Monday, June 24, 2013

Recipes from My Ugly Blue Kitchen: Super-Delicious Chunky Marinara

With Peanut due to arrive any day (my swollen ankles and stretched maternity tees say the sooner the better), it was time for me to stock the freezer with a homemade favorite.

I am Irish and grew up on store-bought pasta sauce.  My husband is Irish-Italian and also grew up on store-bought pasta sauce.  After we were married and I lost my job as a law clerk, I watched a lot of cooking shows, both at home and- oddly- at the gym, where Food Network seemed to be a favorite channel among those using the treadmills.  During this time I became an enormous Ina Garten fan.  It is Ina who convinced me that making one's own pasta sauce is not only easy, but nutritionally necessary.  Have you ever read the label of a conventional jar of pasta sauce?  I guarantee you that the second ingredient, after tomatoes, is sugar.

There is no sugar in my homemade pasta sauce.  In fact, there are only ten ingredients total. and it is incredibly easy to make.  It is also astoundingly delicious, at least, according to my Irish-Italian husband.  Because I want you, too, to make your own pasta sauce and not consume freakish amounts of sugar, I am sharing my recipe, which I've adapted from several sources, including Ina, below.

CMC's Super-Delicious Chunky Marinara

Ingredients per batch (one batch serves approximately four hungry Irish-Italians):

2 tbsp olive oil (I like Colavita)
1 yellow onion
6 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup merlot or other robust red wine
1 can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
4 tsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 handful fresh basil leaves
Salt to taste


Step 1: Dice the onion.  Or, better yet, if husband is around have him do it, so you don't have to touch up your eye makeup later.  Saute diced onion and salt in 2 tbsp olive oil in a Dutch oven over low heat until translucent, about 8 minutes.

Note: Don't worry about over-salting.  I took a cooking class once and the instructor declared that it is impossible for Americans to over-salt while cooking because our natural inclination to limit our salt-intake preventst us from using too much salt before it becomes a problem.

Step 2:  As the onion is sauteing, mince the garlic.  Of course you could use minced garlic in a jar, but why would you?  In my opinion, fresh garlic is worth the extra bit of effort, especially if you have a good chef's knife.  We use six cloves per batch, but we are garlic fanatics.  Adjust to your preference.

Step 3: Add the garlic to the softened onion, stir with a wooden spoon, and allow to cook for about sixty seconds, until garlic is fragrant.

Step 4: Turn up heat to medium-high, Add 1/2 cup of merlot, and cook until most of the wine has evaporated.

Step 5: Add whole peeled tomatoes and juices.  Crush each individual tomato with your hand before adding it to the pot.  You may want to wear an apron for this step!

Note, this recipe specifically calls for San Marzano tomatoes- the best on the market.  I've tried other brands, including Scalfani and Cento, and there is no comparison.  This sauce calls for so few and simple ingredients, t's important that they're high quality.

Step 6:  Add the tomato paste, stir, and bring sauce to a boil.  Lower the flame to medium-low.

Step 7: Add the herbs.  I use another dash of salt, 1/2 tsp of oregano, 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes, and about eight leaves of fresh Basil.  You can buy fresh packaged basil leaves at any grocery store, or, if your husband enjoys gardening as much as mine does, you can convince him to plant about twenty basil plants in your vegetable garden so you never run out.  Just make sure you rinse the leaves well before adding them to your sauce!

Step 8: Allow sauce to simmer on stove for forty minutes, until thick and saucy.

Step 9: Jar it!  Assuming you have leftovers (or you've made four batches, as I did), you'll need air-tight mason jars to freeze for later.  Santa brought me these mason jars last Christmas because Santa really likes my pasta sauce.

(Don't worry, Santa also brought me the J.Crew leopard flats and Fair Isle sweater I was pining for.)

The finished product!  Ready for post-baby consumption with my favorite portobello mushroom ravioli (which I buy at the Fairway.  I haven't ventured into pasta making just yet).  

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