Like the title states, I think I’ve found my recipe for Marinara. I kinda see Marinara as the my base Italian flavor, just as tzatziki is my base for my Greek style cooking. So this opens me up for many variations and different dishes.
Going to Italy the last two summers I have been very inspired to find my great base Marinara sauce. Seeing jars upon jars homemade sauces in the homes of my Italian relatives definitely inspired me to follow in their footsteps. (or shamed me into it). But honestly, there is no need for the inferior store-bought sauces that are processed & loaded with sugar, preservatives & excess sodium. Here’s why: because it really is too damn easy & satisfying.
So I’m not sure how this whole jarring and preserving your sauces works, but I’m not sure this recipe would even work for that due to the fresh garlic. But anyways, that’s a concern for the future, because it’s easy enough to make before each meal or just a couple days ahead of time (read: I’ll cross that bridge later).
From there I can use this sauce to make a vodka sauce, a pizza sauce, a meat sauce (amatriciana style), a sauce for chicken parm, and maybe most importantly, the sauce that will be a key ingredient in my future Ultimate Spaghetti Sandwich (sorry T Florence)–which will come later and will definitely require some time to perfect as that may be the most simple and beautiful dishes I can hope to create and something that I have worked on since every spaghetti dinner as a little kid.
So, back to the sauce…what’s so special about it? Honestly, not much. It is VERY basic. The ‘secret ingredient’ is lemon zest (well and lots of garlic & the right amount of spice). It’s really about the balance, and the lemon zest brings it together.
Anyways, here are the ingredients below (in order of appearance):
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I spelled it out because I can’t stand that Rachel Ray…eww)
- 1 small chopped onion
- 2 large cloves of minced garlic.
- a healthy dose of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (1/4 tsp. maybe)
- 28 oz. canned plum tomatoes (whole or sliced)–often they are stored in purée or juice and may have basil leaf (San Marzano style is nice, but I don’t think absolutely necessary). I found nice ones for $1.99 at Fresh & Easy and similar pricing at Trader Joe’s. TJs also offers no salt added. Basically I try to just find the most natural seeming with the least additives.
- Fresh basil
- Lemon zest from half a lemon
Follow the kinda normal procedure with the above ingredients: sauté salted onions & red pepper flakes in the olive oil. Add in the garlic once the onions are close to being translucent. Then add your tomatoes and basil. Let the flavors come together as your sauce simmers and then use a hand held blender to liquify the sauce to your liking (if you don’t have one of these, you could smash up using the spoon, or blend the tomatoes prior to putting on the heat). Finally, add in the lemon zest and taste away. Make sure your flavors are good and adjust seasoning or heat from red pepper flakes as necessary. The result should be a rich tomato taste, with a fresh (from the lemon zest), yet slightly spicy finish (from the red pepper flakes).
Buon appetito and hopefully you’ll abandon store-bought sauces from here on out!