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Can I Use Marinara Sauce for Pasta? | What You Should Know

Recently we ran out of spaghetti sauce for pasta and I was not in the mood to make it homemade. However, we had some leftover marinara sauce from a takeout order. I decided to try it out and see what happened and this is what I learned.

Marinara sauce can be used in pasta since it is a simplified version of tomato sauce. The difference is that marinara is quicker to make and has a thinner texture, and it is less deep in flavor. Typically used to highlight dishes where the sauce is featured.

In this article, you will find more delicious information about marinara sauce, some recipes, and ideas on how to use this delicious sauce with your favorite pasta.

Is Pasta Sauce The Same As Marinara Sauce?

Even though “pasta sauce” and marinara sauce are pretty similar, some facts about each may provide insight into their differences.

Marinara Sauce

  1. It is a big important part of Italian-American cuisine.
  2. Although inspired by a tomato-based sauce, it was made to garnish seafood.
  3. Can deliver complex flavors that you can easily distinguish from one another.
  4. Is typically used to highlight dishes where the sauce is featured.
  5. It is ideal for seafood dishes.
  6. Generally has a thin texture.
  7. Considered to be a fast tomato sauce.
  8. Commonly regarded as chunky.

Pasta Sauce

  1. Based on more traditional Italian cuisine.
  2. Has a richer, more profound flavor.
  3. Effective at bringing out intense flavors in a dish.
  4. Perfect for plain pasta dishes.
  5. Flavors are balanced well.
  6. An overall thick texture.
  7. Requires more time on the fire to obtain its thick consistency and rich flavor.
  8. It tends to have more ingredients.
  9. The texture is smoother and with fewer chunks.

Can You Cook Pasta In Marinara Sauce?

Marinara Sauce on Pasta

Pasta can be cooked in marinara sauce. You only have to add some water to the marinara sauce and bring it to a boil. Add your dry pasta and let it cook for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

I recommend adding basil, onion, and garlic. Additionally, because water is added, there will be a little blandness to the taste of the sauce. I suggest you add an appropriate amount of salt and pepper at the end to ensure you have a nice, delicious flavor.

What Can I Add To The Marinara Sauce For Pasta?

Marinara is a sauce that can be easily modified. Some people add olives, wine, or capers to make it a bit tangy, but what should never be added is meat or cheese, as you will end up with a totally different sauce instead of marinara. While the more traditional Italian marinara sauce is thin, some Italian-American cooks make their version a bit thicker and bolder.

This sauce is a versatile tomato sauce that is made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs, there are ingredients like spices and some other ingredients to add tanginess.

Like everything in the kitchen, marinara sauce can have some variants; you can add different ingredients to it to level up your pasta night. To make your marinara sauce more complex and even tastier, you can add:

  • Meatballs when the sauce is almost done.
  • Seafood
  • Salted anchovies
  • Vodka
  • Heavy cream
  • Peeled tomatoes
  • 1 medium yellow onion cut in your preferred way
  • 2 large garlic cloves, whole
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • Some basil leaves
  • Some sugar, if needed, to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes.
  • Optionally, add a pinch of red chili flakes.

The Perfect Marinara Sauce

But if you want to make a variation, you need to know how to make the original version of this delicious sauce.

You can make a marinara sauce with ingredients you already have in your pantry and refrigerator, and even make some variations to make this sauce a little tastier and with more personality.

To make two cups of marinara sauce, you will need:

  • 28 ounces of peeled tomatoes.
  • 1 medium yellow onion cut in your preferred way.
  • 2 large garlic cloves, whole.
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Some basil leaves.
  • Some sugar, if needed, to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes.

This sauce will follow the basics of sauces, sautee the onions and garlic, add the tomatoes, some water, and the rest of the ingredients. Let it simmer for an hour. Taste it and adjust ingredients if necessary.

Can You Substitute Pasta Sauce With Marinara Sauce?

Whether you can replace one for the other or not will depend on the results you want to achieve. If you are looking for a mild and slightly fresh flavor to eat as a side to meat or seafood, then marinara sauce will be the best option. Alternatively, Pomodoro or pasta sauce will be the way to go if you want a deeper flavor.

Different Kinds Of Pasta To Use With Marinara Sauce.


Marinara sauce is perfect for pasta, but not all pasta goes well with this sauce, like macaroni, orzo, or elbow pasta. Here is a list of the best kinds of pasta that can be used for marinara sauce:

  • Ravioli
  • Lasagna
  • Shell Pasta
  • Penne
  • Spaghetti
  • Tagliatelle
  • Linguini
  • Rigatoni

15 Ways To Use Marinara Sauce

The sky’s the limit in the kitchen, and you can get creative with ingredients and sauces. To get you started on your creative culinary journey, here I collected 15 recipes to use marinara sauce with pasta:

  1. Baked Feta Marinara Sauce for pasta (or dip) – you make this by baking the feta cheese on a bed of marinara sauce, seasoned as you prefer, perfect for a leveled-up pasta. Another way to make this is by substituting the feta cheese with cream cheese or brie.
  2. What if we add some pepperoni? Sounds good, doesn’t it? Then you can try this Pepperoni Pasta Bake, it is saucy and so easy you would not believe it.
  3. Another way to make these Baked meatballs in a skillet sounds so good, but it sounds better if it has some marinara sauce.
  4. A quick lasagna for dinner, heaven on weekdays.
  5. Perfect sauce for some stuffed shells pasta.
  6. Cheese Manicotti, you definitely have to try it.
  7. Pasta with some spicy shrimp sounds delicious to me.
  8. Equally good but easier than making lasagna? Lasagna casserole.
  9. If you want to do a totally different but fun presentation, get the pans and molds out and try to make your pasta like a pie with this Rigatoni Pasta Pie.
  10. Chicken and pasta? Sign us in. Try this delicious Chicken Parmesan Baked Ziti.
  11. Do not despair if you are vegetarian; here we have this delicious and simple Vegetarian Lasagna Skillet.
  12. As I am a big fan of chicken and pasta, here is another recipe for you to try Chicken Pizzaiola.
  13. How to make lasagna more interesting? Well, instead of lasagna noodles, why not try to use ravioli? To make it easier, here is the recipe for the Ravioli Lasagna.
  14. If you want to add some vodka to your pasta, try this Rigatoni with Easy Vodka Sauce.
  15. If you want to make a creamy tomato sauce for your pasta, try to mix some leftovers of marinara sauce with freshly made bechamel to make a version of Sauce Aurore.

What Can I Add To Pomodoro Sauce?

Pomodoro is a more complex tomato sauce than marinara, so it is no surprise it has more ingredients. If you want to make the perfect authentic tomato or Pomodoro sauce, you will need:

  • 1 cup of mirepoix (onion, celery, and carrot in the following ratio 2:1:1).
  • 1 large garlic clove crushed.
  • 1 quart of fresh tomatoes.
  • 1 cup of tomato puree
  • Olive oil.
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to level up the acidity, if necessary.
  • Sachet d’epices (contains bay leaf, dried thyme, parsley, peppercorns).

In some oil, sautee the mirepoix and the sachet d’epices until the mirepoix is tender, add de garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then add the tomato puree, tomatoes, salt, and 1 cup of water.

When the sauce starts to boil, immediately reduce the heat. Test the acidity and add sugar one teaspoon at a time. Let it simmer for 1 hour and whisk it frequently. Once the sauce reaches the desired consistency, remove the sachet, then puree the sauce using a food processor, blender, or immersion hand blender. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Final Bite

Who does not like good old-fashioned pasta for dinner? It is simple, delicious, and you can eat it with meat, pork, poultry, and even seafood and sausages.

You can do almost anything that you want with pasta and sauces; however, if we claim the dish has marinara sauce, we must respect some basic and easy limitations, like no cheese or meat. Once you add meat to the sauce, you will be making bolognese sauce, which is completely different.

Sauces such as Marinara and Pasta Sauce are both delicious and incredibly versatile. You can use them for a wide range of amazing dishes, from simple pasta to a quick and easy lasagna. Alternatively, to make even more elaborate dishes like chicken cacciatore or ratatouille.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

For more, check out 18 Versatile Substitutes for Tomatoes in a Recipe.