Marinara vs Bolognese Sauce: What’s the Difference?

Last updated on December 28th, 2022 at 09:09 am

It’s no secret that Italians don’t fool around with their pasta sauce—or gravy. And suppose you’ve ever gone browsing the internet for a classic lasagna recipe; you may have been surprised to discover various kinds of red sauce, from spaghetti sauce to others you probably didn’t even know existed.

In this article, however, we’re going to look at two of the most popular choices: Marinara Sauce and Bolognese Sauce, the difference between the two, how to make each, and more.

But before delving deeper into the marinara vs bolognese sauce debate, it’s essential first to understand the difference between the terms “sauce” and “gravy,” both of which feature in the Italian cuisine dictionary and have sparked a longstanding debate among Italians.

For starters, “sauce” is often used to describe a thinner liquid topping, while “gravy” typically refers to starchy, chunkier options. The basis of both terms may still be a point of contention till the end of time, but we’ll categorize marinara as a sauce and its counterpart, Bolognese, as a gravy.

Now, without further ado, let’s get right into it.  

What Is Marinara Sauce?

marinara vs bolognese

Marinara Sauce is a simple-to-make tomato sauce with only a few ingredients, mainly tomatoes, seasonings, and aromatics such as garlic or onion. Besides providing a fantastic dipping sauce for pasta, it’s also an ideal substitute for jarred sauces in your dishes. 

The best part? It’s not as high-maintenance as Bolognese. It’s one of those sauces you can dump the ingredients in a crockpot and don’t have to fret about.

What’s In Marinara Sauce?

Authentic Marinara sauce is naturally vegan, as it has only four simple ingredients:

  • Tomatoes: For a traditional Italian-style marinara sauce, only use fully ripe and fresh tomatoes. Canned tomatoes make an excellent option, whether diced, crushed, or whole. However, don’t use tomato paste.
  • Garlic: This is the only allium used in the sauce. To incorporate garlic into the recipe, you could prepare a garlic-infused oil by grilling whole garlic cloves or stewing finely chopped garlic in the sauce.
  • Olive oil: Use fatty olive oil to give your sauce a more enhanced flavor and balance acidic tomatoes. 
  • Herbs: Season your marinara sauce with herbs such as fresh parsley, oregano springs, and fresh basil leaves.

Marinara Sauce Nutritional Facts

According to nutrition information from the USDA, a 132g serving—equivalent to a half-cup­—of marinara sauce includes the following:

  • Protein: 2 g
  • Calories: 66 g
  • Sugars: 6.5g
  • Fiber: 2.4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 10g
  • Sodium: 577 mg
  • Fat: 2 g

How to Make Marinara Sauce

Making tasty traditional Marinara sauce is simple, considering the process barely takes 30 minutes.

  1. Shred the carrots and dice the onions before softening them in a pan
  2. Add the tomatoes and carefully break them apart with a wooden spoon.
  3. Cook the sauce for roughly 20 minutes. Or rather, until it achieves the consistency you prefer.

If you’re looking to use Marinara sauce as a pasta sauce, make it slightly thinner than if you’re going to use it as a dip or a pizza sauce.

What Is Bolognese Sauce?

marinara vs bolognese sauce

Italians have long been known to love a delectable meat sauce, originally published in 1891 by Pellegrino Artusi in a cookbook that featured it accompanying a pasta dish.

According to RecipeTips, Bolognese sauce is the ultimate meat sauce. It’s more of a slow-cooked, loaded gravy rich in complex flavors sourced from the various ingredients used in its recipe.

Nonetheless, it would be best to know how long it takes to prepare Bolognese sauce. If you’re after something quick and simple to make, you may be in for a surprise. According to top chefs, you need at least four hours stove-side to make a good Bolognese sauce.

Typically, the gravy should be thick and substantial enough to serve as a standalone entrée, and if you’re looking to spice things up a little, you could also add bacon and cream. Finally, bring in some pasta, and there you have it—a traditional Italian dish.

What’s In Bolognese Sauce?

A typical Bolognese Sauce includes the following ingredients:

  • Vegetables: These include the usual – celery, carrots, and onions, carrots. But if you wish to add other vegetables, finely chop them and mix everything.
  • Meat: A mix of ground beef and pork gives an incredible taste, but ground beef on its own does well too. Ground veal makes a great addition as well.
  • Tomatoes: Consider using canned whole tomatoes instead of diced tomatoes because of their thicker consistency. But suppose you can only access canned crushed or diced tomatoes; don’t fret. They work just fine; only their consistency may change a bit.
  • Wine: Go for a dry red, although any red is okay. Adding wine to the mix gives your sauce a lot of depth, and just to mention, the alcohol evaporates. If wine isn’t an option for you, use some beef broth, although the flavor may be slightly altered.
  • Milk: In a true Bolognese sauce, milk is an odd but customary ingredient.

Bolognese Sauce Nutritional Facts

A serving of Bolognese sauce weighing 125 g includes the following:

  • Protein: 3 g
  • Calories: 120
  • Sugars: 3 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 5g
  • Sodium: 400 mg
  • Fat: 10 g

How to Make Bolognese Sauce

Sure, the Bolognese sauce may prove time-consuming to prepare, but the process is pretty simple.

  1. Sweat the Veggies and Meat: Toast the cut vegetables and meat, then remove any excess fat.
  2. Add Wine and Milk: Pour in the wine and leave it to simmer. After that, add the milk and let it simmer as well.
  3. Simmer: Add the other required ingredients (as listed in the recipe) and simmer until the sauce thickens.

Cook the pasta as you allow your sauce to simmer. After everything is ready, serve with parmesan, pepper, and salt, and enjoy. 

What’s the Difference Between Marinara Sauce and Bolognese Sauce?

Marinara and Bolognese are tomato-based sauces; therefore, their variations are subtle. However, for one, you can see a clear distinction in their recipes and ingredient lists—one is a simple tomato-based sauce, and the other is more of a meat-based sauce.

Here are the major differences between Bolognese and marinara sauces at a glance:

  • Unlike Bolognese sauce, which takes at least 4 hours to prepare and employs diverse ingredients, Marinara sauce is made with less cooking time and fewer ingredients and is the easiest sauce to make between the two options.
  • With many ingredients (meat included), Bolognese sauce is way thicker than Marinara sauce and can be served as a standalone entrée. On the contrary, Marinara sauce is a simple sauce that has to be served alongside a separate dish, often pasta.

Marinara vs. Bolognese: Which Is the Right Sauce for Your Recipe?

As seen in this post, both Marinara and Bolognese sauces are great. But we’ve also seen how they differ in terms of ingredients, preparation, and how each best accommodates various preferences and circumstances, depending on what you’re serving the sauce with.