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What Is Marinara Sauce?

Marinara sauce is a simple and popular Italian sauce. It has a tomato base, with added flavor from onions and herbs such as oregano and basil. Chili pepper is also used, giving it a slight “kick.”

Marinara sauce is easy to prepare—simply throw everything into a pot and simmer. It can be ladled over noodles (choose those with a mild flavor, like ziti or linguini) or served as a dip for cheese sticks, chicken and pork steaks, grilled seafood, or veal parmigiano. Some also use it in sandwiches, as they would mustard or mayonnaise; it adds a nice moistness and depth of flavor to regular turkey or chicken fillet.

Marinara takes its name for marinaro, which means “of the sea.” Many people who haven’t tried it yet are misled into thinking that it is a seafood-based sauce, when actually its name refers to the people who invented it. Sailors of the 16th century brought the sauce from Naples to the other islands, and it became the “sauce of the sailors.” It was certainly a staple of many ships, primarily because it was so easy to prepare, required few ingredients, and had no meat that would spoil quickly when exposed to the burning sun or the water.

Modern cooks love marinara sauce, too. Even busy people can make a large batch of marinara sauce and then freeze it in small portions, to be served with pasta or enhanced with other ingredients for a quick chicken sauté. Health buffs also see it as a rich source of lycopene, which is found in tomatoes and has been proven to reduce risk for cancer.

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