What makes pizza sauce "pizza-y"?

Just an idle question I’ve always wondered about…but what is the main difference between regular red pasta sauce and pizza sauce? A good pizza sauce has a certain zesty sharpness to it, while most spaghetti sauces tend more to the sweet and mild side. I assume the difference is attributable to a couple key spices or their proportions, but I’ve never been able to pinpoint the flavors in question.

Or I could ask the same question a different way: If I had some plain tomato sauce/paste, what would I do differently to turn it into pizza sauce vs spaghetti sauce?

I always make sure to add basil and fennel seed to get a good pizza-y taste.

Heavy on the oregano, usually slightly sweeter than something you’d put on pasta, and possibly some grated romano incorporated.



It’s the oregano, definitely. I usually put at least a tablespoon in my sauce, which makes it taste distinctly different from my regular pasta sauce.

The sauce I have always preferred is made by the DelGrosso company in Pennsylvania - my mom and my grandma made pizzas with their sauce. And these were women who generally preferred to make their own sauce for most other things.

Their sauce includes some ground pepperoni. Might be worth a try.

My pasta sauce generally has less (meaning no) sugar in it, while my pizza sauce does.

It’s primarily the oregano- my wife and I made a pretty passable sauce once out of canned tomatoes, fresh oregano, fresh garlic and olive oil.

Can’t be just oregano. My basic pasta sauce has a buttload of oregano in it. Along with basil, garlic, red pepper flakes, marjoram and a little onion powder.

i agree that it’s the sugar. consistency-wise? less range. sauce can go chunky to puree and not-so-much for pizza.

I use crushed tomatoes and paste, fresh sweet basil, oregano, a few drops honey, red and black pepper to taste, minced garlic (the jarred kind in olive oil is what I prefer) and a few tablespoons of canned Parmesan sprinkles, although I’m sure someone would fuss. I don’t care. It’s divine.

Oh and marjoram! I almost forgot, and it’s necessary! Some like fennel but I can’t stand the stuff myself.

Red pepper flakes are a nice addition, too.

For me the key to pizza sauce is to only cook it on time, on the pizza. If you cook it on the stove, like a normal red pasta sauce, and then cook it again when you bake the pizza you lose the brightness of the tomato. This is true of both fresh tomato and canned tomato pizza sauces.

How do you cook it only one time? Do you press out tomato juice before adding other ingredients?

ETA: Wait, canned sauce is already cooked once when you open the can…

What everybody else says - plus I like a little more tang in my pizza sauce so add red wine vinegar

I agree.

Then again, my pizza sauce is just crushed tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Maybe a little garlic, maybe not.

However, the more American-style pizza sauces tend to be more heavily spiced, are generous in oregano and garlic (and often dried basil), and sometimes have a bit of sugar or honey to cut through the acidity a little. I don’t ever put sugar in my sauces, but if I try to do a more local style of pizza sauce, I end up adding the dried herbs mentioned above. Oh, and red pepper flakes, too, to taste. I don’t put fennel in my sauce, either, as the sausage I use has fennel.

If you’re talking about commercial pizza, all the pizza shops I have been ‘behind the scenes’ in (about 4) use a slightly watered-down tomato paste, often with some sugar added. Maybe a little salt or oregano too, depends on the place. No one mixes cheese in with the stored sauce, usually a spice/romano cheese mix is sprinkled directly on the pizza as it is being made.

Most pasta sauces are cooked for a longer time, have more actual tomatoes than paste (which has a concentrated, acidic flavor) and have a lot more total ingredients.

This is true. I do not cook my sauce beforehand, only on the pizza as it bakes, and add plenty of tomato paste so it’s not watery. My pretty basic recipe is here if you’re interested.

I say it’s the oregano – that, and cooking it only on the pizza, not in a pot beforehand.

Lots of refinements are possible but the basic differences are oregano vs basil and quick cooking vs long simmering. Take a can of tomatoes, add some oregano and it will taste like pizza sauce. Take a can of tomatoes, add some basil and cook it for a few hours and it will taste like spaghetti sauce.