History of the Marinara: the pizza created to make fishermen happy

by Francesco Li Volti

There are historical, epic duels, which have seen as protagonists people of the caliber of David and Goliath, Achilles and Hector, Batman against Jocker. But the one between Margherita Pizza e Marinara, the most fierce battle remains: there are those who prefer mozzarella and fiordilatte and those who prefer garlic and oregano. La Marinara, with its ingredients as poor as they are delicate, remains one of the immovable pizzas from the menus of Neapolitan pizzerias.

About three centuries have passed since its birth, yet thanks to its simplicity it has managed to survive and in the meantime take out hundreds of other pizzas. What is certain is that those who choose the Marinara choose history, because its incomparable flavor has delighted millions and millions of palates.

Storia della Marinara: la pizza nata per far contenti i pescatori
A Marinara pizza from the "Fratelli D'Elia" pizzeria

La Marinara: born for one word too many

It is universally recognized that the Marinara pizza was born in the distant past 1721, when the Habsburg dynasty ruled the Neapolitans. That Naples was already a very large city, with a thriving and well-structured trade and there was really a lot of fish that was brought to the market benches every day by local fishermen.

Everyone knew each other in that romantic Naples and so different professions came into contact with each other: the cook with the chianchiere, the greengrocer with the dairy seller and, why not, the baker with the fishermen. Our Marinara was born precisely from the encounter between these two professions.

It is said that fishermen, before starting the night at sea, were looking for a good, hot, cheap and quick meal to put on their stomachs. For some time now, that pizza so popular in the city had left its mark on the palates of the Neapolitans: Mastunicola they had already been sold for at least a couple of centuries.

For this reason, to satisfy the taste of sailors, fish was added to the pizza, anchovies, to be precise, together with the capers, oregano, alle black olives from Gaeta and oil and sometimes i cicinielli (the discarded fish used for frying fish): that would have been there first, true, Marinara. But even in those days, products from the sea were sold at a high price and only the wealthiest classes could afford such a meal.

Thus, a baker who had his own shop near the Portfed up with the sailors' complaints about the lack of imagination in the condiments, he decided to add something that did not affect the price but improved the flavor.

And here came the garlic, cut into small pieces. Not a fish-based pizza, but in fact dedicated to the poor lunches of local fishermen. Years passed, about a dozen, and the king of the kitchen, his majesty, was making more and more space on the tables of the Neapolitans tomato. It became a fashion to eat and grow it and competed to put it in recipe books. Thus it was that from 1734 the tomato sauce was added and, from then on, the Marinara recipe has remained unchanged.

Storia della Marinara: la pizza nata per far contenti i pescatori
The Marinara pizza of the "Fratelli D'Elia"


Marco Lucchetti, 1001 curiosities about history they never told you, Newton Compton Editori, 2020, Rome


Pizza Guide History, preparation and recipes of the most famous Italian dish in the world, MondoGuide, 2020

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