Variation on Traditional Marinara Sauce
I cook, therefore I love Italian food. I am actually a wannabee Italiano but that’s the way life goes. Instead I’m Danish and German but I do know how to cook Italian! Like so many things today, I find ready-made Italian sauces to be unacceptable as they are extremely high in sodium and do not have (in my humble culinary opinion) the proper spices nor the proper taste. Some are too tangy, some are too flat, and some are just plain crapolla (excuse my Italian).
Looking for the proper Italian Marinara to make myself, I have experimented a lot over the years and finally have come up with a winner from where I cook. I use a meatless sauce many times because it is simply ‘better’ for us not to have so much meat. However, when I decide to ‘go meat’, since I am not a fan of the way ground beef makes a greasy mess of itself, I use my secret ingredient. I have never been a ground beef fan anyhow but one day while I was strolling (I stroll a lot when shopping) down the grocery meat aisle, I thought to myself ‘self – what if you used Italian sausage instead of the ground beef?’ Well, see for yourself and tell me it isn’t a much better alternative.
Thinking dessert? Try biscuit tortoni – it is a delightful end to an Italian dinner.
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Audrey’s Marinara Sauce
Mild Italian sausage (3 links or roughly 1/2 pound)
1 small onion chopped (or enough to cover bottom of 5-quart soup pan)
2-3 gloves of garlic minced/crushed
1-28 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
1-14.5 ounce can Italian diced tomatoes
1-15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 6 ounce can of tomato paste (1-2 tablespoons)
About 3 canfuls of water (or you can substitute some red wine or zinfandel, even part broth)
1 tablespoon sugar (to cut acid of tomatoes)
1-2 teaspoons dried oregano (or 3-6 tablespoons fresh)
2 teaspoons at least of basil (or 6 tablespoons fresh)
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes (or 6 tablespoons fresh)
Salt or pepper if desired
Use a 5-6 quart soup pan.
Slice open lengthwise Italian sausage links and turn the meat out of the casing and put into soup pan (or use bulk Italian sausage).
Place chopped onions and garlic in with the Italian sausage and cook over medium heat breaking apart the Italian sausage and turning/stirring often until Italian sausage is cooked through and onions are wilted.
Add tomatoes and 2-3 tablespoons of the tomato paste to the pan along with 2-3 canfuls of water, part red wine, zinfandel, or even broth. The total in the pan should come about an inch or a bit from the top of the pan. (You will be ‘reducing’ the sauce by allowing it to cook for several hours)
Stir in the sugar.
Sprinkle the herbs over top – add salt and pepper to taste if desired.
Adjust the temperature once it starts to bubble so that it is not bubbling OVER but is simmering gently and cook until the sauce reduces and thickens to desired texture – several hours.
Use immediately or cool and freeze/store.
* Note – When I use Italian sausage, there is virtually NO grease left over in the pan after browning it and cooking it and I do not use oil in the pan with the onions and garlic – just the mild Italian sausage.Lodge Color EC6D33 Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, Blue, 6-Quart
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Tips on Tomato Sauce
You can also substitute fresh tomatoes and tomato sauce and use in place of canned tomatoes and sauce
You can add mushrooms to the sauce as well for a different flavor
I use fresh herbs that I grow in my garden during summer, then dry and store – any kind of oregano will do as there are several varieties that I grew last summer. Same with basil
You can use fresh herbs chopped – 1 tablespoon of fresh equals 1 teaspoon dried
I freeze the extra tomato paste in rectangular ice cube trays I bought at the Dollar Store so when I’m making my marinara sauce, all I have to do is pop out 2-3 of the tomato paste cylinders and plop into the sauce
You can freeze the Marinara sauce in containers (allow head space/room to expand) or in bags (simply fill and lay flat on a cookie sheet until frozen)
You can also can the sauce for later use
This sauce can be used on pizza as well as spaghetti and I also use it in meat lasagna. It freezes extremely well and takes only minutes to thaw out. It’s a great thing to have in the freezer when you are running late and need something like ‘now’ – and don’t forget to sprinkle fresh Parmesan cheese on top!
How To Make Tomato Sauce From Scratch
8-10 tomatoes (I prefer Roma)
Salt if desired
Water to cover tomatoes for boiling to skin them
2 cups of diced onions
2 cups of diced celery
2 cups of diced carrots
1 tablespoon of fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
Bowl of ice water
Place several quarts of water in a large soup pot. Water just has to be enough to cover tomatoes. Bring the water to a boil
Add your tomatoes and let them boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute. (Discard water when done)
Turn out immediately in a colander and then put in a bowl of ice water. (This makes the skins pop off easily)
Drain the tomatoes; then remove the skins and seeds. Squeeze the excess water from the tomatoes or you will have a watery sauce although if you are cooking it, the water will cook out anyway
Spray pan with cooking spray and add carrots, celery, onions and garlic – cook over medium heat. Cook until vegetables are slightly tender, then add in tomatoes. Do not add water
Simmer over medium heat and stir every few minutes to prevent the tomatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pan. As the tomatoes cook, they will break down and create a thick sauce. If your sauce is a little too thick add a cup of water and stir. Let the sauce simmer for half an hour.
Add spices to taste.
You can use this sauce ‘as is’ or add to Marinara sauce above in place of canned tomatoes.
You can also roast tomatoes with garlic and diced vegetables for a different taste altogether in a large roasting pan at 350 degrees or until the tomatoes break down. Transfer to the soup pot and stir to break up the tomatoes and combine all the ingredients, add herbs, etc.
Raw Tomato Sauce
Seed your tomatoes (peeling is optional but you can do with a peeler which is rather tedious or dip into boiling water for 30 seconds, then drop into ice water and slip the skins off) Again, seed them and chop them
You can also cut tomatoes into quarters, scoop out the seeds and grate with a cheese grater for a smoother, juicier sauce
Raw tomato sauce can be seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs (basil, oregano and parsley are usually used) and some salt and pepper
Toasted pine nuts add texture and richness
Use in the recipe above or ‘as is’ on pasta for a different variation of tomato sauce
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