I will start with my go-to red sauce which I titled “Mom’s Marinara” for my cookbook, but I have since changed the recipe up a teensy bit. I always knew my sauce is not a typical marinara. The traditional marinara doesn’t have much more in it than tomatoes, garlic and basil. Throw in some olive oil to cook the garlic and tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and sugar to cut the acidity and voila! Simple marinara. It is also not a recipe that needs to sit on the stove for half a day, as it was used originally by mariners (translation from the italian marinaro or sailor) who didn’t have the resources or time to prepare or carry a more complicated sauce on board.
That being said, I simply love this sauce. Its versatility lends itself to unlimited dishes. Once done, puree it, then run it through a sieve for a super-smooth texture or add ground pork for a sort of ragu. Add a touch of heavy cream for a softer, velvety finish or a splash of balsamic vinegar for a zestier taste.
I puree and strain the sauce mainly for use in lasagna. Otherwise, I eat it with the bits of veggies intact. I love those whole flavors and especially love to sop them up with the last bites of crusty garlic bread.
- 2 Tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 sweet onion, fine dice
- 1 green pepper, fine dice
- 1/3 cup cooking sherry
- (2) 6 oz. cans tomato paste, unseasoned (I use Contadina)
- (2) 28 oz. cans tomatoes, (I use Cento San Marzanos) (about 5 cups chopped, if you use your own)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped basil
- pinch of oregano
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- pinch of crushed red pepper
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- salt, pepper & sugar to taste
How to Make It!
In a large sauce pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add garlic, onion, and green pepper and cook (or sweat) until onions appear transparent. Add the cooking sherry, let bubble and cook until the sherry reduces by half, about 5-10 minutes.
Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, water and seasonings. Take a minute to break up the whole tomatoes a bit and stir together. Once the sauce begins to bubble, turn heat to low, cover and let simmer for a few hours. Stir occasionally, taste and adjust seasonings, as needed. Add salt, pepper and sugar, a pinch or so at a time, to taste. Yields about 5 cups