Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Basic Marinara Sauce

My nephew, who is just about ready to move away from his parents house, asked me what I make for supper during the week. "Auntie", he said, "when I get home from work I just don't feel like making supper". "Yes", I said, "me neither".

It is so much easier to grab a box out of the freezer, especially when you are tired from a day of work. Don't do it, you don't need to eat extra salt, fat and preservatives and other nasty things that prepared foods have.

Don't buy sauce in a jar. Just don't,' kay?

This basic marinara sauce is one of the things I make to help with weekday meals. Back to basics. I always have some of this sauce in my freezer.  Leave the sauce in the jar at the grocery store. This sauce is way more flavourful and healthy than anything you can get from a jar. Double or even triple the recipe. It freezes beautifully. See 10 things to make with basic marinara sauce at the end of the post.

There are many, many different recipes for marinara. Probably as many variations as there are Italian Nonas. This is mine and my family loves it.

Start with the holy trinity of vegetables, onions, carrots and celery. Chop them very fine. I use a food processor. In Italian cooking these three veggies are called 'sofritto', in French cooking it is called 'mirepoix'. Fancy names for basic ingredients. There is a reason that so many dishes start with these three veggies, flavour.

Sauté the veggies in olive oil. Add a bit of salt. Cook them on medium heat until the onions are translucent. Do not allow the veggies to brown, lower the heat if necessary.

I feel that it is very important to add salt as you go. It brings a depth of flavour the is impossible to achieve if you add salt just at the end. I think that by adding a bit of salt as you prepare not only imparts a better flavour, I think that you use less salt in the end. Salt is not supposed to make food taste salty, it's supposed to bring out the flavour of the food itself. After about five minutes, add the garlic and sauté for another minute.

Use good quality olive oil. It should be extra virgin. The bottle should be dark glass and there should be a best before date. I like to see the country of origin, as well. Spain, Italy, Greece and France are countries that produce good quality, tasty oil. Olive oil is not cheap. You often get what you pay for.
I like this one from Presidents Choice. Good quality and reasonably priced.

Add the purred tomatoes, red wine, bay leaf, sugar, the remaining salt and pepper. If you wish, now is the time to add any dried herbs. add up to 2 teaspoons of dried thyme, dried oregano, dried basil, or dried rosemary. Sometimes I add some hot pepper flakes to spice it up a bit.
I have chosen to leave my sauce plain today. The sugar is important, don't leave it out. Sugar will balance the acidic taste of the tomatoes. After all, it's only one teaspoon.

Bring to a boil, partially cover, reduce heat to simmer and partially cover for one hour. Simmer longer if you have the time. The longer it cooks, the more flavourful it will be.

Remove the bay leaves. Puree the sauce with an immersion blender until it is smooth.

Top the pasta with grated parmesan cheese and for an authentic Italian touch, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.

Secret Pasta Prep Tip
Just before serving, in a large pot, combine 2 cups of sauce with 1 pound of cooked pasta(any kind). Cook on high heat for 30 seconds, stirring continuously. This technique makes the sauce go into the pasta. It's the best

Basic Marinara Sauce

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt (divided)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (32 oz) can plum tomatoes, pureed
1 large dried bay leaf
1/2 cup red wine
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes(optional)
dried herbs or fresh herbs of choice like rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, or basil

Double or even triple the recipe. Freeze the sauce in two cup containers. Just the most versatile sauce, ever.

 Cooking with kids. Watch my son and I make this yummy sauce on You Tube

10 Things to Make With Basic Marinara Sauce. 
Just a few of the many recipes out there.
  1. Basic red sauce with pasta of choice, grated Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.
  2. Pizza biscuit rolls
  3. Pizza
  4. Spaghetti squash 'lasagna' Use this marinara instead of the sauce suggested in this recipe
  5. Add a bit of cream and serve with pasta for a "rosè" sauce
  6. Chicken Parmesan
  7. Shrimp and feta. Use this sauce instead of the sauce in the recipe.
  8. Braised chicken thighs
  9. Steak pizzaiola
  10. Meatball Sub Sandwiches. Simmer cooked meatballs in the sauce for 30 minutes, or so. Fill hoagie buns with meatballs and sauce. Top with mozzarella or provolone cheese.

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