A picture of Marinara pizza

Marinara Pizza – Characteristics, History, and General Preparation

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What is Marinara pizza, what are its defining characteristics and historical background, what can you expect when eating it, and how is it generally prepared? This post will provide you with all the details about Marinara pizza

General Background and Characteristics

The marinara pizza consists of just four ingredients – tomato sauce, oregano, thinly sliced garlic, and olive oil – with no mozzarella. In some regions, anchovies are also included. Interestingly, in Rome, the marinara with anchovies is referred to as “Napolitana,” while in Naples, it is called “Romana.” In the broader spectrum of pizza varieties, the marinara is a specific way of assembling a pizza, and this style can be applied to any type of pizza.

Roots and History of Marinara Pizza

The marinara, also known as “Napoletana,” is the older sister of the Margherita and is considered one of the oldest “styles” of pizza in the world. The origin of the name “Marinara” is a little confusing and brings up a connotation of the sea (“Marin”), but at least on the surface, Marinara has no direct connection to seafood or the sea in general. So, what IS the origin of the name ‘Marinara’?

The origins of marinara can be traced back to the late 18th or early 19th century, and similar to the Margherita pizza, its beginnings are shrouded in urban legends. Although the details may vary, all these legends lead to one conclusion: the pizza was named after the sailors and fishermen of the Naples port region who used to eat it.

The most popular legend regarding the marinara suggests that it was created by a pizzaiolo who prepared it for the sailors and fishermen of the port of Naples, as a simple and nutritious meal that represents the culinary history of the city – tomatoes, olive oil, and basil. Initially, anchovies were included in the marinara, but due to fluctuations in price and availability, it did not become a regular topping. Over time, in response to complaints from the fishermen and sailors about the pizza’s “lack of flavor,” the pizzaiolo added a fourth ingredient – garlic – and the rest is history.

Another legend speaks of the sailors’ wives who would prepare pizza for their husbands upon their return from long sea voyages. They used readily available ingredients, including garlic and dried oregano, which were believed to have antiseptic properties to help maintain the sailors’ health. Similarly, another legend describes sailors who brought back a supply of garlic and tomatoes from their sea voyages, which were used to prevent scurvy (a common disease among sailors). When they returned home, they used the garlic and tomatoes to prepare the marinara.

Regardless of the exact origin of the marinara, it has become an iconic symbol of pizza heritage in Naples. Today, it is one of the types of pizza that best exemplify the simplicity of Neapolitan cuisine, especially as Neapolitan pizza has gained great popularity in recent years.

Similar to the Margherita, the marinara is protected by the AVPN.

Eating Characteristics of Marinara Pizza

A simple but intense flavor that truly highlights the high quality of the ingredients.

Preparation of Marinara Pizza

The base is spread with tomato sauce (traditionally made with San Marzano tomatoes), then sprinkled with dried oregano, topped with thinly sliced fresh garlic and a drizzle of olive oil.

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