Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Good Catholic Girl's Marinara

Gentle reader, I have a most terrible confession to make. Once upon a time, in a dark hour, a moment of weakness I shall regret forever, I actually entertained the idea of...using red sauce from a jar. (I know! I know! I need to go to Our Lady of Perpetual Pasta and say ten Hail Mama Celestes in penance.) Thankfully, my soul was saved by a good Catholic girl who would not allow me to abandon my faith in the healing power of cooking from scratch. Hence this recipe is named in her honor.

Here’s how this narrowly averted sin went down. One lovely summer weekend, I was invited to my friend Karen’s house in Woodstock for a girls’ weekend. The deal was that each of us would contribute a meal, and I said I’d make pizza on the grill. But I didn't have time to grocery-shop before leaving, and to my eternal shame, I—after much agonizing, soul-searching, and conscience-wrestling—suggested getting a jar of spaghetti sauce to save time.

Karen, a good Catholic girl, responded by visibly shuddering, making the sign of the cross, and saying she would get the ingredients for me to make the sauce from scratch. Hallelujah! She kept me from wandering into the valley of prepackaged, overpriced, preservative-laden darkness.

Making the sauce is, and was, easy—even after the many glasses of wine our group of girlfriends had consumed by the time I started cooking (gentle reader, our conversation that evening would have made Madonna blush—and I don't mean the virginal one). This sauce is of course perfect for pasta or any other dish that calls for red sauce, and it freezes great to reheat for a spaghetti dinner in 10 minutes (more on this after the jump).

Here’s how to make the marinara:

  • Sauté a large diced onion in a few tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan until translucent.

  • While the onions cook, open a 32-oz. can of plum tomatoes in sauce. I usually just hack around inside it with a knife to halve some or most of them (although on this occasion I seem to have done that once they were in the pot).

  • Add minced garlic cloves to your taste; stir and sauté 30 seconds. You could also add chopped mushrooms or chopped red or green peppers.

  • Add the can of plum tomatoes, an 8-oz. can of tomato sauce, some chopped fresh basil (optional) and/or sprinklings of dried basil and/or oregano, a bay leaf, and a splash of red wine.

  • In lieu of opening a whole can of tomato paste, I added a couple healthy squirts of ketchup, which is one of my go-to sauce/marinade ingredients since it acts as both a thickener and a subtle sweetening agent.

  • Let this simmer on medium heat maybe 20-30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, remove the bay leaf, and you’re good to go.

    (Back to freezing and reheating: I usually make a big batch of this sauce and ladle 2-cup servings into Tupperware for the freezer. To defrost: While waiting for your pasta water to boil, put your covered Tupperware into a saucepan of water that doesn’t quite reach the container’s lid, and heat the water on medium-low until the edges of the sauce are softened; then take out the Tupperware, dump out the water, and dump your block of sauce into the saucepan. Cover it and continue heating on medium-low, opening the lid every few minutes to stir and/or flip over your block of sauce. It should be fully defrosted and warm by the time your pasta is done.)

    (...Oh, or you could just use a microwave for, like, 30 seconds, I guess. I ain’t got that kind of counter space.)

    On this particular occasion, the marinara was made Friday night as we prepared tacos for dinner, and refrigerated overnight for a Saturday lunch of grilled pizza. However, our friend Liz did mistakenly put some on her taco, and it seemed to work out pretty well for her. I mentioned that we drank a lot of wine that night, right?


      let's plan another is BETHEL,Ny Sullivan County.

      just want to represent!!!

    2. oh man. i must shamefully admit that while overexhausted last weekend, i forgot many many grocery items on my shopping expedition, and when it came time to make a lasagna, i had to use 2 jars of pasta sauce.

      does this count as confession?