It can be a point of conflict in many families, the great dinner preparation debate. When it comes down to it though, what's the big difference?
We're talking about tomato basil vs. marinara pasta sauce. Some people are quite opinionated about their preferences and swear the flavor is totally different. If you make them right, then the sauces do indeed have different tastes. But when it comes down to it, they're both just made out of tomatoes, right?
The simple answer actually just has to do with one ingredient: marinara has garlic in it, tomato basil doesn’t.
But why not call it “garlic tomato basil” or just "tomato basil with garlic"? What does “marinara” even mean anyways?
You might be surprised to learn that there’s actually a little bit of mystery (and history) to the sauce name. “Marinara” is an Italian word meaning “seafaring” or “seagoing.” It’s derived from the Italian word for sailor, “marinaro.” A lot of people claim that this means that marinara sauce contains some kind of seafood (usually anchovies). Some sauces may contain this, but a traditional marinara has nothing of the sort.
The real reason it’s called marinara has to do with an old legend.
The story goes that the Spaniards introduced Italians to the tomato, having brought it over from the New World. One version of the story says that sailors from Naples used the tomatoes to make a long lasting food aboard their voyages (the acidic tomatoes had a long shelf life).
The other version says that the wives of the sailors whipped up the recipe for their returning husbands, who were hungry and tired. We're not sure which one is true, but it would make sense that the Neapolitan women made it to encourage their husbands to come home. What hungry guy can refuse a fresh bowl of spaghetti and meatballs?
But, of course, knowing the history of the sauce name doesn't make the dinner time debate any easier to solve.