Homemade Pizza School

Updated: May 10, 2023

Reading Time: 5 Minutes

6 Marinara Pizza Sauce Mistakes and How to Fix Them

marinara pizza sauce mistakes how to fix them in your homemade pizzas
Photo by Arthur Brognoli from Pexels

Is Pizza Sauce Different than Marinara Sauce? 

Well, the answer is yes and no. Pizza sauce and marinara can be different depending on how you make them. Marinara sauce can have meat or chunky veggies like mushrooms and olives, while pizza sauce is a smooth tomato-based sauce.

So while they can be different, a simple traditional marinara sauce is the same base that you use for pizza and pasta alike.  Simply put, a traditional marinara pizza sauce can serve double duty.

What is Marinara?

Marinara sauce is a typical tomato-based sauced that is the bloodline of the Italian family. In some Italian American communities, it is referred to as gravy, and others call it sauce. It’s a heated debate

However, it really doesn’t matter what you call it. It’s a delicious base sauce that can be used on pizza, pasta, meatballs, eggplant, and pretty much anything tastes better with marinara. Using homemade marinara will make any pizza better.

As you learn more and more about how to make the best homemade pizza, you will learn why a base sauce is so important to the flavor profile of pizza. The right marinara is zesty with a fresh flavor that stands alone. If you have done the marinara right, all you need is some crispy crust and few slices of fresh mozzarella to have a simple yet delightful pizza.

Common Marinara Pizza Sauce Mistakes

There are several different marinara recipes out there, and many of them are excellent. Sometimes the difference comes down to individual taste for garlic or red pepper. Whichever recipe you decide to use to make pizza marinara sauce be careful to avoid these common mistakes.

And whatever you decide, try your best not to commit any of the horrible sins of homemade pizza, but that’s for a different post.

Only Using Fresh Tomatoes

Of course, fresh tomatoes are great to use if they are in season. Using fresh tomatoes that are out of season can lead to a bland sauce. Fresh tomatoes are best for salads like Caprese or an appetizer like a bruschetta.

To make a good marinara sauce, you will need some canned tomatoes. You will want to use whole tomatoes and drain the excess water. A popular chef favorite are San Marzano peeled tomatoes. Read more about why seasoned pizzaiolos use San Marzano tomatoes.

If tomatoes are in season, you can mix canned and fresh just remember only to use Roma tomatoes and to seed them first. This is the base of your marinara pizza sauce, so you want to get it right. 

Less is More

This is always true whether talking about fashion, home decoration, or food preparation. Less is always more. A common mistake when making a marinara pizza sauce is that everyone wants to make it special and add their unique ingredients. But be careful; this is usually a recipe for disaster.

Pizza marinara sauce should have a complex flavor profile but not complex ingredients. Everyone loves a good sauce, so don’t upset the status quo by trying new seasoning or a splash of this or that to a traditional marinara pizza sauce.

If you must experiment if you like to play mad scientist in the kitchen, do it when you are not serving company. Try things out and use your kitchen as a lab but not when hungry bellies are waiting for pizza.

Timing in Love and Sauce

Timing is essential in love and sauce. A good thick marinara sauce needs to take its time to cook down. You can’t and shouldn’t make it quickly. You will want the flavors to have time to mix together so they can do their thing.

When making vodka sauce, you need to reduce the sauce three times, actually.

If you have a crockpot, you can cheat a little and put it all together on low. Using a crockpot will give your marinara pizza sauce time to cook down and thicken up without having to stand in the kitchen and stir a pot all afternoon.

Texture Timid

Be mindful of the texture you want. Marinara sauce is a quality sauce that can work with many dishes but if you are making it just for pizza, make sure to blend it, leaving you a thick but not chunky sauce. An immersion blender works wonders here.

Unless you like a chunky sauce, I am not one to argue on this point. However, if I tried to serve my family pizza with a chunky sauce, I know the complaints would come rolling in. 

If you are making a sauce to do double duty, take out the amount you want to use for pizza and blend that. And let the rest of the marinara be chunky for pasta and meatballs.

Hesitation with Herbs

Another common mistake is not to spice up your sauce. I know I already said not to add too many extras, but salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, and basil are essentials and not extras.

If you like a little kick to your sauce, red pepper flakes should make the list too. So while I do encourage you to be careful with the creativity, the basics always need to be in a good marinara pizza sauce.

Get Thick

A marinara pizza sauce needs to be thick and red. You don’t want a pinkish watery sauce. If yours turns out a bit too watery or you used too many fresh tomatoes, you have two options to thicken it up.

The first is the easiest. You can add a small can of tomato paste. It will give it that red color and add some thickness.

Your second option is to add some water that was used for cooking pasta. The pasta water has starch in it, so it will work as a thickening agent to get your marinara pizza sauce to the right consistency. A thin sauce will soak your pizza crust and be bland to boot.

These are the most common mistake that home chefs make with a marinara sauce. Marinara sauce takes time, but the rewards are a big payoff.

I like to make a marinara pizza sauce on the weekend. I will fill up a big pot and let it simmer for hours. When it’s done, I blend half and put it in freezer containers for pizza marinara. And the rest I freeze for pasta nights.

I know freezing marinara is probably not the traditional Italian way but in today’s busy world. I would rather make something good and have it in the freezer than eat store-bought jarred stuff because I’m too busy on a weeknight.

So whether you call it sauce or gravy, or just marinara, you should have it on hand for pizza night to make your pizza pie extra special. And remember, there’s no wrong way to eat your pizza creation.

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DK & Eliana

DK & Eliana

Thanks for reading about our homemade pizza journey! We're a young married couple who started making pizza at home on our wedding night and haven't looked back yet. We've learned over countless attempts of trial and error how to make the perfect pizza sauce, pizza dough, and exactly which pizza accessories to buy for your home setup...

FYI When you make a purchase or, sometimes, carry out some other action as direct result of clicking on a link at Homemade Pizza School, we will receive a small commission. Gratzie!

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