It's hard to imagine a world without that delightful combination of pasta and tomatoes, a pairing that is both loved and misunderstood. It would be impossible to list every possible formula for throwing together a batch of red sauce, though many still have preconceived notions of what makes it great.
To begin with, when most of us think "red", the name Marinara automatically comes into play. This is where things start to become confusing, due to the fact that the word has so many different meanings both in Italy and in the U.S. What many do not realize is that the term Marinara typifies an entire pasta course, rather than simply the condiment. The dish originated in Southern Italy, either Naples or Rome, and originally contained anchovies, olives, capers, oregano, chile, tomatoes and parsley tossed with spaghetti, (named in the style of the sailor, Marinara) a combination that is now referred to as Puttanesca (style of the prostitute) in America. There are theories, as with most Italian preparations, of how this dish received it's surnames and which is the correct one. At one point the dish was typically enjoyed in the ristorante and never made at home. To make matters more confusing, the original topping on the traditional Pizza Napoletana consisted of crushed tomatoes, slivered garlic, olive oil or lard and dried, crumbled oregano. Sometimes anchovies are added, though it apparently seems to be a regional specialty. This too was crowned Marinara, though most aren't sure why. Many believe that this classic tomato condiment inspired a cooked sauce bearing the ominous title and formula to be served in the home, though Neapolitans have dubbed this "alla pizzaiolo", which is used to dress thin cutlets of beef, veal or pork. Almost the entire peninsula of Southern Italy can agree, however that Marinara, whether it contains fish or not, should not be served with cheese of any kind. Marinara under any guise is ultimately fresh and piccante, and bursting with strong flavors that need not be masked.