Sunday, September 9, 2012

Marinara Sauce - bork! bork! bork!

I love making my own marinara sauce. I think it's because I love taking things from my garden and turning them into something delicious,  I love the smell in my house when it is bubbling away on the stove all afternoon, and I love dressing up like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets and prancing around the house, waving my wooden spoon.

 ..okay, I don't really do that.  But, I usually do make my sauce every year with the huge amounts of tomatoes that I get from my garden. Unfortunately, this horribly dry and hot summer did a number on my tomato plants and I have gotten maybe a total of ten large tomatoes all season.  Grrr..

In the midst of my frustration and depleted pantry wares, I have been using canned tomatoes to make my sauce...with pretty good results.  I realize that a lot of people have their own way of making sauce and, let's face it, there are only so many ways of putting together tomatoes, herbs and spices.  Today, I will share my recipe for marinara sauce with you and I hope you like it or maybe take a few ideas for your own.

Marinara Sauce
In a large pan (I use my Le Creuset 5.5 quart round French Oven but any good stock pan will work) heat about 4 Tbsp of olive oil on medium high and then throw in one small diced white onion and a good pinch of salt. When the onion is just starting to turn a light brown add in 2 or 3 cloves of finely diced garlic and stir around for a few minutes. When your pan looks like this..
it's time to deglaze the pan. I use 1/2 cup of chicken broth, but you can also use a 1/2 cup of really good red wine to do this. My kids will be eating this and regardless of what they say, not all alcohol cooks out of food, so I chose to use the broth. I pour the broth in and stir it around to pick up all the bits on the bottom of the pan.
Next add in a can of tomato sauce (14.5 oz), a can of crushed tomatoes (14.5 oz), 1 regular size can of diced fire roasted tomatoes, and 1 heaping Tbsp of tomato paste.
After it all starts to simmer, I add 2 Tbsp of a really good Italian seasoning, 2 or 3 pinches of red pepper flakes, 2 tsp of sugar and 1 chicken bouillon cube.  Let the sauce simmer for as long as possible before serving. A few minutes before serving, or adding it to pasta, throw in some chopped fresh Italian Parsley.
Here's a few tips I've learned along the way:
*If you don't have Italian seasoning, you can take equal parts of dried sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram and basil and mix it all together and have Italian seasoning. Store it in a air tight container and scoop out as needed.
*The longer it simmers...the better it tastes. I usually make my sauce in the late morning if I am going to use it that evening so it can simmer most of the day.
*It freezes wonderfully so don't hesitate to double or triple the recipe. I usually get two batches of sauce out of the recipe as it is above.
*I put the sauce in ziploc freezer bags and lay them out so that they freeze flat, then they are really easy to stack up and don't take up a lot of precious freezer real estate.
Bonus...this recipe is a two-fer.  Love Vodka Sauce? Here is the same marinara sauce with a couple changes to make a wonderful, creamy, vodka sauce:
After your onions and garlic are ready to be deglazed, add a 1/4 cup of vodka to deglaze the pan.
Add all the ingredients, minus the red pepper flakes, like normal and let simmer. About 30 minutes before serving add a 1/2 C of heavy cream and 4 oz of Ricotta cheese.  You now have yummy Vodka Sauce to toss with your favorite pasta.
* Please be careful using alcohol near a heat source. You probably like having eyebrows and it would be unfortunate, not to mention embarrassing, to wait for them to grow back.
Okay, it's a three-fer..
Want some meat?..After you cook your onions and garlic and before you deglaze the pan, brown 1 pound of Italian sausage and 1 pound of ground beef in the pan.  Drain the fat and place the meat back in the pan and proceed to deglaze like normal. This can be frozen also.
So, I hope you try it and I hope you like it and..
Hefe-a A Greet Soondey! Bork Bork Bork!
(Swedish Chef speak for "Have a Great Sunday!")

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