Do You Put Sugar in Italian Spaghetti Sauce?

Italian spaghetti sauce, also known as marinara sauce, is a rich and flavorful tomato-based sauce that is a staple in Italian cuisine. It is used in a variety of pasta dishes and can be made with various ingredients and seasonings.

One common question that often arises when making this sauce is whether or not to add sugar to it. In this article, we will explore the role of sugar in Italian spaghetti sauce and provide some insights into why it may or may not be added.

The Purpose of Sugar in Spaghetti Sauce

Sugar is often used in cooking to balance out flavors and reduce acidity. In the case of Italian spaghetti sauce, adding a small amount of sugar can help neutralize the natural acidity of the tomatoes.

This can result in a more well-rounded and less tangy flavor profile. The sugar also helps to enhance the natural sweetness of the tomatoes, making the sauce taste even more delicious.

The Controversy Surrounding Sugar

While some recipes call for adding sugar to spaghetti sauce, others argue against it. Critics argue that adding sugar alters the authentic taste of Italian cuisine and makes the sauce overly sweet. They believe that good quality tomatoes should be sufficient in providing a balanced flavor without any additional sweeteners.


  • Helps balance out flavors
  • Reduces acidity
  • Enhances natural sweetness


  • Potential alteration of authentic taste
  • Risk of making the sauce too sweet

Tips for Using Sugar in Spaghetti Sauce

If you decide to add sugar to your spaghetti sauce, here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Start with a small amount:

Begin by adding a small amount of sugar, such as 1-2 teaspoons, and taste the sauce. You can always add more if needed, but it’s better to start with a conservative amount and adjust according to your taste preferences.

2. Use white or brown sugar:

Both white and brown sugar work well in spaghetti sauce. However, brown sugar can add a slightly richer flavor due to its molasses content.

3. Consider alternative sweeteners:

If you prefer to avoid using refined sugars, you can experiment with natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup. Keep in mind that these alternatives may impart their own distinct flavors to the sauce.

In Conclusion

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to add sugar to Italian spaghetti sauce is a matter of personal preference. While it can help balance flavors and reduce acidity, some purists argue against its use.

The key is to experiment and find what works best for your taste buds. Whether you decide to include a touch of sweetness or not, enjoy the process of creating a delicious homemade marinara sauce that suits your palate!