What Is The Difference Between Marinara Sauce And Spaghetti Sauce?

Have you seen a recipe that calls for Marinara or Spaghetti sauce? Perhaps you’ve seen them referenced interchangeably. Wondering whether these sauces are indeed the same or you can use either one? How are they different exactly? Here is all you should know.

So, what is the difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce? Marinara sauce is typically a tomato-based sauce that includes various different herbs for seasoning. Whereas spaghetti sauce can include a wide variance of ingredients and is a term used broadly to refer to sauce used for this particular pasta dish.

So in essence, marinara is a very specific term and sauce.

Spaghetti sauce can differ quite dramatically between recipes and brands.

There is no guarantee on the flavor of a spaghetti sauce, although Marinara will always taste somewhat similarly, with subtle variations here and there.

With this in mind let us now look at each sauce and what you can expect with each one, before turning to what this all means for usage!

So stick around, your future meals could depend on it!

What Is Marina Sauce?

Marinara sauce is a tomato sauce that is typically made from tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and onions. Sometimes capers, olives, spices, and a splash of wine are added too, among a number of other small subtle variations.

It is an Italian sauce first and foremost; originating in southern Italy, where both Naples and Sicily being are cited as being where it was first made.

While Marinara is authentically Italian it has been adopted by other cultures and it does differ somewhat depending on where you go.

For instance, the dish Seafood Spaghetti Marinara is a dish popular in Australia, New Zealand, and much of Europe.

Whereas in the US; it is rarely eaten with seafood and is generally a lot thicker than the marinara served elsewhere in the world.

What Is Spaghetti Sauce?

Spaghetti sauce is essentially any sauce that has been created or is being used with Spaghetti – the long stringy type of pasta.

Now, spaghetti sauce can differ quite dramatically in terms of ingredients and resulting flavor, texture, and preparation time.

For instance, a spaghetti sauce could be an Alfredo sauce, a bolognese sauce, a cheese sauce, and so on and so forth.

At the same time, it could also be very similar to Marinara if not the same. Thats’ right; a Marinara sauce could be a spaghetti sauce but not vice versa.

Probably where the confusion originates.

But in reality, there is no one sauce for spaghetti – and you can mix it up and try and sauce that was designed to be eaten with pasta.

Can You Use Marinara Sauce As A Spaghetti Sauce?

You can use Marinara sauce as a spaghetti sauce; in fact, it pairs particularly well and is a tasty combination.

But at the same time, you do not have to use Marinara sauce for your spaghetti.

Or alternatively, you could ‘alter’ a Marinara sauce recipe altogether by adding some meat, like beef mince.

While that will stop it from being Marinara in the true sense of the sauce, it will still taste delicious with spaghetti.

In many ways, you’ve transformed a Marinara into a spaghetti sauce!

Should You Use Marinara Sauce Or Spaghetti Sauce for Your Pasta?

Whether you should use Marinara or Spaghetti sauce depends on your preferences, along with any dietary needs that you may have. For most people, you can use either and both work well with pasta.

That being said, Marinara is often much more suitable for vegetarians or vegans as it does not ever include seafood or meat.

The same cannot always be said for spaghetti sauce; so if you are buying a brand and a pre-made sauce, you should check the ingredients list carefully.

But if its just down to preferences alone, then consider what you prefer.

Marinara is typically a little more tomatoey in flavor, whereas Spaghetti sauce can vary quite dramatically.

With Marinara you will typically like it or not, regardless of the brand or recipe you follow (within reason).

With Spaghetti sauce, you may absolutely love some of them, and loathe others.

You may love a meaty spaghetti sauce, and you may have a cheesy one. Or vice versa.

Ultimately, you are going to need to experiment and try a few different brands and recipes of marinara/spaghetti sauce out.

Generally, you are much safer with Marinara in between recipes and brands, but not always!


While it’s not perhaps the most obvious, there is a clear distinction between Marinara and Spaghetti sauce.

And the truth is, Marinara sauce can be very similar, almost identical to spaghetti sauce in flavor and texture.

Or it could be dramatically different.

It is very much context-dependent.

And while most people will use these terms interchangeably, you probably shouldn’t from here on in.

Remember, Marinara can be spaghetti sauce, but not vice versa!

Marinara is Marinara.

Spaghetti can be literally any sauce served with spaghetti!

Hopefully, that solves that.

Related Questions

Is Marinara Sauce The Same As Tomato Sauce?

Marinara sauce is not the same as tomato sauce. Typically, tomato sauce is made of minimal, if any, other ingredients than just tomatoes (and perhaps a little salt). Whereas Marinara includes other herbs, garlic, onions, and on some occasions, capers, olives, or spices too.