In my family, tomato sauce is the stuff of legends. I’m not exaggerating. It’s not even called tomato sauce. Or gravy (remember, we’re in Western, NY not Jersey). It’s simply called Sauce. You know someone grew up in an Italian family because they can eat pasta and sauce every day of the week. Once again, I’m not exaggerating. J will eat it for a meal and *maybe* another and that’s enough for him. But not me. I’ll eat it every day of the week. Now the real legendary recipe is our family’s Meat Sauce recipe. But that’s a post of another day. Today, I want to talk to you about Marinara Sauce.
This is also a family recipe. It’s like the slightly simpler, meatless little sister of the Meat Sauce. All the ladies in our family have their own version of these sauce recipes. They’re all quite similar and yet all different but they generally all turn out pretty delicious (What can I say? These ladies are exemplary cooks. This will not be helpful to my post-baby waistline!).
It really is a simple sauce to make, and while it can be done in under an hour, I think it’s better if you give it enough time to simmer and really develop those flavors. Like most of the other things I make, it’s all about taking a few simple ingredients and making them sing. And when they do, it’s pure magic. I’m not one to muddle up a perfectly good sauce with too much stuff. It’s blasphemy as far as I’m concerned. You don’t need a million ingredients to make a delicious sauce. You need to combine the few that you have well and give them some time to make their magic.
In our family we do not put sugar in our sauce because A) Gross! and B) It’s simply not necessary. The methods listed in this recipe, are a few very simple tricks to remover the tart and acidic flavors from the sauce without ruining it with sugar (and a top secret ingredient that works wonders!). As far as I’m concerned, sugar has a place, but it’s just not in sauce. Period.
You can make this with fresh tomatoes or canned. Obviously, canned is easier. But one cannot beat the flavor of fresh tomatoes. For this most recent batch, I thawed the gorgeous tomatoes that some friends and I picked at a Mennonite farm over labor day weekend. A couple minutes under some warm water and the skin peeled right off. I didn’t bother removing the seeds, since the Vitamix does a pretty fantastic job of destroying them. If you don’t have a machine with the same strength, you might consider removing the seeds.
This recipe makes a big old batch of sauce! It freezes beautifully and once you have the sauce ready there are so many different things you can make with it- please don’t limit yourself to pasta (though, let me honest; nothing beats a nice, big bowl of pasta!). Either way, get thee to the kitchen and make this glorious Marinara Sauce. I’m confident you’ll be a believer once you’ve tried it.
Source: Rose Scuteri
- A couple Tbsp. of olive oil (I usually don’t measure this but I’d say it ends up being around 3 or 4 Tbsp.)
- Around 6 pieces of garlic, peeled and poked all over with the tip of your knife (to help release the juices)
- 3 28 oz. cans of tomato puree or 10.5 cups of pureed fresh tomatoes, seeds and skin removed- this is a topic of some debate- some people make one or two of those cans “sauce” instead of “puree.” I prefer all puree but my mom tells me grandma would sub out a can of “sauce” so do what you like
- Baking soda
- Onion, peeled and poked all over with the tip of your knife.
- Dried basil (optional- if I’m using the marinara for something other than eating over pasta, I leave this out)
- Romano cheese (optional- if I’m using the marinara for something other than eating over pasta, I leave this out)
Heat your oil over medium heat and saute half of your garlic until its a nice golden brown on all sides (make sure it doesn’t burn- if it burns, you’ll need to wash the pan and start over again because burnt garlic destroys the flavor of anything it’s in).
Once browned, remove the garlic and add your tomato puree. If you’re using cans, Mix a little water between the cans to get excess puree out and to thin the sauce a bit (use whatever amount brings it to the texture of your liking- maybe start with half and go from there).
Bring your sauce to a boil and once it’s boiling, add some baking soda- start with a 1/4 of a tsp. and add more if needed. The baking soda is going to make the acid bubble up to the top. You’ll want to skim off the acid and dispose of it (you’ll notice it’s a slightly different shade of red than your sauce). If you need more baking soda you can always add it and repeat the process, but use it sparingly because too much will add an oddly bitter flavor.
Once all the acid bubbles are removed, add your onions and your remaining garlic (if you want a really strong garlic flavor, you can always used a garlic press). Reduce your heat to low and simmer for at least an hour but preferably longer (I like to go 3 hours- if you’re worried about splatter you can always partially cover it).
Once it;s done simmering, remove the onion and garlic and and add the basil (I rub this between my hands to break it up even more and release more flavor) and Romano cheese to taste. Serve immediately or later- or freeze it!
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