Marechiara is one of Italy's lesser-known sauces, specifically associated with Naples, and served exclusively with seafood. That said, it is one of the easiest sauces to make.
Classically Italian in each ingredient, Marechiara sauce combines
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- Olive oil
- White wine
- Chopped tomatoes.
A spicier version adds red chili pepper flakes, a standard flourish for Neapolitan cuisine, and chopped olives are also sometimes included. The sauce's distinguishing feature is that the tomatoes are not pureed into a thick sauce. Rather, the tomato juice contributes to a light, tangy broth.
At first glance, there is little to distinguish between Marechiara sauce and alla vongole sauce. Both are used for simmering clams or shellfish, and both have white wine as their signature ingredient. The key difference is the tomato in Marechiara.
Because Marechiara takes its name from a Neapolitan peninsula on the Tyrrhenian Sea, the sauce inevitably looks toward the region's abundance of seafood for partners. As a general rule, seafood dominates in Naples to a much greater extent than in the north of Italy, where meat prevails.
Expect the sauce to be served with clams, mussels and shrimp, as well as salt cod, tilapia and cicenielli, or whitebait. None of these require long sessions in the pan, so the sauce can typically be whipped up in a matter of minutes, its bright, sweet flavors in no need of the slow simmering of thicker tomato sauces.
Marechiara is a pasta sauce, ideal with smooth spaghetti or linguine. The aim is to coat the pasta lightly in the sauce, rather than smother it in thick chunks. Neapolitans tend to take pasta al dente, the connoisseur's choice for its firmer texture. If possible, use local San Marzano tomatoes.