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A Question About Sauce

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
What's the difference between marinara sauce and tomato sauce? :confused:
post #2 of 9
Marinara is made from olive oil, tomatoes, herbs and garlic. It's considered more robust than plain tomato sauce. The name translates roughly as "of the seas". It's believed to be called that because it was used to feed sailors at sea.
post #3 of 9

a tedious but exhaustive, perhaps exhausting, reply

"alla marinara" - i did some searching on translation forums, where translators discuss terms like we discuss cooking, because the word "marinaro" would mean sailor or seafarer, but "marinara", in the feminine, would mean seafaring woman. There were not a lot of seafaring women when this term "alla marinara" originated, and I often wondered why it was in the feminine, and not "al marinaro" - the reason is that there was an ellipsis, that is, the word "moda" was taken out for brevity and the phrase should have been "alla moda marinara" - in the seafarer's way - way, or "moda" being the noun which is feminine and marinara is the adjective that has to agree with the noun. Same goes for "alla cacciatora" (Yes, italian is very complicated - gender is not the same as sex, and a guard, a tiger and several eggs (but not one) are feminine, no matter what sex they are).
Anyway, that being cleared up, if you can call the complex rules of italian grammar clear, the idea is that sugo alla marinara means in the manner that people near the sea, fishermen, would make it.

Now there is an iron rule here that fish sauce is holy and cannot touch cheese or any milk product. It is a mortal offence even to suggest that you may want to put cheese on it. Never break the rule by asking a waiter to bring you some cheese with your spaghetti alle vongole, because if you're lucky he;ll just spit in the dish, but if you're not, he'll call the cook out to chop your hand off.
(Note - i only report the facts, i do not necessarily agree with them.)

Therefore, any sauce alla marinara, for one thing, has no cheese, and no cheese can come anywhere near it even after. Thus pizza alla marinara has no cheese.

Moreover, it is a sauce such as you would put on seafood or seafood pasta. Seafood calls for a light fresh sauce in italian cuisine, and so if you make a tomato sauce with clams or shrimp or squid or whatever, you would fry some garlic in oil, with or without hot pepper in it, then add tomatoes (you might add some white wine first or not) and the tomatoes will be either a special kind of fresh tomato (i believe called datteri, dates) which kind of soften quickly, or peeled san marzanos, or canned. These you will cook very briefly, for the san marzanos, maybe ten minutes. (They;re peeled because they need to cook quickly) - the others even less. At the end when you've mixed it with the pasta or put it on the pizza, you'll sprinkle fresh parsley (not basil) on top. Some use origano, but i've never seen that in rome, it may be a local variation somewhere. One person on the forum from milan said you put anchovies in the marinara sauce, not sure of that either.

For a marinara to really work, you need really good tomatoes. No point even thinking of doing it with tomatoes that have been shipped across the country or are not at the peak of their ripeness, or have the thick skins like many modern breeds of tomato have, for shipping purposes. (Use them for batting practice).

Tomato sauce means any sauce with tomatoes, so it includes marinara, but also all kinds of other sauces, such as napolitan ragu (not like bolognese, but it cooks all day) or other sauces you would put cheese on if you wanted, like with a base of onion, garlic, carrot, celery soffritto, or pummarola (boil all the same together and then put through a food mill) or with browned meat, or mushrooms, or whatever. Any sauce with tomatoes is a tomato sauce, while only the sauce i described above is "alla marinara"
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #4 of 9
The story goes Marinara a quickley made tomato, garlic ,herb sauce. Chunkier then tomato sauce. When the fisherman in Sicily were comeing back to shore late in the day in their fishing boats, they would hoist a flag to let the woman on shore know that they had a good catch. The woman in turn would then proceed to make the Marinara so as to be able to feed the men who were out since dawn and would be very hungry.
(pertaining to --marine/-mariner-/of the sea/-du mer)

Tomato sauce on the other hand cooks for a much longer period of time, with vegetables, herbs and sometime a shin bone or two. It also varies by region and the particular style of the family.
CHEFED
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CHEFED
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post #5 of 9

Because I'm an eejit

I heard much the same story about "marinara" as pertaining to the fisherman's wife who wanted dinner done before her handsome seafarer returned home. As siduri pointed out it is a femnized term we expect to be male, but if Italian is anything like Spanish (and it is), la marinara may be Mrs. Fisherman, as well as a doughty fisherperson herself. I'm told she does not shoot wolves from planes, though.

Fishermen's wives did not have an outstanding folk reputation as great housekeepers, and naming a sauce which can be made so quickly and easily might actually be derogatory. It's not like Italians don't do it. Take La Puttanesca.

We should also remember that "The Fisherman's Wife," ala "La Marinara" is an immensely popular folk tale (see Grimm) and folk tales should not be disregarded when you're wondering about the etymology of dish's title. They can't all be named Suzette. Again, the reference (if there is one) might refer to the way the style of sauce comes together in a flash and with so little effort.

I think of it as canned tomatoes with just enough cooking and seasoning to take the raw off and the tinniness out. Done. Let's eat.

To the extent that "marinara" is regional, I believe it's not not Sicilian but Neapolitan.

BDL
BDL

(Added on Edit) A nic so nice, he typed it twice.
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is also known as Spaghetti alla Buona Donna - Good Woman's Spaghetti - which can be a little misleading unless you're familiar with the ironic insult "figlio d'una buena donna" - son of a good woman <LOL>

I never thought of Spaghetti alla Puttanesca as being particularly derogatory. even though puttana can be used in a derogatory manner.

According to Diane Seed, the sauce came to be named in the 1950's when brothels were state -owned. They were known as case chiuse or "closed houses" as the windows were kept shuttered to prevent upsetting the sensibilities of passers-by and the neighbors.

Italian housewives at the time would shop daily at the local markets, but the "civil servants" were only allowed one day a week to shop, and time was a precious commodity for them. So, the story goes, their specialty became a sauce that could be thrown together quickly and easily from ingredients on hand, odds and ends in the cupboard. It's now a valued sauce to all of us, regardless of our virtue, when time and ingredients are scarce.
post #7 of 9
i always heard that alla puttanesca was so named because hot pepper was considered an aphrodisiac. good for business! but on the other hand, alla puttanesca is not the same as "alla puttana" which would literally mean, as the prostitute would make it. "Puttanesca" means whorey, an adjective. so it would be, i presume, an ellipsis of "alla moda puttanesca", in the whorey manner.

I have no doubt, though, bdl, that it's not the folk tale behind the marinara sauce but the fact that it's the kind of sauce you use with fish, always light, always quick, typical of fish sauces, as you say.

This may interest you and shel and others - in rome there's a guy at the street market i usually go to for vegetables, who sells only tomatoes. He has about fifteen or so varieties of tomato, each in at least three stages of ripeness, green or greenish, ripe and slightly wrinkled (not sundried wrinkled, just a little bit dried so they keep their shape but have wrinkles - these are for body.)

When you ask for tomatoes, he asks "what are they for" - you say "sauce"
-"what kind of sauce?"
-"fish sauce"
-"what kind of fish"
"calamari"
"Only calamari or calamari and shrimp?"
"Whaaaa?"
i asked what would be different, and he says something about the sweetness of the different kinds of fish. Sanme if you ask for sauce for meat, or for garlic and parsley, or onion and basil, or alla norma (eggplant - for which he will pull out of a secret place under the counter a single red tropea onion, "use this and see")
He's a veritable storehouse of knowledge of tomatoes.
The same care is taken if you want to just eat them - raw or stuffed and cooked? - sliced with mozzarella in caprese? for pasta alla caprese (in this case, a special type of tomato that sort of melts away just mixing it raw with the hot pasta, so, as he says, you don;t get a pile of tomato pieces left on the bottom of the guest's dishes. Another type for mixed salad. If you ever go to rome send me a private message and i'll tell you how to find him.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #8 of 9
There's an old story about an American tourist who got off the train in Rome, on what must have been an important religious occasion. For as he walked out into the street he was swept up in an immense crowd heading towards the Vatican. Rather than fight his way through, he allowed himself to be borne to St. Peter's square. He looked up, at the Basilica, there on the balcony the Pope, in miter and white, surrounded by Cardinals and Biships was making "come unto to me" gestures while the crowd roared.

The tourist couldn't help but notice that among those around the Pope on the balcony was a little, old man, wearing a straw hat, a loud sport shirt, Bermuda shorts, black socks and sandals.

As the crowd surged and roared, the tourist felt a tug on his hand. He looked down and there was a little Italian boy -- a prototypical street urchin. When the boy saw that he had the tourist's attention, he asked: "Mister. Please. Who's that on the balcony with Max?"

BDL
post #9 of 9
funny, bdl. When i take visitors around rome i usually let them do the usual vatican, colosseo stuff on their own (think i've been in the vatican twice in all these years), and take them to the market and especially the tomato guy. Then, of course, i take them to heaven because we eat the tomatoes.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
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