Sunday, January 17, 2010

:: Recipe: Marinara Sauce ::

I love this sauce; it has many different uses. I put it on tortellini and bake it with cheese, I use it in my lasagna, and you can also easily turn it into a Primavera sauce or a Bolognese sauce, or add some sauteed sausage to kick it up a bit.

:: tortellini baked in marinara sauce and covered with cheese ::

Here we go:

:: Marinara Sauce ::

Ingredients: (this seems like a lot but it's really not too many)

  • 1 medium or 1/2 a large sweet onion, diced fine
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced fine
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp dried basil
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup red wine (doesn't have to be fancy)
  • 1 14oz can whole tomatoes (no added salt if you can find them)
  • 1 14oz can crushed tomatoes (no added salt if you can find them)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a few dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • fresh ground pepper and salt to taste
  • Chop up the onion, red pepper and garlic. The finer you mince the garlic the stronger the flavour it will impart.
  • Melt the butter in the olive oil in a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan, dutch oven, or big frying pan over medium-low heat. Don't use cast iron because tomatoes are acidic; it could cause a yucky reaction. 
  • Make sure the pan isn't too hot, and when the butter is melted, add the onion and red pepper. Saute until the onion is almost translucent, and then add the garlic and dried herbs. You can substitute fresh basil if you like (it's actually much better if you use fresh, but it's more expensive), but if you use fresh don't add it in here. I never bother with fresh oregano; I don't grow any and the flavour of the dried stuff is great, i.m.o.
  • You might have to watch the heat once you add the garlic - turn it down a smidge if the garlic starts to colour. You just want all the vegetables to mellow out and soften up, not to turn brown. 
  • If you wanted to make this sauce a primavera sauce, you could easily add some diced carrots, zuchinni, and mushrooms at this point too. Sometimes I do. Or you could add some ground beef and saute for a Bolognese sauce, or some sausage and saute for something tasty.
  • Once the veggies are soft, add the wine. You might have to turn the heat back up a bit, as you want the wine to bubble. Let it bubble happily away for a few minutes, scraping with your wooden spoon or silicone spatula at any bits that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Open both cans of tomatoes while this is happening.
  • When the winey veggie juice is looking a bit thicker, use a fork to lift out the whole tomatoes from the can into the saucepan with the wine and veggies. You could also dump the whole thing into a colander and just strain them, but I love the sensation of poking the squidgy tomatoes with a fork. Once they're all in there, use a potato masher to smash them up into smithereens. Do this gently so you don't end up wearing tomato juice and seeds. I've made this sauce a hundred times, and I've decided I prefer its consistency with one can of smashed whole tomatoes and one can of pre-crushed, but if you're feeling lazy then just use one can of drained diced tomatoes and one can of pre-crushed; it'll just be chunkier. 
  • When all the whole tomatoes are squished, dump in the crushed tomatoes and give it a good stir.
  • Turn the heat up to medium and add the sugar, bay leaves, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. If you didn't have any red wine to add to the sauce, or don't want to, you can also add a few dashes of Balsamic vinegar at this point. Stir it up, little darling.
  • Let it heat through, and give it another stir, and see if it needs salt. It's actually hard to find canned tomatoes in Courtenay with no added salt, so that's why I always check at the end to see if the sauce needs any. If the canned tomatoes were the regular salted kind I don't usually add any salt. If you are using fresh chiffonade basil add it here.
  • Once it bubbles up, turn the heat down to the very lowest setting and let it simmer for as long as you can. The longer the better - you could even dump it into a slow-cooker. Alternatively, you could also simmer it for about half an hour or so, and then put it in the fridge for use the next day. (This is what I do when I make my lasagna, and the sauce is much better in the lasagna when it's been sitting in the fridge overnight.)
  • One last thing: don't forget to take the bay leaves out before you serve it!

:: ready to go in the fridge, and then the freezer ::

 ::lasagna ingredients on the left, with marinara in the big pot ::

:: leftover baked lasagna - yum! ::

Since I'm always fiddling with this recipe a little, next time I make it I'm going to try adding a couple of anchovies or some anchovy paste. I love Pasta alla Putanesca (a tomato/olive/caper/spicy sauce) and the base of the sauce uses anchovies for a very rich taste. I think a little anchovy flavour would be interesting in this recipe. I used to think anchovies were gross because Oscar the Grouch likes them on his pizza, but the canned kind have no bones or heads or anything, and when you saute them they disintegrate into paste, and they're quite delicious! I will post my review when I get around to actually making more!

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