Pomodoro, Marinara, and Arrabbiata: What’s the Difference?

Pomodoro, marinara, and arrabbiata (also arrabbiata) pasta sauces are all Italian tomato-based sauces, but they each have distinct flavors and ingredients that set them apart.

While all three sauces are tomato-based and share some common ingredients, pomodoro sauce is known for its light and fresh flavor, marinara sauce is characterized by its thicker and chunkier consistency and inclusion of various herbs, and arrabbiata sauce is distinguished by its spicy kick and some smoothness as compared with Marinara.

Pomodoro Sauce

Pomodoro sauce, which means “tomato” in Italian, is a simple and fresh tomato-based sauce. Pomodoro sauce is known for its light, fresh taste that allows the natural sweetness of the tomatoes to shine through. The primary ingredients in a Pomodoro sauce are tomatoes, fresh basil, salt, and olive oil.

The sauce is typically made by boiling tomatoes and getting their cooked pulp after straining them. This pulp is then ground, and salt is added.

Before transferring this Pomodoro sauce to the jars, a few fresh basil leaves are added to the jars before pouring the Pomodoro sauce. And then, the sauce is topped with extra virgin olive oil.

Italians make this sauce in tomato season in bulk and store it for several weeks.

Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce is another classic Italian tomato sauce that originated in Naples. The key ingredients in marinara sauce include tomatoes, garlic, onions, olive oil, and oregano or basil.

Yet, the specific herbs can vary by region or preference. Some versions may also include capers, olives, or red pepper flakes for extra flavor.

Unlike Pomodoro sauce, the garlic and onions are sautéed in olive oil before adding the tomatoes, but the marinara sauce is generally cooked for a longer period, resulting in a thicker, more robust sauce. Since marinara sauce requires no grinding at all, it’s chunkier.

Also, please remember that marinara sauce has no added water at all. It only requires you to simmer tomatoes in sauteed onion and garlic along with Italian herbs. Hence, it also takes a longer time to prepare the marinara sauce.

Marinara sauce is versatile and can be used as a base for various pasta dishes, as a topping for pizza, or as a dipping sauce for appetizers.

Arrabbiata Sauce

Arrabiata sauce, also known as “sugo all’arrabbiata” in Italian, translates to “angry sauce” and is known for its spicy kick.

This tomato-based sauce originates from the Lazio region of Italy and is similar to marinara sauce in terms of its base ingredients. However, what sets arrabbiata sauce apart is the addition of red pepper flakes or fresh chili peppers, which gives it its characteristic heat. Besides this, before adding the peeled tomatoes to the sauce, they’re mashed. If making the sauce at home, you can also use canned tomatoes after mashing them in a bowl.

The primary ingredients in the arrabbiata sauce are tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes or chili peppers, with the option to add onions and/or parsley.

The sauce is prepared by sautéing the garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil, followed by the addition of tomatoes and simmering until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.

The heat level of arrabbiata sauce can be adjusted according to personal preference by altering the number of chili peppers or red pepper flakes used. Since, in arrabbiata sauce, you need to use the tomatoes after smashing them, they are less chunkier than in Marinara sauce.


All three sauces are tomato-based and share some common ingredients. Yet you can differentiate between them: Pomodoro sauce is known for its light and fresh flavor, marinara sauce is characterized by its thicker consistency and inclusion of various herbs, and arrabbiata sauce is distinguished by its spicy kick.

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Zak is a botany graduate, a habitual reader and writer, and a voracious reader. When he's not grilling, reading, or writing, you can find him talking to random people.

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