Why does "Marinara" sauce usually contain absolutely no seafood?

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?

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

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.”

bangs head on wall

“in the style the sailors make”

No apostrophe there. Damn.

No, it’s because the fishermen who consumed it were working fishermen who:
[li]sold their catch to rich SOBs and therefore had no seafood left for themselves[/li][li]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[/li][li]Hi, Opal![/li][/ol]

A few weeks ago, this came up in a thread about vegans:


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?

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.

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. :wink:

Since the thread is food-related, I’m shuffling it off from General Questions to Cafe Society.

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.

Man, there are real pissants living in Boulder.

Naah, what you wanted was Neapolitan 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’re just lucky they didn’t bring out a sauce with zombie in it!

FWIW, ketchup comes from a Chinese word for “fish brine”.

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.

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.

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.

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!]*


*[Editorial interjection not in the original song]

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. :stuck_out_tongue: