Decoding the Distinction: Pizza Sauce vs. Marinara Sauce

Pizza vs. Marinara Sauce – What’s the difference?

With so many tomato-based sauces, it can be hard to keep up with their differences, especially when they’re all from the same cuisine. Italy is well known for being a pillar in the culinary world when it comes to sauces.

Pizza Sauce

Pizza sauce is a smooth tomato sauce made by blending raw ingredients. It’s not cooked until it’s added to the pizza. A real pizza sauce (a traditional tomato sauce) is made with fresh tomatoes that are blended. Some seasonings may be added, such as salt and pepper, but no preservatives or additives are used. Every cuisine and even culture has its own version. Since pizza is Italian, it is best to follow their definitions of “pizza sauce” and their recipes and methods to get the best and most authentic dish.

Pizza Ingredients

The base of any pizza sauce is tomatoes. Personally, we would only use fresh ones, but if you’re not up to the challenge, some canned tomatoes or even canned tomato sauces actually taste very fresh and will do in a pinch. When using canned tomatoes, use half whole, peeled, and half crushed. If you are using fresh tomatoes, you will need to process them before making the sauce (we will discuss this in the next section).
Sugar (white or brown granulated sugar) is a must, as it cuts through the acidity and rawness of the tomatoes. Without it, the sauce will be bland and unappetizing.
Next, we will look at the basic seasoning ingredients, which include salt, black pepper, and Italian seasoning. Salt is an essential ingredient in any recipe, especially savory ones. Black pepper should preferably be freshly ground for maximum flavor, and Italian seasoning is a must. Italian seasoning is a blend of dried herbs such as basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme. You can also blend your own and even add some dried garlic flakes.
Which brings us to our next ingredient, garlic. As we’ve just mentioned, adding garlic flakes is one option, but adding freshly minced garlic is a better option. Garlic is a very fragrant aromatic that is essential in Italian cuisine.
Now we come to our less essential but highly recommended ingredients. These are onion, fennel seeds, parmesan cheese and olive oil. Finely chopped shallots or onions act in the same way as garlic, as an aromatic. It really makes a big difference, adding texture and a semi-sweet, savory flavor. The addition of Parmesan cheese is completely optional, especially if you are adding it as a topping. The olive oil is mainly there to thin the mixture if needed. Olive oil also adds a better flavor compared to other oils such as sunflower or canola.

How to make pizza sauce

Making pizza sauce doesn’t require any cooking. Just put all the ingredients in a blender and blend for a few seconds. If you like your sauce smoother and thinner, blend longer. The ingredients we add are onions, garlic, Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese, fresh basil leaves and fresh tomatoes.
Let’s take a quick look at the tomato situation. If you are using fresh whole tomatoes, first remove the skin by boiling them in hot water for 1 minute. Then cut the whole tomato into pieces and add them to your sauce base. If you are using canned tomatoes, just add them to the mixture. You may need more sugar to balance the metallic taste and acidity.
If you want to get the most out of your pizza sauce and save it for future pizzas, you can even freeze your pizza sauce when you’re done.


Because of the ingredients used and the way it is made, if done correctly, you should end up with a sauce that is on the thicker side – definitely spreadable, but by no means a tomato paste. The color should be a nice bright red and you will smell deep umami aromas.


First, the way pizza sauce is used on pizza is as follows: spread a layer of sauce on the pizza before adding toppings and cooking in the oven or on an open fire. Pizza sauce is a versatile sauce. It is most commonly used on pizza, but it is also a fantastic sauce for pasta. You can add it to plain pasta or add additional ingredients like meat and vegetables. You can also easily turn your pizza sauce into a salsa by simply adding some hot sauce or chiles, black beans, red onions, and extra whole fresh tomatoes. This makes the mixture chunkier and also adds a ton of extra flavor. Another very interesting use we’ve heard of lately is making a cocktail. Just use your fresh pizza sauce instead of tomato juice in a Bloody Mary recipe! Pizza sauce is also a great marinade for vegetables and beef.

Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce is also a tomato-based sauce, but it differs from pizza sauce in its cooking process and ingredients. Marinara sauce is cooked before being added to another dish and contains other ingredients in addition to tomato sauce.

Sauce Ingredients

The base of marinara sauce is also tomatoes, but unlike pizza sauce, marinara sauce uses cooked tomatoes. You can use canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes that have been cooked down to the consistency of sauce. Other ingredients commonly found in marinara sauce include olive oil, garlic, onions, herbs such as basil and oregano, and sometimes a touch of red pepper flakes for a bit of heat. The specific proportions and variations of these ingredients may vary according to personal preference and regional traditions.


To make the marinara sauce, first heat the olive oil in a pan and sauté the minced garlic and onion until they are fragrant and soft. Then add the tomatoes and simmer for a while to allow the flavors to meld. This cooking process helps develop a richer and deeper flavor compared to uncooked pizza sauce.


Marinara sauce has a thinner consistency than pizza sauce and is typically smoother in texture. It has a bright red color and a robust, savory flavor profile. The cooking process allows the flavors to meld and intensify, resulting in a more complex flavor.


Marinara sauce is incredibly versatile and can be used in a wide variety of dishes. It is commonly used as a pasta sauce, served over cooked pasta with or without additional ingredients such as meatballs or sauteed vegetables. Marinara sauce can also be used as a dipping sauce for breadsticks or as a base for dishes such as lasagna or baked ziti. It adds a burst of flavor to any dish it is added to.


In summary, the main difference between pizza sauce and marinara sauce is their ingredients and cooking methods. Pizza sauce is uncooked and made from blended raw tomatoes, while marinara sauce is cooked and contains additional ingredients such as garlic, onions, and herbs. Pizza sauce is primarily used on pizzas, but can also be used as a pasta sauce. Marinara sauce, on the other hand, is a versatile sauce that can be used in a variety of Italian dishes. Understanding the differences between these two sauces can help you choose the right one for your culinary creations.


What is the main difference between pizza sauce and marinara sauce?

Pizza sauce is uncooked and made from blended raw tomatoes, while marinara sauce is cooked and contains additional ingredients such as garlic, onions, and herbs.

Can I use pizza sauce instead of marinara sauce?

Yes, you can use pizza sauce as a substitute for marinara sauce in certain dishes. However, keep in mind that pizza sauce has a different flavor profile and consistency, so the end result may vary.

Can I use marinara sauce as a pizza sauce?

While marinara sauce can be used as a pizza sauce, it may have a thinner consistency and slightly different flavor than traditional pizza sauce. Experimenting with different sauces can be a fun way to create unique pizza flavors.

What are some common uses for pizza sauce?

Pizza sauce is primarily used as a topping for pizza. However, it can also be used as a sauce for pasta dishes or made into a salsa by adding additional ingredients such as hot sauce, chiles, and fresh tomatoes.

How do I make pizza sauce from scratch?

To make pizza sauce from scratch, combine fresh tomatoes with seasonings such as salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. You can also add garlic, onion, and olive oil for extra flavor. Adjust the consistency and taste to your liking.

What are some typical uses for marinara sauce?

Marinara sauce is commonly used as a pasta sauce, served over cooked pasta with or without additional ingredients. It can also be used as a dipping sauce for breadsticks or as a base for dishes such as lasagna or baked ziti. Its versatility makes it a staple in Italian cuisine.