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The Difference Between Marinara Sauce vs. Spaghetti Sauce

The Difference Between Marinara Sauce vs. Spaghetti Sauce

When Americans think of Italian food, pasta, pizza, and lots of sauces come to mind. However, most people in America do not understand all the delicate details that go into replicating authentic Italian dishes. A major component of many of our favorite entrees is a delicious tomato-based sauce, but before you start trying to whip together tortellini from scratch, you will want to know the differences between the many different sauces used in Italian cooking.

One of the first differences you need to understand is between marinara vs. spaghetti sauce. Many home cooks like to try to use marinara and spaghetti sauce interchangeably. While switching up the sauces may work out great for some dishes, there are specific purposes for both marinara and spaghetti sauces.

What is Marinara Sauce?

The base of any good marinara starts with tomatoes, herbs, garlic, and onion. Depending on the type of marinara, there may also be capers, olives, or wine in the recipe. Marinara sauce does not contain meat which makes it a vegetarian sauce. When made without cheeses, marinara is vegan!

Marinara sauce can also be thick or thin depending on the style. Traditional Italian marinara is thinner, while the sauces found in American restaurants are usually chunky and thick.

What is Spaghetti Sauce?

If you ask an Italian, there is no such thing as spaghetti sauce because there are so many ways to eat spaghetti noodles. However, most of us think of a thick, tomato-based meat sauce made with savory herbs and spices, poured generously over a heaping plate of noodles. Spaghetti sauces can also be thin depending on preference.

When To Use Marinara Sauce or Spaghetti Sauce

The main difference between spaghetti sauce and marinara is the addition of meat such as ground beef, sausage, veal, venison, or turkey (or a combination of these meats) that spaghetti sauce calls for in most recipes. When you need to make a spaghetti meal vegetarian or vegan, swap the spaghetti sauce for marinara sauce. The flavor will also be lighter without the richness of the meat sauce.

If your pasta contains seafood, marinara is a much better sauce option than a spaghetti meat sauce that will clash with the fresh flavors of the seafood. Many spaghetti and meatballs entrees are served with marinara, rather than a meat sauce, so the meatballs and sauce can stand on their own as highlights of the dish.

Marinara is a versatile pasta sauce that is great on spaghetti noodles, rigatoni, tortellini, pizza, sandwiches and more. You can even use marinara as a dipping sauce for mozzarella sticks, breadsticks, chicken strips, or cheesy bread. Spaghetti meat sauces are popular choices for spaghetti noodles and other hearty pasta dishes.

If you have to choose between a marinara or spaghetti sauce, the safest and most versatile choice is a good, hearty, classic marinara.

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