Kitchen Basics: The Homemade Marinara Sauce

Monday, May 2, 2011

There are a few versions of "gravy" that I use in the kitchen, depending on what pasta I'm using and what proteins. But a sauce you all should know to make because it's incredibly easy and flavorful and can be used for everything is the basic marinara sauce. And with prices jumping up and basic good quality marinaras retailing at over $6 a bottle, best for you to know how to make your own damn sauce!

You don't need a lot of bells and whistles for a good marinara. You need quality premium ingredients like fresh basil, good fresh garlic, good olive oil, and most importantly of all most important things, you need to use either home-grown in season summer garden tomatoes OR San Marzano Tomatoes. Coming from San Marzano, Italy, these tomatoes are unparalleled and simply the best in the world. So much so that even in the dead of summer with tomatoes at their peak, even Italians in Italy will use canned San Marzanos. You can find them now readily available at your local supermarket usually in the canned tomato section, sometimes in the pasta sauce section.

The trick to a good marinara is love. I'm serious -- you need to go low and slow, and let the flavors develop. You want a rich, deep color flavor to match it, and this can only be achieved with effort and a watchful eye. You need a good pot, a sturdy wooden spoon (metal will react with the tomatoes too much I personally have found), and some love. That's it. Here's the recipe for my basic marinara...

Marinara Sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, peeled and very finely chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp dried oregano
small pinch (1/4 tsp) dried thyme
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 (28 oz) can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1 cup good cold water
1/4 cup red wine (optional)
2 Tbsp fresh basil, torn

Heat the olive oil in a pot. Add the onions and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook on medium-low heat until softened and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the bay leaf, oregano, thyme, and sugar. Add the can of tomatoes and water, and mix to combine. Add the wine if using and the basil, and stir in. Crank heat up to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes for flavors to develop. Taste and adjust with seasonings as needed and to taste.

My Notes:
If you want a thinner consistency, add more water; chunkier use less water. If you want a very thin consistency then puree with an immersion blender.

You can keep the sauce for up to a week. Reheat it in a pan and toss with your favorite pasta.


degarrido said...

During tomato harvest season I oven roast a lot of tomatoes with olive oil and salt. Then I chop them and put them in 1/4 cup containers and freeze. All winter long I add one of those super-concentrated pastes to a marinara. Really intensifies the flavor.

Mishy said...

Great idea!!! I wish I could grow tomatoes out here better. Sigh. One of the things I do actually miss about CA....