Italian cuisine is renowned for its bold, flavorful dishes and sauces; none are more iconic than the classic marinara sauce. Made from simple ingredients like tomatoes, basil, garlic, and olive oil, used for marinara sauce is a staple in Italian kitchens. It is used in various dishes, from pasta to pizza. In this article, we’ll delve into the history and origins of marinara sauce and explore the key ingredients that make it so delicious and versatile.

The History and Origins of Marinara Sauce:

The marinara sauce originated in Naples, Italy, in the 16th century. The sauce was made initially by sailors and fishermen, who would prepare it on board their ships using simple ingredients like tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. The sauce was named “marinara,” which means “of the mariner,” to reflect its origins. Over time, the marinara sauce became a staple in Italian cuisine, and today it is one of the country’s most popular and widely used sauces.

The Key Ingredients in Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce is made from a few simple ingredients, but the quality of those ingredients is what sets it apart. The key ingredients in marinara sauce are:

  • Tomatoes: San Marzano tomatoes are considered to be the finest variety of tomatoes for making marinara sauce. These tomatoes are grown in the Campania region of southern Italy and are known for their sweet and slightly acidic flavor, as well as their firm flesh and low seed content.
  • Basil: Fresh basil is an essential ingredient in marinara sauce and adds a bright, herbal flavor.
  • Garlic: Garlic is another crucial ingredient in marinara sauce and adds a subtle, spicy flavor.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil: The best marinara sauces are made with first-press extra-virgin olive oil, which has a rich, fruity flavor and high-quality, healthy fats.

How to Make Marinara Sauce

Making marinara sauce is simple and easy, and it’s a great way to enjoy the flavors of Italy in your kitchen. Here’s a simple recipe to get you started:


  • 28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. In a large saucepan, with medium heat, sautee the olive oil in a large saucepan.
  2. Add the garlic and cook until lightly browned about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the canned tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
  4. Reduce the heat and let the sauce gently simmer for about 20 minutes or until it has thickened slightly.
  5. Stir in the chopped basil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve over pasta, or use it as a base for pizza sauce or other Italian dishes.

Using Marinara Sauce in Italian Cuisine

Marinara sauce is a versatile sauce that can be used in various Italian dishes, from pasta to pizza. Some popular uses of marinara sauce include:

  • Spaghetti alla Marinara: A classic Italian dish made with spaghetti pasta and marinara sauce.
  • Sardine alla Marinara: A delicious dish cooked with fresh sardines in a marinara sauce.

Pizza Margherita: A classic Neapolitan pizza topped with marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil.

Wine Pairing with Marinara Sauce

When it comes to pairing wine with marinara sauce, there are a few options that work particularly well. Chianti, a red wine from the Tuscany region of Italy, is a classic choice. Chianti is made from the Sangiovese grape and has a medium-bodied, fruity flavor with a hint of spice, which pairs well with marinara sauce’s bold, tomato-based flavors.

Another good option is Valpolicella, a red wine from the Veneto region of Italy. Valpolicella is a lighter-bodied wine with bright cherry and red berry flavors, which makes it a good choice for lighter marinara sauce dishes.

Tasting Notes of Marinara Sauce

The marinara sauce has a bold, bright flavor characterized by its sweet, slightly acidic tomato flavor, combined with the herbal and spicy flavors of basil and garlic. The sauce has a medium-bodied consistency, and the quality of the extra-virgin olive oil will affect the sauce’s taste and richness. When made with high-quality, fresh ingredients, marinara sauce is a delicious and flavorful sauce that will enhance most Italian dishes.

In conclusion, marinara sauce is a classic Italian sauce that has been enjoyed for centuries. Although this delicate sauce is made from simple ingredients like tomatoes, basil, garlic, and olive oil, marinara sauce is a key ingredient in Italian kitchens and is used in various dishes. Whether making spaghetti alla marinara or topping a pizza with marinara sauce, this versatile sauce will surely add bold, bright flavor.