What Makes Italian Marinara Pasta Italian (+Recipe)

3 years ago, I followed Jamie Oliver’s recipe of marinara spaghetti and it turned out aweful. After trying many italian restaurants in the following years, I realized that the key is the raw ingredients and in the details. Using ingredients in Indonesia made a totally different combination of flavors. Here are what I conclude so far:

  1. San marzano tomato (or similar taste): tomato plays a dominant taste in pasta, which without sweet and rich tomato our pasta could be bland.
  2. Good olive oil. As fresh as possible for its distinct flavor.
  3. Some umami. Anchovies or cut of meat/fat seared in oil in the beginning.
  4. Not-crispy garlic. It’s probably different with some asian recipes that is built on minced garlic that is cooked until crispy. The garlic usually subtle without having its raw taste.
  5. Al dente pasta. Drained and put rightaway into the sauce pan, allowing it to absorb and “carry” the sauce. It’s okay to have some pasta water getting in, the starch in it will help emulsifying the sauce.
  6. Seasoned with parmeggiano regiano (or similar types of cheese). It is actually the main source of saltiness with its natural umami and tangy flavors.


  • 3 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Anchovies
  • 1.5 cup peeled San Marzano tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 5 basil leaves, minced
  • Pasta, just cooked to al dente
  • Parmeggiano reggiano


  1. Leave pasta being cooked
  2. Heat oil, add anchovies until sizzling, then garlic until cooked
  3. Add oregano, tomatoes, and basil leaves
  4. Transfer pasta into the sauce
  5. Top with parmeggiano reggiano

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