun-ripened Italian tomatoes combines with the flavor and aroma of basil, eggplant, and Pecorino cheese. It’s the perfect substitute for marinara and spaghetti sauces. And it couldn’t be easier–just simmer it on your stovetop for a few minutes, then serve it with your favorite pasta.

3. Puttanesca Sauce

 It’s a great veggie option that makes your pasta dishes more nutritious and delicious.

This sauce combines the elements of the classic Italian sauce with the addition of capers, green olives, and anchovies. Boil it, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Use this sauce over penne or other pasta or as a coating for chicken breasts.

Puttanesca sauce is an aromatic Italian sauce made with ingredients common in Italian cooking. The sauce typically includes tomatoes, garlic, olives, capers, and spices.

What Can I Add to Marinara Sauce for Spaghetti?

There are lots of things that you can add to spaghetti with marinara sauce. Vegetables like capers with garlic, basil, onions, and black pepper are lovely. You can also sprinkle grated cheese on it after serving.

Also, add meat, like ground beef or Italian sausage. Or try meatballs. Top with mozzarella cheese and let it melt into the marinara sauce.

Add more seasonings, such as minced fresh herbs or dried Italian seasoning, to a marinara sauce too thick. Heat the sauce on a stove over medium heat and whisk in the seasonings. Add up to 2 tablespoons of water each time you add additional seasoning.

How to Decide Which Sauce to Use for Your Dish

How to Decide Which Sauce to Use for Your DishThere are many different things you can do. One of those things is figuring out what kind of sauce you want. The below list will help you decide which sauce to use for your dish so that you can start cooking and enjoying delicious meals.

1. Through Flavor

The flavor is the most important quality when choosing a sauce. Is this sauce going to compliment the flavors already present in your dish, or is its flavor overpowering everything else? The sauce adds a special flavor to any dish, so make sure that they are equal in taste. 

For example, if you have salt fish, it would be best to make some “firm fish” so that both salted sauces are equal in flavor.

However, the base of a sauce can be the foundation for broad culinary influence or the finishing touch on a dish. Beyond flavor, these different foundations also impart unique functional benefits.


Choosing a sauce or flavor for your dish makes a big difference to its taste and texture. Therefore, it’s important to pick a sauce that will not overpower the other ingredients and complement the dominant flavors in your cooking.

Meanwhile, Choosing a sauce or flavor for your dish makes a big difference to its taste and texture. So it’s important to pick a sauce that will not overpower the other ingredients and complement the dominant flavors in your cooking.

Meanwhile, the key is to learn some basic principles about sauces so that you can begin to experiment with these delicious condiments, whether making them yourself or serving them as part of a meal.

2. Texture

The texture is the most important aspect when pairing a sauce with a dish. A good place to start is with the texture of the dish itself. If it’s light and delicate, pair it with a delicate sauce. Think fettuccine Alfredo, which has a rich, creamy texture like the pasta itself, or angel hair pasta primavera, which is delicate and fresh with marinara sauce. If your dish has bold flavors, pair it with something bold.

For example, chunky, textured sauces might pair better with food that has similar textures. More smooth ones could work with pasta, meat, or other foods with fewer textured surfaces. Think of the difference between tomato sauce on spaghetti versus barbecue sauce on sliced chicken breasts.

Generally, The texture of your sauce should complement the texture of your dish — if meat is heavy and dense, choose a smooth and creamy sauce or a thinner and runnier sauce to contrast it. Thick and hearty stews can be served with roux-based sauces such as bechamel or gravy, while lighter soups can be served with oil-based emulsions such as a vinaigrette or beurre blanc. 

Consider the main flavorings in your dish as well — emulsions will blend more harmoniously with butter-rich dishes than oil-based vinaigrettes. Make sure to match flavors and textures when choosing sauces.

3. Preparation time

When it comes to preparing a meal, much of the time is spent on deciding what to make. You can choose from several sauces, and it’s good to know how long each takes to make.

The longer you plan to cook your sauce, the thicker it should be. This is because thinner sauces will often reduce down too much and overpower the other ingredients in your dish.

Take note of how much time the sauce will take to prepare, whether you can prepare it ahead of time or whether it needs to be prepared while cooking the main dish. 


Since you can now tell the difference between marinara and spaghetti sauce, then it’s clear that the color of the sauce is usually a good indication. Marinara will generally be a light red, and it is made from fresh chopped tomatoes that have been cooked down with olive oil. On the other hand, spaghetti sauce will be darker in color, and most of the time, it will contain more spices.

Can You Substitute Marinara Sauce as a Spaghetti Sauce

Marinara Recipe

Marinara is a quick red sauce made using fresh ingredients, including tomatoes and garlic.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Marinara Recipe
Servings: 4
Calories: 112kcal


  • 1 Saucepan


  • 28 ounces tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • red pepper flakes
  • Salt


  • Combine the tomatoes (and their juices), halved onion, garlic cloves, olive oil, oregano, and red pepper flakes in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan (if using).
  • Over medium-high heat, bring the sauce to a simmer, then reduce the heat to maintain a slow, constant simmer for 45 minutes, or until oil floats clear of the tomatoes. After around 15 minutes, stir occasionally and smash the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a heavy wooden spoon.
  • Remove the onion from the pot and turn off the heat. Use a fork to pound the garlic cloves against the pot’s side, and then whisk the crushed garlic into the sauce. With any microscopic onion pieces you may find, repeat the process. Crush the tomatoes to your preferences with the wooden spoon (you can blend this sauce smooth with an immersion blender or stand blender, if desired).
  • Add salt as desired (the tomatoes are already pretty salty, so you might just need a pinch). Serve hot. For up to 4 days, this sauce keeps nicely when covered and kept in the fridge. Keep it frozen for up to six months.



Calories: 112kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 12mg | Potassium: 523mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1662IU | Vitamin C: 30mg | Calcium: 37mg | Iron: 1mg
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