For Traditional Marinara Sauce Stop Including This Pungent Ingredient

Mastering true Italian cooking is not always an easy task. In part, because many of us in America have grown up believing our American Italian food is the same as the real thing. According to Ferraro's Ristorante, American Italian foods generally use plenty of cheese, sauce, garlic, and meat, while authentic Italian food focuses more on vegetables and fresh ingredients. The way Italians structure their meals is different as well, Insider shares, as they typically have pasta for a first course instead of the main event, and have two rounds of appetizers beforehand.

One of the most versatile and iconic foods that we've gleaned from Italian cooking is marinara sauce. Marinara sauce was most likely originally made in a southern Italian region in the 16th century, according to Paesana, and the first-ever tomato sauce reference is from a 1692 Italian cookbook. Whether you're whipping up shortcut homemade ravioli, extra flavorful pizza sauce, or a plethora of other Italian dishes, you've likely relied on this tomato-based staple again and again. Any way that tastes good to you is the right way to make it — but if you want to cook traditional marinara sauce make sure to leave out one ingredient in particular.

Onions don't belong in authentic marinara

There are plenty of misconceptions about authentic Italian marinara sauce — for example, the biggest mistake you're probably making is cooking it all day long. Another is the American urge to add sugar. While we may think a little sweetness is needed to balance out the acidic tomatoes, AKA Italy explains that this is likely an older practice from when Americans were using low-quality canned tomatoes. Following Italian rules of choosing the freshest produce, your tomatoes should be sweet enough that they don't need any extra sugar.

In fact, there are a plethora of ingredients you should leave out of a traditional marinara sauce. According to The New York Times, wine, tomato paste, butter, meatballs, and anchovies are all on the list of marinara no-nos, and most notably, onions should also stay far away from your sauce pot. Authentic Italian marinara recipes are simple, notes Sweetish Hill, and typically only use tomatoes, garlic, and basil.

It's worth noting that tomato sauce, or sugo al pomodoro, is a different thing entirely. The New York Times shares that this sauce simmers for a long time, and has the flexibility to include ingredients like onion, celery, red meat, and more. Then there's the whole world of Italian tomato-based sauces, which include arrabbiata (made with chilis), amatriciana (with a cured meat called guanciale), and puttanesca (with olives and capers), according to Parts Town. While we'd like to try them all, the simplest place to start is with authentic, onion-free marinara.