Saturday, August 31, 2013

Marinara Sauce

Jarred prepared tomato sauce in the stores just doesn't cut it for me anymore. Looking at the ingredients (sugar, preservatives, high amounts of sodium, etc.) and never quite getting the taste of the sauces I remember from when I was a kid is just pure frustration. As a result I've made sure that every summer I do my absolute best to grow decent tomatoes in my home garden. And this year has been by far the best yield yet. 
If you aren't lucky enough to have tomatoes to pick from the garden, fresh picked fruit is available from good farmer's markets just about anywhere this time of year. (Don't even think about using the gas-ripened, bland-tasting, mass-produced varieties found in a supermarket for this! Your shoes would taste better.) Try this very simple recipe with vine-ripened tomatoes and prepare to have your sox blown off.

I usually don't discriminate which varieties I use for a sauce

Cut out the stem core

Fresh fruit should only take 30-60 seconds to parboil

Once the fruit is parboiled and chilled in an ice bath, it should be a snap to peel.

Prepared fruit

Mashed with a potato masher in the bowl

Mmmm, home grown Italian purple garlic

Sauté the garlic 

Add the mashed fruit

Italian oregano from the garden, dried

Cooking down the sauce

Add the cooked pasta

several pounds fresh tomatoes in season
bowl of water with ice
5-6 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly smashed with the side of a chef's knife
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dried Mediterranean (Italian or Greek - not Mexican!) oregano
hot red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
salt to taste

In a large pot, add water, put on a high heat and bring to a rolling boil.
In a large bowl, add cold water along with plenty of ice cubes.
To prepare the tomatoes, core the stems out.

Drop several of the prepared tomatoes to the boiling water in batches to parboil for about 30-60 seconds. Remove the parboiled tomatoes with a slotted spoon to the bowl with the ice water, slip the peels off, then set them aside to another bowl. Handle the remaining tomatoes in batches.

In addition to removing the peels, a lot of recipes also recommend removing the seeds. I tried doing so a couple of times when I was first learning to make sauce, but found it to be very time-consuming and cumbersome with no discernible effect on the overall results. As a result I no longer bother doing so.

Once all of the tomatoes have been parboiled, peeled, and set aside, use a potato masher to mash into a soup.

Heat a large skillet or saucepan over a medium heat. When hot, add the oil then the garlic cloves. Heat the garlic for a few minutes to get color, then pour the tomato soup into the pan. Bring the tomatoes to a boil then lower the heat and allow to simmer for 1-2 hours. The liquid will reduce considerably over this time so add water a couple of tablespoons at a time to prevent it from drying out, if necessary. You could cover the sauce as it cooks but I find it better to keep it uncovered. Midway through the cooking time, season with the oregano, salt, and hot pepper to taste.

Sauce cooked pasta to use, or refrigerate for a few days, or freeze for a few weeks before using.

Penne and sausage, sauced, and topped with fresh-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 

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