The Canned Ingredient That Will Change Your Marinara Sauce Forever

Many walk through life thinking that tomato sauce and marinara sauce are the same thing. And while the two are in the same family of red sauces, the difference between tomato sauce and marinara sauce has to do with both the time they take to make and their slight variation in ingredients. Marinara sauce is made by combining olive oil, garlic, basil, and whole peeled tomatoes. It's a quick sauce that comes together in about an hour (per Taste of Home), and can be used for pasta or pizza as well as for dipping purposes. Its texture is thin and light, and its intention is to simply accent the dish it's served with rather than taking center stage.

A tomato sauce is a more intricate, main-event kind of sauce that takes many hours to prepare and often starts with pork or bacon and a mirepoix (chopped onion, carrot, and celery.) Tomato sauce is cooked slowly, with MasterClass noting that it generally has a thicker consistency and richer flavor than marinara.

So, what happens if you're in the mood for a quick marinara sauce, but you want it to have some of the characteristics of a tomato sauce? The answer might be living in your pantry.

A better option for canned tomatoes

Since marinara's texture is relatively thin, you can fancy it up a bit by adding tomato fillets. For those uninitiated, tomato fillets are the inner wall of a tomato without skin, seeds, or pulp on either end, cut into long strips. Canned tomato fillets are found in a full-bodied tomato puree, per Pacific Coast Producers. The puree is a great base for your marinara sauce while the fillets themselves add texture. If you're looking to add just a bit of texture, add the fillets at the start of your sauce so they break down a bit as they cook. If you're looking for a thicker texture, try adding them towards the end so they maintain their integrity.

Canned tomato fillets have a uniform shape, which can be more reliable than canned crushed tomatoes. Serious Eats notes that crushed tomatoes' size, texture and consistency can vary from brand to brand, since there is no real industry standard on what "crushed" means. Tomato fillets should have a more reliable size and texture, meaning you'll always know what you're getting when you open a can. Next time you're making marinara, leave the canned whole and crushed tomatoes on the shelf and try tomato fillets instead.