Pizza Sauce vs Pasta Sauce: What Is the Difference?

Whether you’re looking to open a pizza shop or just making personal pizzas, most chefs will agree that the secret is in the sauce. Tomato sauce is an essential ingredient in a pizzeria, but can you use any tomato sauce on your pizzas or is there a difference between pizza sauce or pasta sauce? We set out to clarify the differences and provide tips and tricks when you’re in a pinch.

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Difference between Pizza Sauce and Pasta Sauce

pizza sauce being spread on pizza dough

The main difference between tomato sauce for pasta and pizza sauce is that pasta sauce is cooked in the preparation of the sauce and pizza sauce is uncooked tomato sauce that cooks along with the pizza.

Pizza sauce is typically made with plain tomato sauce or pureed tomatoes and tomato paste, causing it to be a thicker consistency than pasta sauce. The thicker sauce prevents the dough from getting too soggy while the pizza cooks. It also features a variety of spices such as oregano, Italian seasoning, garlic salt, onion powder, and sugar for a tangier flavor-profile that perfectly complements the fats and oils in cheeses used for pizza. Pizza sauce is then spread in a thin layer on top of the pizza dough and cooked simultaneously with the dough and toppings, bringing all of the flavors together. Homemade variations may include cooking instructions for the sauce prior to placing it on the dough.

Pasta sauce or spaghetti sauce is generally made with crushed tomatoes that boost the water content in the sauce, making it thinner than pizza sauce. The thinner sauces easily cover your pasta noodles thoroughly to provide flavor in every bite. Pasta sauce will typically only include basic seasonings like salt, pepper, and dried oregano so each chef can season the dish to taste in order to complement the pasta dish and additional ingredients. You will often find tomato chunks in pasta sauce, whereas pizza sauce calls for a smooth tomato sauce that is usually pureed to reduce chunks. Spaghetti sauce may also feature ground beef or Italian sausage.

Pizza is a bit of an American obsession, so getting the sauce right can be the key to running a successful pizzeria. If you use pasta sauce on pizza, chances are that the sauce may be too thin and soggy for some of your customers’ liking.

Pizza Sauce vs Marinara

small bowl of marinara sauce beside a pizza and pepperoni slices

Marinara sauce is a semi-smooth tomato sauce that is slightly thinner in consistency when compared to pizza sauce but has less water content than standard tomato or pasta sauce. The tomatoes on marinara sauce are peeled, finely chopped, and blended to smooth out the chunks but not thoroughly pureed into a paste-like pizza sauce. It is cooked prior to serving and will also have fewer seasonings than pizza sauce, predominantly featuring a robust flavor from roasted garlic.

What Is Marinara Sauce?

Marinara sauce is a thick tomato sauce that is often used on pasta and sandwiches or as a dip. It is made by roasting garlic cloves in smooth tomato sauce on a simmering heat. Although it is commonly served with spaghetti or penne noodles, it is also served on meatball subs and cheesesteak sandwiches or provided as a dip for mozzarella sauce and onion rings. Marinara sauce originated in Naples in the 19th century and is thought to derive from a dish served to sailors (“marinaro” in Italian) upon their return from sea.

Pizza Sauce Recipe

pepperoni pizza on platter

Making your own pizza sauce is simple! Use the following instructions to learn how to make pizza sauce from tomato sauce. You’ll want to have a large mixing bowl and spatula, preferably a red spatula that won’t stain over time. You may also choose to adjust the signature Italian seasonings, as well as the ratios you use to create a specialty recipe for your pizzeria.

Pizza Sauce Ingredients

Servings: 1-2 16” Pizzas

  • 15 oz. tomato sauce (smooth, not chunky)
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp. salt or garlic salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1-2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning (to taste)
  • Dried or fresh oregano (to taste)
  • Dried or fresh basil (to taste)
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)

How to Make Pizza Sauce

  1. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste to a bowl. If the tomato sauce has tomato chunks, use an immersion blender or food processor to smooth out the tomato pieces. (Puree the ingredients if using canned crushed tomatoes.)
  2. Add the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, sugar, and any desired seasonings to the sauce. Mix with a spatula until thoroughly incorporated.
  3. Use right away on pizza dough or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a week. You may also freeze pizza sauce for approximately 2 months.

If you’re using refrigerated or frozen sauce, allow the sauce to come to room temperature using proper ServSafe methods to avoid health code violations. To bring frozen sauce to temperature, either thaw it under cold water in a sealed package, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight, or thaw it in the microwave before using it on pizza dough.

How to Make Pizza Sauce with Pasta Sauce

bowl of pasta with tomato pasta sauce on top

If you don't have tomato paste on hand, you can use pasta sauce on pizza by following these steps:

  1. Strain the pasta sauce to remove excess liquid.
  2. Add the pasta sauce to a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.
  3. Add your desired seasoning and salt to taste.
  4. Pulse a few more times until thoroughly combined.
  5. Strain out any additional liquid.
  6. For additional umami flavor, blend in an anchovy filet.

What Can I Use Instead of Pizza Sauce?

Most pizzas are traditionally made with a red pizza sauce made from tomatoes, but you can use other sauces on pizza. Some popular pizza sauce alternatives include the following:

  • Pesto
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Barbecue Sauce
  • Ranch Dressing
  • Tapenade
  • Olive Oil and Garlic
  • Sweet Chili Sauce
  • Chimichurri Sauce
  • Balsamic Glaze
  • Alfredo Sauce
  • Buffalo Wing Sauce

Regardless of the types of pizza you are looking to make, perfecting your pizza sauce is essential to providing your customers with a memorable experience and turning them into regulars.

Posted in: Recipes | Kitchen & Cooking Tips | By Janine Jones
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