Monday, October 29, 2012

Simple Marinara

Lazy Mary by Lou Monte
I have this Italian music CD that I like to listen to when I'm making my marinara.  In truth, I like to listen to it alot more often than when I make marinara!  When people have popped in while I'm on one of my random Italian music days I always get a curious look - a look that says something like, "You seriously listen to this stuff on purpose?"  And the answer would be, "Yes, I do!"  I discovered my affinity for the genre after I purchased a CD for a spaghetti feed that the youth group at our church were  having.  It was going to be the background music.  I wanted to sample it before we used it for the dinner just to make sure that it evoked the mood we were looking for.  It passed!  I liked it's "mood" so well it has become a regular mood enhancer for myself!  Lazy Mary is just a plain, fun, and happy song!  And making marinara is a happy occasion!

I always envisioned this long and drawn out process when it came to making my own marinara.  Did I really want to stand by the stove, stirring, all day?  I tell you that I did not.

Then I watched Giada make some marinara on her Everyday Italian show on the Food Network and it didn't seem as labor intensive as I thought it would be.  As a matter of fact it looked pretty easy!

I gave it a try and I was very happy with it's outcome.  But then I had to start tinkering.  After I learned a few things in culinary school, I started to incorporate them into my marinara.  For instance, creating a "fond" on the bottom of the pan that could be incorporated back into the sauce.  "Fond" is what you call that accumulation of ingredients on the bottom of a pan.  Some people get excited because, in our "non-stick" age, we are trained to think that anything sticking to the bottom of the pan is BAD!  But sometimes you need stuff to stick to the bottom of the pan and get all toasty.  You don't want it to burn so you have to keep an eye on it.  But letting things "stick" is where we get some of the best sauces in the culinary world!

Once that fond has toasted up, you will lift it off the bottom of the pan by introducing an acid or liquid.  Often wine is used, but you can also use broth or tomatoes - or even just plain water can work.  But why use plain water when you can take the opportunity to add another layer of flavor?

I use a little red wine in my marinara to bring up the fond.  If you prefer, you can skip the wine and just add the tomatoes.  They'll do the trick as well.  I find that the red wine gives it that deep flavor profile that you find in the Italian restaurants.  You know how you're sitting there asking yourself why your marinara doesn't have that extra special flavor?  It might be the red wine - or lack thereof.

I always keep cans of crushed tomatoes in my pantry because I use them for my pizza sauce as well.
You can use any form of canned or fresh tomatoes - it just might change the amount of time you need to cook them before they break down enough to arrive at the consistency you need for sauce.  I also keep a tube of tomato paste around.  I like it in a tube because I can use just what I need and store the rest in the refrigerator until next time.

Except for a rare occasion, I haven't used bottled marinara since I discovered how easy and tasty making my own can be!  I'm sure you'll be a fan as well!
makes 2 qts.
Printable Recipe Card
2 T. olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. dried oregano
1 T. dried basil
1 t. dried rosemary leaves
salt and pepper
2 - 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
2 T. tomato paste
1/2 c. red wine

Place a large skillet over medium heat and drizzle the olive oil across the bottom and heat.

Add the onion, carrot, and celery and stir, coating the vegetables with the oil.  Sweat the vegetables until tender - about 5 minutes.
Add the dried herbs and stir and cook for another 2 minutes.  This "blooms" the herbs, which means that the heat releases their flavors.
Add the garlic and stir and cook for another minute, being sure not to burn the garlic.

Add the tomato paste to the pan and stir until it is evenly spread out over the pan.  Cook and stir, toasting the tomato paste until it becomes a dark rusty color.
See that toasted loveliness on the bottom of the pan?  That's called a "fond" and that is where you are building all sorts of great flavor for your sauce!  But, first you have to remove it from off the bottom of the pan.  To remove it you'll add the red wine to the pan and take a wooden spoon and scrape it all up while still cooking over a medium heat.  The acid in the wine brings it right up.
See?  Your pan is all shiny again and all of that flavor is off to the side with all your veggies and is ready to give you a marinara that's out of this world!

Add the cans of crushed tomatoes and stir to mix well.  Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer and let it simmer for about 30 minutes or longer - until it's the consistency you want.  This will give the flavors time to really get to know each other.  After it's to your liking, you can leave it chunky -
or, like me, smooth it out.  I find most people prefer it this way.  I use an immersion blender to do the work because I don't have to wait to let it cool like you would if you used a blender or food processor.
This recipe makes enough for two meals.  I freeze my leftovers for those days when you just don't have time to make it fresh - and freezing works beautifully to keep those flavors vibrant!  Enjoy!


  1. Must be tomato season, I just canned tomato's and made mild peppers in tomato sauce. Aunt Bev and I used to make them alot. Now I'm going to try this as it sounds great.
    Aunt Linda

    1. Oooo! The peppers in tomato sauce sounds really yummy to me right now!