Distinction: Marinara vs. Spaghetti Sauce Differences Unveiled

Marinara sauce vs. spaghetti sauce differences

Distinction: Marinara vs. Spaghetti Sauce Differences Unveiled

Marinara Sauce vs. Spaghetti Sauce Differences: Marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce are two famous and important components of Italian cuisine in the U.S. and all over the world.

However, are you sure that you know them as well as you thought? Do you use the terms “marinara sauce” and “spaghetti sauce” as two interchangeable terms? Well, these are two very distinct sauces, and in this article, we will answer the question: “What is the difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce?”

Marinara sauce vs. spaghetti sauce differences

What Is Marinara Sauce?

Marinara sauce, originating in Naples, Italy, is a basic tomato-based sauce comprising tomatoes, tomato juice, garlic, onions, olive oil, and herbs like basil or thyme.

The term “marinara” stems from its use by fishermen for seafood. Authentic Italian marinara has a thin consistency, while American versions tend to be thicker. While variations exist, maintaining the marinara identity involves ingredients like peppers or chili flakes. In some Italian regions, wine, capers, or olives may be added for a unique twist.

In the U.S., marinara sauce, influenced by Italian cuisine, is a vegetarian style with ingredients like olive oil or parmesan but excludes anchovies or meat.

True marinara, in the traditional Italian sense, avoids meat, cheese, or anchovies. Any additional ingredients would deviate from the authentic composition.

What is Spaghetti Sauce?

Sauces like spaghetti are for noodles. Marinara sauce goes with spaghetti. Some soups made with tomatoes don’t go well with spaghetti.

Basil or bolognese sauce can be used to cook spaghetti. Nab of olive oil or sage-butter pasta sauce.

Most pasta sauces are made with tomato or marinara. People often think spaghetti comes with red or marinara sauce, therefore the mistake is normal. But they are not the same.

Most people think of spaghetti sauce as a thick, delicious red tomato sauce with meat and cheese. Spaghetti sauce is any tomato-based sauce served over spaghetti in the U.S. and abroad.

Many different meals include spaghetti noodles and sauce, including spaghetti Aglio e Olio, spaghetti alla Carbonara, and spaghetti with meatballs, an Italian-American tomato-based dish.

What is the difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce?

Because these two are pretty similar, you can use both of them interchangeably for many recipes. But if you want to understand the preparation, flavor profiles, and texture better to decide which one is best to use for a particular meal, check out these significant differences:


A tomato-based spaghetti sauce cooked with meat has a decidedly richer and meatier flavor. Using this is great if you want all the flavors to combine together beautifully. 

Flavor-wise, however, the marinara sauce has a light yet complex flavor profile. It naturally brings out the individual tastes and aromas of each ingredient. It is also milder and allows you to experience all the flavors better. You can make your dish shine with a marinara sauce if you are using fresh ingredients. 

In other words, spaghetti sauce is best for creating flavor in a dish while marinara sauce works better in accenting a flavor or several flavors. Pro-tip: use the marinara sauce in seafood pasta dishes to allow the seafood flavors to come through. 


In terms of texture, there is a major difference between spaghetti sauce and marinara sauce. Marinara sauce is more liquid and thin while spaghetti sauce is a lot thicker thanks to the cheese, cream, veggies, and meat that are added. 

To make spaghetti sauce from a marinara foundation, you add other ingredients or more tomatoes. Alternatively, you can decrease a marinara sauce to acquire the typical thick thickness of spaghetti sauce. 

A thicker, reduced marinara sauce or a spaghetti cause is perfect for cooking robust and hearty comfort dishes. For more delicate foods, use a runny and velvety smooth marinara sauce instead.


Again, the basic ingredients for both sauces are very similar. The only significant difference is that spaghetti sauce needs meat. While marinara sauce is just tomatoes, basil, and garlic, you can put sausages, peppers, mushrooms, cheese, olives, and other ingredients into spaghetti. 

What many chefs suggest doing is to start with a marinara base and then add meat for a richer flavor. Some spaghetti sauce recipes can also be turned into a marinara sauce by merely taking out the meat. 


Unlike a thick tomato-based spaghetti sauce, cooking marinara sauce does not start with onions or any meat or meat flavorings. On the other hand, spaghetti sauce almost always requires meat.

Preparing spaghetti sauce starts with sauteing onions and garlic with olive oil and some meat like ground beef or neck bones before adding the tomato paste or sauce. You also need to simmer it longer to combine the flavor of the ingredients well and achieve the desired thickness. 

Therefore, if you want something quicker and easier to prepare, go for marinara sauce. If time is not a concern, choose a spaghetti sauce. 

Marinara sauce vs. spaghetti sauce differences

In Summary

Basically, marinara sauce is the base of what most people have come to know as spaghetti sauce. However, technically, spaghetti sauce can be made with or without a tomato base. While marinara sauce can be a spaghetti sauce, spaghetti sauce will not always be marinara. 

I hope this article was able to answer your question, “what is the difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce?”. If you have any more concerns, questions, or recommendations, feel free to leave them in the comments section down below!

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