Here's How Marinara Sauce Got Its Name

What's a dish of pasta without sauce? Whether you prefer dousing your noodles in thick, creamy sauces or ones that are oily, nutty, or made with a hodgepodge of flavorful spices and seasonings, you really can't go wrong with how you dress up your dishes. 

There is one type of sauce that is so iconic, it has been incorporated into a plethora of recipes such as lasagna, shakshuka, soups, pizzas, sandwiches, and so much more. Marinara sauce has become a kitchen staple, adding a lively zest, a deep red color, and a smooth, slightly chunky consistency to just about anything it touches.

Marinara is traditionally made from a simple mix of tomatoes, crushed red pepper, garlic, basil, and other aromatic ingredients depending on one's personal palate, per Taste of Home. The recipe for marinara sauce is uncomplicated by design and can be concocted by nearly anyone, regardless of their level of culinary expertise. The true history of this legendary, now ubiquitous sauce is mystifying, but the meaning behind the name has a story worth telling. 

So, where does the word marinara come from?

'Marinara' translates to 'seafaring'

The authentic birthplace of marinara sauce has been up for debate for generations, though most signs point to southern Italy. It is most commonly believed to have been invented in either Naples or Sicily during the 16th century, according to Italian-American family-owned sauce brand Paesana, around the time tomatoes were introduced to Italy via Spanish conquistadors. The origin of the sauce's name, however, is a bit more clear.

The term marinara directly translates to "seafaring" in Italian, Paesana notes. And as it turns out, the sauce was given this name because it was heavily consumed by Italian merchants out at sea, not because it was eaten with seafood, unlike what some folks may think. 

ForknPlate also shares that since the main ingredients didn't spoil as quickly as meats and fish would on ships, sailors would whip up meals of pasta with tomato sauce as a hearty, sustainable meal. Marinara sauce as we know it today still makes for quick, convenient, and undeniably delicious grub.