PDA

View Full Version : Why does "Marinara" sauce usually contain absolutely no seafood?


Spectre of Pithecanthropus
02-12-2001, 12:08 PM
Doesn't the name mean 'having to do with the sea, or mariners'?

Once in a great while I'll hear of a recipe that contains seafood, but the vast majority of marinara sauces are just tomato sauce with various added seasonings.

Were the mariners so sick of seafood by the time they returned from a voyage that the folks at home cooked up "mariner's sauce" that was scrupulously free of anything that swam? Is that how we get the name?

toadspittle
02-12-2001, 12:16 PM
Originally posted by javaman
Doesn't the name mean 'having to do with the sea, or mariners'?

I could be wrong, but I think the root is "marinate" ("marinare," per Babelfish). Not anything nautical at all.

Athena
02-12-2001, 12:27 PM
IIRC, "Marinara" roughly means "In the style the sailor's make" which happens to be tomatoes, basil, etc. No fish. You see this a lot in Italian cooking - for example, "Puttanesca" is a sauce consisting of tomatoes, capers, anchovies, and olives. The word "Puttanesca", however, roughly translates as "prostitute" because this was the style of sauce the prostitutes made. I've also read some romatic versions that say this was the style of sauce women made to woo men to their beds. In my house, it tends to be called simply "Ho Sauce."

Athena
02-12-2001, 12:28 PM
**bangs head on wall**

"in the style the sailors make"

No apostrophe there. Damn.

Akatsukami
02-12-2001, 01:12 PM
Originally posted by javaman
Doesn't the name mean 'having to do with the sea, or mariners'?

Once in a great while I'll hear of a recipe that contains seafood, but the vast majority of marinara sauces are just tomato sauce with various added seasonings.

Were the mariners so sick of seafood by the time they returned from a voyage that the folks at home cooked up "mariner's sauce" that was scrupulously free of anything that swam? Is that how we get the name?

No, it's because the fishermen who consumed it were working fishermen who:

sold their catch to rich SOBs and therefore had no seafood left for themselves
had to go out and get more seafood to sell to the rich SOBs, and therefore didn't time to wait for a subtle, complex sauce
Hi, Opal!

avacado
02-12-2001, 01:29 PM
A few weeks ago, this came up in a thread about vegans (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=55507):

originally posted by Commander Fortune

A Boulder restaurant owner was sued for including fish stock in his "vegetarian" marinara sauce. The patron, upon finding out the "secret ingrediant" sued Jay, of Pasta Jay's for the sum of every meal he had consumed in that establishment during the previous six years - a total of about $600.00.

The owner, Jay, actually chose not settle, went to court and tried to defend himself with the notion that, duh, everybody knows marinara means "from the sea", of course it had fish in it. Vegetarian meant it didn't have "meat" in it. The judge didn't see it that way. Jay lost. For the life me why he spent such a pittance on BAD publicity instead of just refunding the guy, who came across as totally reasonable, escapes me.

Ok, that wasn't exactly answering the OP, but it's evidence that some people think marinara means "from the sea". My WAG is that fish was left out when the sauce was made inland, and those versions spread. On the other hand, some people uses marinara to refer to any red sauce. Maybe only true marinara has fish? Doesn't it seem odd that sailors would take tomatos on board? they're fragile and they spoil relatively soon after they're ripe.

And if marinate is the root of marinara, doesn't that have the same root (L marinus?) we supposed marinara to have anyway?

occ
02-12-2001, 04:24 PM
Ok, here's what I've read/heard: "marinara" is derived and similar to the word for "sea". However, it doesn't have much to do with the animals that live in the sea, but with the salt water; the earliest marinara sauces were salt-water based sauces. This may also be related to the word "marinade", as early marinades were probably used just as much for their preservative value (the salt) as for flavor. This may sound like I pulled it out of my...nose, but I do recall reading this somewhere.

enkidu25
05-10-2013, 04:09 PM
The first time I went to Italy I ordered spaghetti with marinara sauce. The waiter brought out a bowl of spaghetti with clams and all kinds of other gross seafood stuff. He saw me recoil and asked what the problem was. I explained what I ordered. He laughed and explained that marinara refers to the ocean. He said what I wanted was bolognese. He happily fixed my order. The other times I have been back to Italy and they tell me the same thing, that marinara is a seafood sauce. This was all southern Italy by the way.

chrisk
05-10-2013, 04:13 PM
The first time I went to Italy I ordered spaghetti with marinara sauce. The waiter brought out a bowl of spaghetti with clams and all kinds of other gross seafood stuff. He saw me recoil and asked what the problem was. I explained what I ordered. He laughed and explained that marinara refers to the ocean. He said what I wanted was bolognese. He happily fixed my order. The other times I have been back to Italy and they tell me the same thing, that marinara is a seafood sauce. This was all southern Italy by the way.

(My emphasis.) That bit is surprising to me. As far as I know, bolognese is a meaty sauce, which the typical marinara isn't. Maybe it was just the closest they had to what you wanted. ;)

Gary Robson
05-10-2013, 04:31 PM
Since the thread is food-related, I'm shuffling it off from General Questions to Cafe Society.

teela brown
05-10-2013, 04:38 PM
I watch a lot of cooking shows by Lydia Bastianich, who is a terrific Italian chef. I'm sure she once explained the sailor connection thusly: When you're a sailor out at sea, it's easy to to toss together a quick pasta sauce with canned tomatoes and a bit of easily-packed garlic and oregano, etc. That's all marinara is - simple rustic chunky tomato sauce with a bit of olive oil, garlic and herbs.

Jackmannii
05-10-2013, 05:00 PM
Man, there are real pissants living in Boulder.

MrDibble
05-10-2013, 05:02 PM
He laughed and explained that marinara refers to the ocean. He said what I wanted was bolognese. Naah, what you wanted was Neapolitan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neapolitan_sauce) sauce.

Mostly it's America & parts of Southern Italy where marinara is a tomato sauce. It's a seafood sauce in Naples, Venice, and in South Africa and Australia too.

silenus
05-10-2013, 05:07 PM
You're just lucky they didn't bring out a sauce with zombie in it!

Elmer J. Fudd
05-10-2013, 05:21 PM
FWIW, ketchup comes from a Chinese word for "fish brine".

TriPolar
05-10-2013, 06:02 PM
The first time I went to Italy I ordered spaghetti with marinara sauce. The waiter brought out a bowl of spaghetti with clams and all kinds of other gross seafood stuff. He saw me recoil and asked what the problem was. I explained what I ordered. He laughed and explained that marinara refers to the ocean. He said what I wanted was bolognese. He happily fixed my order. The other times I have been back to Italy and they tell me the same thing, that marinara is a seafood sauce. This was all southern Italy by the way.

As I understand it, every little region of Italy, down to the smallest village, has their own customs. Many dishes are named marinara, and at that place it may be the assumption that if you order pasta with marinara you will always get a plate full of seafood to go with it.

Leo Bloom
05-10-2013, 07:05 PM
I watch a lot of cooking shows by Lydia Bastianich, who is a terrific Italian chef. I'm sure she once explained the sailor connection thusly: When you're a sailor out at sea, it's easy to to toss together a quick pasta sauce with canned tomatoes and a bit of easily-packed garlic and oregano, etc. That's all marinara is - simple rustic chunky tomato sauce with a bit of olive oil, garlic and herbs.
This is the closest from what I read, and which seems to make sense. Marinara sauce is the closest thing that a tomato sauce can have w/o perishables, the kind of provisioning a sailor would find desirable.

A sugo finto ("fake sauce") is whipped up in a jiffy similarly.

"Bolognese" sauce is what in non-Northern pride obsessed regions is know simply ss a a ragu ( the word stems from the French ragout). It is definitely more ground meat than sauce. (I was one of the contributors to the hilariously contested Wiki entry on Bolognese sauce, till I bowed out.)

Neapolitan sauce is a tomato sauce made with honking big cuts of pork and beef in it, which are served as the main dish after the pasta with the sauce.

NB: None of the above is what the Italians call a "salsa," which is an (often) thick concoction to be smeared or served with some food, but not a a pasta sauce.

Mister Rik
05-10-2013, 07:24 PM
For what it's worth, there is a restaurant near Safeco Field in Seattle that caters to Mariners fans, or else one of the food vendors in Safeco Field itself (I don't live in Seattle myself, so I can't remember for sure) was selling pasta with "Marinera" sauce. Deliberately misspelled, of course. I don't know if they're still selling it.

The marinara sauce I use in my occupation as a professional cook contains no seafood products.

Grestarian
05-10-2013, 08:29 PM
FWIW, ketchup comes from a Chinese word for "fish brine".

I'm going to do a Readers Digest recap what I read eons ago in Parade magazine: A bit of trivia related to Ketchup and Marinara sauce and their legendary relationship.

The article started out with "Is it true the Chinese invented tomato catsup?"
And the answer was "Well, sort-of..."

The legend is that the Chinese provided food with catsup/ketchup/do-not-call-it-catchup-or-my-brother-will-punch-you(me) and the merchants they gave it to wanted the recipe. They were given the recipe in writing (Chinese) and told the ingredients. When they got back aboard their merchants vessels [ships] with their comrades [sailors], nobody could read the writing or remember the recipe they were told. Someone or a subgroup of them concocted a substitute based on materials-at-hand, which included a lot of tomatoes, spices, herbs, etcetera. The resulting gloop was called sailors' sauce.

The word for sailor in many Latin-rooted languages like Italian and Spanish is "Marinara" and many of us classic-rockers will remember it well because it's in the second verse of the revived folk tune that Ritchie Valens made popular in the 1960's (?) and Los Lobos made popular again in the 1980's as part of a movie dramatizing Ritchie's life. The song was La Bamba. The second verse is...

Yo no soy marinara
Yo no soy marinara; soy capitan
Soy Capitan, Soy Capitan!

I'm not just a sailor
I'm not just a sailor; I'm the captain
I'm the captain, I'm the Captain! [You idiot!]*

---G!

*[Editorial interjection not in the original song]

Chimera
05-10-2013, 08:51 PM
Marina Ra

From the Marina of Ra, Egyptian God of the Sun, where he parked his Sun Boat every night after hauling it across the sky.

Obviously. Duh. :p

Lynn Bodoni
05-11-2013, 02:05 AM
Were the mariners so sick of seafood by the time they returned from a voyage that the folks at home cooked up "mariner's sauce" that was scrupulously free of anything that swam? I don't know about the sauce, but Grandpa Bodoni was a commercial fisherman (except during Prohibition, when he was a rumrunner), and would take his sons out fishing with him when he could. And yes, they all got tired of seafood at the end of each trip.

Lord Mondegreen
05-11-2013, 07:47 AM
I know the thread is a zombie, but for what it's worth "marinara" in Australia means a seafood sauce. Those of us who travel also know that it doesn't mean that in the US.

Language is odd, m'kay?

furryman
05-11-2013, 11:12 AM
Is it just me or is this something that's caught on in the US about 20 years ago? I don't remember ever hearing about anything but seafood marinara up until then.

Johnny L.A.
05-11-2013, 11:39 AM
IIRC, "Marinara" roughly means "In the style the sailor's make" which happens to be tomatoes, basil, etc. No fish. You see this a lot in Italian cooking - for example, "Puttanesca" is a sauce consisting of tomatoes, capers, anchovies, and olives. The word "Puttanesca", however, roughly translates as "prostitute" because this was the style of sauce the prostitutes made. I've also read some romatic versions that say this was the style of sauce women made to woo men to their beds. In my house, it tends to be called simply "Ho Sauce."

No, it's because the fishermen who consumed it were working fishermen who:
[list=1]
sold their catch to rich SOBs and therefore had no seafood left for themselves
had to go out and get more seafood to sell to the rich SOBs, and therefore didn't time to wait for a subtle, complex sauce

Mostly it's America & parts of Southern Italy where marinara is a tomato sauce. It's a seafood sauce in Naples, Venice, and in South Africa and Australia too.

You mean puttanseca doesn't actually contain prostitutes, and marinara doesn't actually contain seamen? :eek:

This is the explanation I've always heard; that fishermen sold their catch, and made the sauce without seafood in it.

As for marinara being a non-seafood sauce in America and Southern Italy, I think it's important to note that it's a non-seafood sauce in Southern Italy. Adding America to the sentence makes it a bit of a loaded statement. If they make it that way in Southern Italy, then it's legitimately authentic. But...

As noted, in most places marinara sauce contains seafood. What we call marinara sauce here is, again, as noted, Neapolitan sauce. Marinara sauce may have been invented my Neapolitan sailors, so confusion is understandable.

Me? I want parts of deceased quadrupeds in or with my sauce.

bienville
05-11-2013, 12:38 PM
You mean puttanseca doesn't actually contain prostitutes, and marinara doesn't actually contain seamen? :eek:
Nah, it's the prostitutes that contain semen.

TriPolar
05-11-2013, 12:40 PM
You mean puttanseca doesn't actually contain prostitutes, and marinara doesn't actually contain seamen? :eek:


However, vermicelli is actually made from little worms.

MrDibble
05-13-2013, 08:08 AM
I think it's important to note that it's a non-seafood sauce in Southern Italy.Naples is in Southern Italy, and it's a seafood sauce there.

SanVito
05-13-2013, 09:15 AM
As for marinara being a non-seafood sauce in America and Southern Italy, I think it's important to note that it's a non-seafood sauce in Southern Italy. Adding America to the sentence makes it a bit of a loaded statement. If they make it that way in Southern Italy, then it's legitimately authentic. But...

It's a seafood sauce in Puglia, which is Southern Italy.

I sometimes think that certain cuisines from very specific areas of Italy, such as Naples or Palermo, have over time been transported to America through immigration and taken on a much bigger life of their own, so the names no longer relate to what is found in most parts of Italy outside the odd village. Nothing wrong or inauthentic about the food, just the natural development of names and cuisines.

For example, I had never heard of alfredo sauce until I joined this board, even though wiki tells me it was apparently invented by a restauranteur in Rome. It was popular with American tourists who took it home and made it famous in the US, whereas the name would draw puzzles in most of Italy. It's still authentic, just that Italians would call it something different.

Johnny L.A.
05-13-2013, 09:29 AM
Naples is in Southern Italy, and it's a seafood sauce there.

I worded that poorly. ISTM that Naples is in the northern part of Southern Italy, as opposed to between the heel and the instep. They're definitely more in Southern Italy than San Franciscans are in Northern California.

Sternvogel
05-15-2013, 04:47 PM
The word for sailor in many Latin-rooted languages like Italian and Spanish is "Marinara" and many of us classic-rockers will remember it well because it's in the second verse of the revived folk tune that Ritchie Valens made popular in the 1960's (?) and Los Lobos made popular again in the 1980's as part of a movie dramatizing Ritchie's life. The song was La Bamba. The second verse is...

Yo no soy marinara
Yo no soy marinara; soy capitan
Soy Capitan, Soy Capitan!

Nitpick: The Spanish word is marinero (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/marinero).

RickG
05-15-2013, 05:42 PM
Man, there are real pissants living in Boulder.

Yeah, I've met a few. But we're mostly pleasant.

I remember the great Pasta Jay's controversy. I think they still put anchovies in their marinara, though they don't claim it's vegetarian anymore.

As an aside, we don't usually eat there, since we typically don't go out for pasta, but they do a pretty nice job with banquet catering. We had them do the food for my son's bar mitzvah party a couple of years ago. Fourteen bucks a head for 2 kinds of pasta (meatless, but not veg, as above), salad, and crusty rolls. Good food and a lot cheaper than typical catering.

Isamu
05-16-2013, 01:33 AM
This is the explanation I've always heard; that fishermen sold their catch, and made the sauce without seafood in it.

No offence, but that explanation defies all logic. After deducting for expenses, one fish, among a days catch, is virtually free, if a fisherman were to consume it. But instead we are supposed to believe that they sell all their fish and then (presumably) buy something else for dinner? :dubious:

Musicat
05-16-2013, 01:53 AM
After deducting for expenses, one fish, among a days catch, is virtually free, if a fisherman were to consume it. But instead we are supposed to believe that they sell all their fish and then (presumably) buy something else for dinner? :dubious:If you were at sea for months, eating daily such delectable fare as fish omelets, fish tacos, and fish boiled in fish sauce, you'd probably want to eat something else, too.

Lynn Bodoni
05-16-2013, 02:08 AM
My father's father loved butterfish, and would bring that sort of fish home to be cooked in preference to just about any other sort of fish. I don't think that he was out to sea for months, though. I got the impression that he was out for days and possibly a week or two at a time.

My father loved chicken fried steak.

Isamu
05-16-2013, 05:37 AM
If you were at sea for months, eating daily such delectable fare as fish omelets, fish tacos, and fish boiled in fish sauce, you'd probably want to eat something else, too.

For sure :p, but that kind of supports my argument that yea-olde fishermen ate fish just like they do today.

However, before refrigeration fishermen generally didn't go to sea for longer than a night, so back on land lots of other foods were available. I'm just saying the small-scale professional fishermen around where I live eat fish for breakfast everyday when they come in after a nights fishing. They take some of the catch and put it on the habachi and that's breakfast.

SanVito
05-16-2013, 06:12 AM
No offence, but that explanation defies all logic. After deducting for expenses, one fish, among a days catch, is virtually free, if a fisherman were to consume it. But instead we are supposed to believe that they sell all their fish and then (presumably) buy something else for dinner? :dubious:

Yeah, I don't buy it either. In the area of Southern Italy I frequent Puglia meat is a very small part of the local cuisine, as traditionally it would have been prohibitively expensive. Fish and vegetables are the staples and I can't believe fishermen were the only locals who didn't partake. You eat what you can catch and grow, not what you have to buy.