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5 from 4 votes

Marinara Sauce AKA Neapolitan Sauce AKA Napoli Sauce AKA La Salsa

Here's something I didn't know! Marinara sauce, to Americans, is kinda-sorta not really properly named! In most all other countries "Marinara" includes seafood! (hint hint: marine)

Because this site isn't totally geared for American audiences (even though about 90% are from the US), various UK, Australian and other English speaking countries (not sure about Canada ... they might call it the same thing as the US). Hey, Canada! Does the word "marinara" invoke thoughts of seafood, or the dipping sauce that goes with your mozzarella sticks? Inquiring minds want to know!


The sauce that most Americans know as "Marinara" is actually more in line with "Neapolitan Sauce", harking from Naples, Italy. Funnily enough, if you were an American in Naples and asked for "La Salsa", you'd get Marinara!

It's sort of like how every other country calls soccer "football", except the US, where we have an entirely different game we call football.

Back to the story at hand ... Napoli Sauce is basically a tomato based sauce, cooked with tomatoes and onions. That's about it!

This is also a chance to talk a little bit about canned San Marzano Tomatoes. Legend has it that the first San Marzano tomato seeds were a gift from the King of Peru to the King of Naples sometime during the 1770s. These seeds were then planted near the city of San Marzano in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. From these seeds, crossbreeding and careful selection led to the current day San Marzano tomato.

Sometimes legends lie. The reality is far murkier, with the first actual "printed" mention of San Marzano Tomatoes appearing in an American agricultural book put out by the USDA mentions them in cans, in 1894. In 1902, some Italian documents mention that they are a cross between 3 other varieties: King Umberto, Fiaschella, and the Fiascona.

What IS true is that true San Marzano Tomatoes are grown in the volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius near Naples, Italy. They are harvested when ripe, as the sun goes down. They are sweet, fleshy, high in pectin (thicker sauces), low in seeds, bright red and easy to peel. Oh! And, they look like an elongated Roma Tomato.

The primary reason for San Marzano Tomatoes being such a big deal is, they are reliable and delicious. When it's not summertime and amazing local tomatoes are not available, these sweet tomatoes, canned at their absolute peak, are the way to go. Many Chefs will do a little happy dance for the real thing. For TRUE San Marzano Tomatoes, from Italy, look for the DOP seal, indicating "Designation of Origin". Seeds have travelled outside the region and are also canned, but they are not grown in the same soil, or picked by the same standards. So, while many canned "San Marzano Tomatoes" are actually spawned from the same seed ... they are not the same thing. Buyer beware.

Two suggestions for purchasing online ... Strianese Whole Peeled D.O.P. San Marzano Tomatoes – These are true canned tomatoes, imported from Italy. As of these writings, they are $10.40 US, per can. YIKES!

Carmelina 'e San Marzano Italian Peeled Tomatoes in Puree - This is what I use. These are from the same source, have no added flavors and are packed in puree, rather than sauce. The end result is tasty, sweet and not watered down. Sure, they're not TRUE San Marzano's, but they're close enough and at less than $3.00 US per can, I'm willing to sacrifice a tiny difference in quality ... for a canned product.

Note: Pictures are taken with Chicken Nuggets.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time3 hrs
Total Time3 hrs 5 mins
Servings: 8 Servings
Calories: 41.43375kcal
Author: DJ Foodie


  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 4 each garlic clove cut into thin rings
  • 1 28-oz can san marzano tomatoes
  • 16 leaves fresh basil hand torn
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • In a medium sized sauce pot, add your oil and place on the stove over medium-low heat. Watch the pot, so you don't burn the oil. Extra virgin oil burns really quickly and will make everything taste like a burned oil.
  • THE MOMENT you see the surface of the oil ripple just a tiny bit, or become thinner, like water, as you roll it around the pan, add your garlic and onions, with a little salt and pepper. Stir until translucent and aromatic (about 5 minutes).
  • While the onions and garlic are sweating, open your can of San Marzano's and dump them into a large salad bowl. With both hands, grab each tomato and squeeze it. It will squish and become one with the puree. Do this to all the tomatoes, to create a thick and chunky tomato puddle.
  • Once the tomatoes are properly squooshed, pour them into the pot with the translucent garlic and onions.
  • Let the sauce simmer away until it is the appropriate consistency. I was in a bit of a rush when I made the batch in the photos, resulting in some of the water separating out. It's still tasty, but it could've simmered longer.
  • Allow to simmer for upwards of 3 hours, over very low heat. Season with salt and pepper (tomatoes can take a lot of salt, so you can add a little more than may feel natural).
  • Finish by stirring in some fresh hand torn basil, at the last minute.
  • Serve!


Serving: 8g | Calories: 41.43375kcal | Carbohydrates: 6.27375g | Protein: 0.89875g | Fat: 1.5075g | Fiber: 1.76625g