December 12th, 2011

The Only Marinara You’ll Ever Need

Basic marinara sauce, prepped for freezing

Prepped for freezing

Last week I mentioned how our household prefers a lot of flavor to bland food.  Today, I’m going to share with you one of the most plain recipes in my repertoire: plain, boring marinara sauce.  But its simplicity is exactly why it’s so perfect.  This basic marinara is the perfect base for all kinds of tomato sauces.  You can leave it plain if you’re serving it with something else that’s flavor-intensive, or if you’re feeding it to picky palates (like small children and people who complain their throats burn from mild salsa).  And if you’re really pressed for time, the sauce is still good on its own.  It just won’t kick your taste buds in the butt.

This is a Magazine Mondays post since the recipe is adapted from the January 2005 issue of Gourmet Magazine, and is meant for making ahead.  It was used in the magazine article, “Easy Week” for mussels and pasta.  I usually just freeze most of it in 2-cup portions and then thaw them as needed, mix in meat or other seasonings, and toss it with a perfect two-person pasta dish.  I’ll give you some ideas to get you started after the jump.

Basic Marinara

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, January 2005. Makes about 5 cups.

  • 2 med onions
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 28-oz cans whole tomatoes in juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Sugar to taste
  1. Cook onions and garlic in oil in a 4-5 quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring until softened, 6 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes, including juice, and salt, then simmer gently, uncovered, stirring and mashing tomatoes with a potato masher occasionally until sauce is thickened and reduced to about 5 cups, 1 to 1 ¼ hours.
  3. If sauce tastes too acidic, add sugar and cook 5 minutes more.

Roasted Red Pepper Marinara: Chop up 1 jarred roasted pepper, and sauté in some of the oil from the jar in a small saucepan.  When it starts to smell fragrant, add 2 cups of basic marinara.  Simmer on low heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to let the flavors blend.  Toss with whole-wheat pasta.

Spicy Sausage Ragu: Remove the casing from 1 Hot Italian sausage.  In a small saucepan, brown the sausage in a little bit of olive oil with 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (unless the sausage is already hot enough; it never is for us).  When the sausage is well-browned, add 2 cups of basic marinara.  Simmer on low heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve over stuffed shells or tossed with pasta.

Vodka-Parmesan Sauce: Heat 2 cups basic marinara in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add 1/4 cup vodka and cook, stirring, for two minutes.  Reduce heat to low, add 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1/4 teaspoon Italian Seasoning, and a pinch of sugar.  Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add 1/4 cup freshly-grated parmesan and simmer an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly until cheese is melted and well-blended into the sauce.

Mushroom Marinara: Mince 8 oz. mixed or button mushrooms.  Sauté with 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme in 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  When the mushrooms are soft and turning brown, lower the heat to medium and add 2 cups basic marinara.  Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste.  If it tastes too acidic, add a pinch of sugar.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer 8-10 minutes.


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