Tomato Sauce - United States

United States

In most of the U.S., "tomato sauce" refers to a tomato concentrate with salt, herbs and small amounts of spices and often flavored with meat or seafood. This product is considered incomplete and not normally used as it is. Instead, it is used as a base for almost any food which needs a lot of tomato flavor, including versions of many of the sauces described on this page. Tomato purée and tomato paste have FDA standards of identity (since 1939) for percentage of tomato solids, and generally do not contain seasonings other than salt; tomato sauce is nonstandardized.

Marinara sauce is an Italian-American term for a simple tomato sauce with herbs—mostly parsley and basil—but, contrary to what the name might suggest ('marinara' is Italian for "sailor-style") without anchovies, fish, or seafood. In Italy, marinara refers either to sauces made with tomato and garlic (as in pizza marinara) or to seafood-based sauces or foods; in this case, the name does not imply that tomato is either included or excluded.

Some Italian Americans on the East Coast and around the Chicago area refer to tomato sauce as "gravy", "tomato gravy", or "Sunday gravy", especially sauces with a large quantity of meat simmered in them, similar to the Italian Neapolitan ragù. "Gravy" is an erroneous English translation from the Italian sugo which means juice, but can also mean sauce (as in sugo per pastasciutta). The expression for "gravy" in Italian is sugo d'arrosto, which is literally "juice of a roast" and is not specifically tomato sauce.

American supermarkets commonly carry a variety of prepared tomato sauces described as "spaghetti sauce" or "pasta sauce." Common variations include meat sauce, marinara sauce, and sauces with mushrooms or sweet red peppers.

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