There is a lot of confusion between marinara sauce, tomato sauce, and bolognese sauce, and it’s totally understandable.
They look the same, and in many cases, people who will serve you at a restaurant don’t know the difference either. After all, not everybody is an Italian Chef.
Me neither, so I decided to do a bit of research in order to be more accurate with the information I will provide you throughout this article.
If you are vegetarian or vegan and you are not sure if you can order something with marinara sauce, I hope I can help you clear the confusion. But to be 100% sure I suggest you ask the waiter if the sauce has meat anyway.
Does marinara sauce have meat?
The marinara sauce doesn’t have meat, or bone broth. The main ingredients for the marinara sauce are Tomato, Onion, Garlic, Olive Oil, Oregano, Basil, Salt, and Black Pepper.
You can add a few different spices or herbs and still call it marinara sauce, but you can never add meat or cheese to it.
So marinara sauce doesn’t have meat or cheese, so it should be vegan friendly unless it is mislabeled and someone gives you bolognese sauce instead.
Are marinara and tomato sauce the same?
Tomato sauce and marinara sauce are not the same things.
Marinara sauce is an easier-to-make sauce, and it is the thing that you most often see in Italian dishes like pizza or pasta. You can even see marinara sauce labeled as pizza sauce in some stores.
Marinara sauce is usually thinner than tomato sauce and is easier and faster to make. You only need a few ingredients and about one hour to make it.
On the other hand, tomato sauce is more complex, with more ingredients, and you will need a bit more time to make it.
Tomato sauce is thicker, and it can contain meat like salt pork. So if the marinara sauce is always meat-free, tomato sauce can often have meat or even parmesan cheese.
Tomato sauce can be used for pasta because it has a thicker texture, but it should never be used as a pizza sauce.
Usually, what you have on your pizza is actually marinara sauce because you don’t need the sauce to be the main ingredient on your pizza.
Uses of marinara sauce
Marinara sauce is an Italian-based sauce, but it is also used in many other traditional cuisines. So you should not expect marinara sauce exclusively with pizza or pasta.
Some of the well-known dishes where marinara sauce goes well are:
-Lasagna. You can always make a delicious lasagna using a homemade marinara sauce. For lasagna, you can even go for a tomato sauce if you want a thicker sauce.
-Ratatouille. You can put your delicious vegetables in a bit of marinara sauce already in the pan. This way, you can get a crunchy texture on the top of this delicious dish and a nice moisture texture on the bottom.
-Meatball Marinara. It is a great way to do a delicious meatball dish which I highly recommend with some nice mashed potatoes on the side. If you want to go for a thicker sauce, you can use tomato sauce instead, but if you have mashed potato, the marinara sauce for the meatballs should be good enough.
-Minestrone soup. Since you often have this soup when you want a dish light in calories, marinara sauce is the best choice.
-Hamburgers. It can be used in hamburgers as well, but in my opinion, it is a bit too thin for what I want from the sauce when I eat a hamburger.
Some not as well know recipes that you may want to try with marinara sauce are:
-Pork Menudo. This is a stew-like Filipino dish that makes great use of the marinara sauce. Check this article if you want a good recipe for this one.
-Shakshuka. This dish originated from North Africa, but it is pretty popular in the Middle East as well. You need to poach the eggs in a simmering mixture of bell pepper, tomatoes, onion, and garlic. Check a full recipe here.
So as you can see, the marinara sauce should not have meat. But it can be confused with bolognese sauce(that always has meat) or tomato sauce(that sometimes has meat).
You probably noticed that tomato sauce and marinara sauce can be substituted for each other, but it will change the texture of your dish and sometimes the taste.