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Pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce are both tomato-based, have roughly the same seasoning (Italian) and look a like. However, I (and a friendly user here) think there is a difference between the two. So what is it? Or isn't there one and you can interchange the two without a weird feeling or taste?

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Is basil more common on pizza, and oregano more commonly used with spaghetti sauce? –  Itamar Mar 5 '12 at 19:18
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@Itamar I would disagree. I love oregano on my pizza. –  Mien Mar 5 '12 at 20:48
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7 Answers

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Red pizza sauce is often (but not always) two things:

  1. Thicker. Thinner sauce will tend to run in the oven and also steam the pizza crust as it cooks - if loaded with toppings, otherwise thin is fine. Depending on the crust, the heat of the oven, the toppings above sauce, and how watery it is, this may not be needed. If you've just got some crushed tomatoes and a few bits of cheese in a super hot oven - the sauce should be fine without reducing beforehand. If you've loaded up a bucket of sauce and a pound of cheese, precook and reduce the sauce.

  2. It's often simpler. Many pasta dishes like spaghetti highlight the sauce and hours of simmering happen for the sauce to bring it to perfection. They're all about the sauce. Pizza is really about the crust and what highlights it. Many of the best pizzas are simply topped. Crushed san marzano tomatoes (sometimes) reduced with a hint of salt is often all I do, and franky, it's enough. I'm not talking about the jarred varieties here, but what you might cook at home. Jars in the store, the main difference is just how thick it is.

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Wikipedia answered a lot of this from what I can tell above. but hontestly pizza sauce is thicker with more garlic and parm cheese. That's it! you can get scientific about pizza but pizza is taste not science. just like beer to an extent

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I make a lot of homemade pizza and adding extra oregano, garlic and olive oil to the sauce helps it not to taste like spaghetti.

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Tomato suace in a pizza parlour is typically prepared uncooked. Since pizza ovens can reach temps in excess of 800 °F (430 °C), the sauce cooks on the pizza. Precooking sauce can "overcook" in the pizza oven.

Also, traditional Neapolitan pizza philosophy is "less is more", so the sauce tends to be very basic with a few to no ingredients added. I add oregano, salt and pepper to a can of crushed tomatoes (although lately I omit the salt for my hypertension). I've even steered away from oregano as it can turn the sauce bitter if not used within a day or two. I'll substitute with parsely. When I make a Pizza Margherita I don't add anything to the sauce. I simply sprinkle fresh basil over top of the pizza with fresh mozzarella. Sometimes I don't use sauce at all: just thinly sliced tomatos. That's the beauty of pizza: no rules!!!

Here's my Paulanardi Pizza Sauce Recipe:

  • Can of crushed Tomatoes.
  • Tblsp Parsley.
  • Pinch each of sage, rosemary, thyme

    Get it... Paulanardi... Paul and Artie... Simon and Garfunkle... Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme.... GONG....

  • I might also add some garlic powder and sugar.
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When you ask about "pizza sauce" I'll have to assume you mean the tomato based sauce that became the norm for just about all pizzas in North America since about 1955 when we crawled out of our meat & potato caves and started to try new things. (Thank you E.D. & J.C.)

The reality is that there really isn't a "pizza" sauce. There is pizza and whatever the toppings are of your choice. Example: Basil pesto, bechemal, tapenade, olive oil, heavy cream and tomato sauce used for bases to name only a few.

However, for the tomato base pizza lovers out there here's a FYI...

Restaurants don't have a pizza sauce and a pasta sauce...they have a single tomato sauce used like you would use a stock - as a base to build from for other items.

What is the norm for most restaurants is a traditional house-made tomato sauce. Tinned plum tomatos(tinned are actually better than fresh), onion, garlic, oregano, basil, sugar and whatever secret item the chef uses, cooked for anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours until the desired consistency is found. Typically it will be blended to make it smooth and easier to use in other dishes or as a possible base for pizza if required.

The pizza dude down the street is probably using canned Ragu or Hunt's tomato sauce for everything he makes.

The difference in the flavours, texture will be a function of what has been added to the dish and the cooking time/method. You'll see reduction in the sauce of a pan-made-pasta-sauce and evaporation/caramelization happen with the sauce on a pizza. Both yeild a difference in flavour and texture that will make you think they are two different sauces...which they are once you've added things to them, but both have started from the same batch of cooked tin tomatos.

And so the vale has been lifted...

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Both are just a reduction of fresh tomatoes over a a period of time (30 mins to 4 hours or more). Simple flavours may or may not added during cooking, or at the end of cooking

Pizza sauce is intended for smearing onto the uncooked pizza base, and must have a consistency suitable for doing this

Pasta sauce is intended for being soaked into some nearly cooked pasta so it infuses and coats the pasta, usually just before serving

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I make my pizza sauce thicker than spaghetti sauce, nearly canned tomato puree consistency. If your pizza sauce too thin, you end up with a soggy crust.

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