More Marinara, Please! A Brief History on the Classic Sicilian Marinara Sauce

What you learned in school is most likely wrong. Sure, Marco Polo brought many things back from China, but pasta wasn’t one of them. It’s more likely that the Italians learned to make pasta from the Arabs. 

So it’s the 10th-century invasion of Southern Italy that we have to thank for the delicious dish of spaghetti and Sicilian marinara sauce that we know and love today. 

But it isn’t just the pasta that has a rich history, so does the marinara sauce that goes with it. Keep reading to learn about the history of this delicious sauce that is loved throughout the world. 

What Is Marinara? 

Despite the many variations, you’ll find, there’s only one true marinara. Purists will tell you that an authentic marinara is simple and pure ingredients.

There’s just tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and herbs. You may also find some onion added in certain recipes. 


During the 16th century, tomatoes made their way to Europe. We have the Spanish explorers to thank for that. It was after this that in either Naples or Sicily, people began to put a tomato-based sauce on their noodles. 


The Italian word for sailors is marinai, which is what the term marinara derived from. The first theory behind this naming is that the tomato sauce traveled well and quickly became popular among sailors. 

The ingredients in marinara sauce don’t spoil easily. You could quickly, easily, and affordably assemble the ingredients to create a meal. So sailors could make the sauce while their noodles cooked. 

A popular and more romantic explanation involves the sailor’s wives. They would hurriedly make the sauce so their beloved sailor husbands could have a hot meal ready and waiting when they walk in the door. 

Spreading Italian Culture 

As Italians emigrated to the United States and other countries, they brought this food staple with them. The early 1900s saw the largest migrations of people. 

This movement of people and the sharing of cultures helped make this sauce a staple in American culture today. 

Marinara Sauce Today 

Today this celebrated piece of Italian culture is enjoyed throughout the world. We even build upon it and turn it into more complex tomato sauces. Then we package it up and create premade meals out of it for those on the go. 

People across the world have adopted this tomato-based sauce as their own. They dedicate recipes, videos, pictures, infographics, and all kinds of content to how they incorporate it into their daily lives. 

Try Your Hand at Sicilian Marinara Sauce

So how do you enjoy your marinara sauce? Do you go classic and pour some on spaghetti? Or maybe you enjoy dipping your pizza crust or cheese sticks in it? 

No matter how you eat Sicilian marinara sauce, we have the Italians to thank for perfecting it. 

Check out our other articles for more food and restaurant-related information and advice. 

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