Whether it’s served over a bowl of spaghetti, a pile of ravioli, or a plate of pretty much any other pasta you prefer, there’s no denying the simple pleasures of a good, home-cooked red sauce. But which one? Both marinara and pomodoro are chock-full of tomatoes and one is just as likely to ruin your good white shirt as the other; however, not all sauces are created equal.
Let’s start with their ingredients. While there are plenty of variations (some recipes call for oregano, stewed tomatoes, and thyme, to name a few), the *essential* ingredients for a good marinara include: fresh tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, fresh basil, and salt. And while some recipes call for a few additions, like red onion or carrot, the basic ingredients are the same for pomodoro sauce: tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil, and salt. So, again, “What’s the difference?” you may ask. Consistency, for one.
Marinara is runnier and more liquidy than pomodoro, but it’s also a chunkier sauce. You cut tomatoes when making marinara, but mince them when preparing pomodoro. Pomodoro is thick and smooth; marinara is runny and chunky. (Either one of these can also be considered a pasta sauce or spaghetti sauce, though the latter term usually implies even more ingredients, including meat and additional vegetables. And then there are more specific versions, like ragu and Bolognese sauce—but that’s for another day. Smoother, thicker pomodoro is often used as pizza sauce.)
The other big differences between pomodoro and marinara sauce are their colors and cook times. Since marinara simmers for a shorter period of time, it keeps more of its bright red and orange hues. Pomodoro, on the other hand, can simmer slowly for hours, resulting in a deeper, darker red (although in the interest of saving you time, many of the recipes listed below only take 30 minutes!).
And now you know the difference between these two very close cousins on the red sauce family tree. But while a good sauce is the key to a great dish, it can’t do all the work. The next question is: What will you serve it with?
The possibilities are seemingly endless, but we’ve rounded up a few of the most mouth-watering dishes we could find. Enjoy! And whatever you decide, think twice before putting on that white shirt.
Say hello to your new go-to tomato sauce, perfect for any occasion. Smooth as velvet, this buttery pomodoro packs a delightful punch of basil. The beauty of this recipe is in its simplicity. High quality ingredients (especially the canned tomatoes) will make all the difference in the world, so treat yourself to some delicious aged parmesan cheese, cans of real, imported whole San Marzano tomatoes, and a ton of fresh basil leaves! You’re worth it. Get Pasta Pomodoro recipe.
A classic take on a classic sauce, this flavorful marinara will brighten any dinner table. Gluten-free and vegan-friendly, you can enjoy this marinara over spaghetti, linguini, baked ziti, and too many more options to name! Whatever you choose, you’ll love this sauce. Get the Homemade Marinara recipe. (It’s made with stewed tomatoes, but if you have an abundance of heirlooms, you can make this Fresh Tomato Marinara recipe instead.)
Turn your marinara into meat sauce by adding Italian sausage and tossing it with spaghetti. Or get a little more ambitious and stuff a blend of sausage, creamy ricotta and mozzarella cheese, and spinach into jumbo pasta shells, then smother them with the smooth red sauce of your dreams. Get our Italian Sausage Stuffed Shells recipe.
For a lighter, meat-free option, make lasagna roll-ups with that fluffy ricotta and hearty marinara (which, honestly, can be jarred if it’s a good brand). Guaranteed crowd-pleaser, and even kids will eat their spinach this way. Get our Lasagna Rolls recipe.
Nothing beats a good gnocchi and this dish proves that. A smooth and flavorful pomodoro sauce is the perfect complement for those tiny pillows of potatoes from heaven. Pro-tip: start with oil that’s been gently infused with fresh herbs to achieve a more nuanced flavor. Again, great ingredients and fresh herbs are the key to making this a truly memorable dish. Get the Gnocchi with Pomodoro Sauce recipe.
If you’re looking for a healthy and delicious way to enjoy marinara without all the carbs of pasta, look no further. Forget the noodles; it’s all about the sauce and balls. To get started, you’ll need to grate a whole large zucchini–that’s what sets these balls apart! Get the Baked Turkey Zucchini Meatballs with Marinara recipe.
Use your thick, rich, concentrated pomodoro sauce to slather a homemade pizza crust and top it however you please: with mini meatballs, red peppers and onions, sliced olives, pepperoni, burrata, and so on. To change it up, grill the pizza, or instead of a traditional base, go with a cauliflower crust.