Sep 12, 2010

The perfect homemade marinara

On my quest for my favorite recipes, I happened upon this amazing sauce. I've tweaked it a bit to suit my needs. When I say amazing... I really mean it. I haven't made a homemade marinara that is this good before. Every time I make it I wait and wait for it to be done, so that I can put it on anything. This sauce is great on any kind of pasta, and it's also pretty wicked as a pizza sauce (if you like multitasking sauces). I've made it just like the recipe, and I've also done slight variations, adding kale, spinach, more spice, less spice, chunkier & smoother. I have loved every incarnation of this. It's nice and tomatoey without being over the top. It has a little kick of spice but isn't too overwhelming. Maybe I should just get to the recipe so that you can taste it for yourselves? Yeah... that's probably the best idea. (Don't forget you can click on the pictures to make them bigger/see the full pic!)

1 Tbsp butter
3 -4 Tbsp olive oil (I use enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of my pot)
1-2 large onions, chopped (I try and chop this very finely)
4-6 garlic cloves, finely minced (I use between 6 and 8 cloves, I LOVE garlic)
1-2 Tbsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional or adjust to taste)
1 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste (if you lik it thicker you can add another)
2 (28 ounce) cans whole or crushed roma tomatoes, undrained (Make sure on the ingredient list tomatoes are first, not tomato paste.)
2 teaspoons sugar (optional, it's great with the sugar... but some people don't like it)
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste, you need lots of salt!)
fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
4 or 5 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

In a nice big stock pot add your olive oil and butter. When the butter is melted add your onion and garlic. Saute until softened. We're using butter and olive oil because the butter helps bring out the sweetness of the onions. Trust me, it works. Once your onion and garlic are slightly softened add in your spices. Make sure that you rub and crush your spices with your fingers, this releases the essential oils in the dried spices, and helps to bring out the flavors.
Spices for Marinara
Onions Garlic and spices marinara
Onions, Garlic, and spices Marinara

Saute the onion, garlic, and spices for a few minutes to get them nice and infused together. Then add your tomato paste. It's going to be chunky and weird at first... that's normal, just keep stirring it to get the tomato paste nice and warm and melty.
Onions garlic tomato paste marinara
Onions garlic tomato paste marinara
Add in your canned tomatoes with their juices. Go ahead and add in the salt and pepper, and sugar if desired. I know, I know... canned tomatoes? The truth is, to make the amount of sauce you need for a recipe like this, you would probably have a hard time finding enough great tomatoes. I like canned because I know that they're going to be sweet, and juicy. No surprises.

Now here's the hard part. Stir your sauce together, turn the heat to medium or medium-low depending on your stove, and then leave it alone. We need the sauce to simmer for 1 to 2 hours to develop the best flavors. Stir occasionally to make sure you're not burning things to the bottom of your pot. You can simmer it more than that if desired. Low and slow is the way to go baby. You can develop the sweetness of the tomatoes with the tiny bit of spice from the red pepper flakes, and the bite of the garlic. This sauce does thicken considerably. If you need it/would like to to be thinner, go ahead and add some water or chicken stock. Please please please do not forget to taste test your sauce as it cooks. You can add more basil, oregano, pepper flakes, salt, sugar, whatever you feel it needs. Add the pepper flakes sparingly, don't forget, if you make it too spicy.... you're kinda stuck. Add your chopped fresh basil, and any sort of cheese you'd like. I tend to just use parm. If you want it to be pretty add the chopped basil and cheese to each individual plate.
Or go ahead and serve straight out of the pot. I've used this for homemade ravioli, manicotti, spaghetti, and a bunch of other things. It's never failed me. If you like your sauce less chunky, run it through the food processor or blender and make it smoother. I'd recommend doing that if you're going to use it as a pizza sauce.

Simmering marinara

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