It seems to generally contain a bit more oregano and salt.
The best recipe I’ve found so far is from Cook’s Illustrated: Thin-Crust Pizza. You just whir some ingredients together in the food processor and spoon the sauce onto the pizza crust. Couldn’t be much easier, and it’s super delicious.
Having lately gotten into making my own pizza sauce (no, I haven’t yet found the perfect recipe) I’ve observed that it has to be a lot thinner than spaghetti sauce, possibly to let the cheese overpower it (in a good way.)
There are as many different types of pizza sauces as pasta sauces, because there is no real difference. I know of several restaurants that use the same sauce for pizza, pasta, ciopinno, and any variety of dishes, and I’ve never made any distinction when buying or making sauces. Most of what I’ve seen at the grocery labelled as pizza sauce seem to be marketed as something easier to use than other sauces. One was in a squeeze bottle, the others were in jars that looked no easier to open and pour than the other sauces.
I disagree, generally a good pizza sauce is much tighter and concentrated than a spaghetti sauce. But if you subscribe to the simple, classical, “nothing but crushed tomatoes” recipe, I can see where you are coming from… which is not really pizza sauce to me. American Pizza sauce is usually a concentrated sauce, probably best characterized by processed, industrial, Tomato Paste, and Tomato Sauce balanced by sugar and salt, and heavily seasoned with spices (Garlic and Onion Powder, Oregano, and others.). Usually with a very specific viscosity bordering on the thick side of tomato. Lends itself to spreading and uniformity.
For an American-style pizza sauce, my guess is what you’re tasting is probably the oregano. Dried basil and garlic powder also feature prominently in American-style sauces, and sugar or even honey is quite common (at least in the Chicago area–lots of thin crust places here tend to have fairly sweet sauces.) If it’s a licorice-y taste you can’t quite peg, that’s fennel seed. Some places like thyme, as well. Other common ingredients would be olive oil and red pepper flakes.
When I was about ten years old, my mom taught me how to “make” pizza sauce at home: grab the spaghetti sauce from the fridge, spread it on the dough, and add a few shakes of McCormick “Italian Seasoning.” Voila! Something pretty much indistinguishable from canned pizza sauce. A pew pinches of sugar woulda sealed the deal.
Nowadays, when I make pizza, I start with tomato paste and season up from there with spices, salt, peppers, and onions.
I’ve only recently begun making my own sauce, and the recipe is still a work in progress. So far I’m using it for both pasta and pizza, but I can see making it a little thicker for pizza, more like tomato paste. I think a thicker sauce sort of cements the other ingredients to the crust, rather than having them slide around.
I’ve been working on perfecting my pizza recipe for years, and still am not there. The best sauce I’ve come up with is based on Jeff Varsano’s recipe.
1 Can San Marzano tomatoes.
Pour the tomatoes into a bowl. Rip the tops off the tomatoes and get rid of most of the seeds. Put the seeded tomatoes into a different bowl. Squish them with your hands. Salt and pepper to taste. Fresh basil.
No need to cook the sauce, as it cooks with the pizza.
That’s exactly my approach, except I don’t use basil in the sauce (if I do use fresh basil, it goes on after the pie is done cooking), and I’ll sometimes add a little bit of crushed oregano and/or garlic, depending on what I’m going for. A good pizza “sauce” really only needs good tomatoes and doesn’t need to be cooked. That’s a more Old World approach, though, to pizza.
I do a very simple sauce: 28 ounce can of tomatoes (I like Redpack), a clove of minced garlic, and a teaspoon of dried oregano. Hit it with the stick blender and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight, take it out to warm to room temperature before using. Pretty much the comments I get are along the line of “nom nom nom any more nom nom nom.”
Pizza is about the crust, not the sauce. Oregano is the key flavor to pizza sauce.