After posting a picture of “My Prize Marinara Sauce” on the Face-pages, I was asked to share the recipe with the Co-op. Cool! Problem is, I don’t use a recipe. My cooking style has (d?)evolved into a “feeling” instead of a recipe.
So here I am, first Saturday afternoon in Fall, every container in the house filled with tomatoes, and a stack of recently “thrifted” records. I decide to put on the chef’s hat. Do I want to make catsup, tomato soup, marinara, spaghetti sauce, salsa, roasted oil drenched tomatoes, or stewed? I don’t know yet, but I do know I’ll need a pile of chopped tomatoes cooked down for hours. Time to pull out the Kitchen Aid food processor and a fresh slab of wax for the turntable!
Now that I have a kettle of tomatoes simmering and the tunes blasting, I take a walk into the garden and find a pungent bouquet of basil that the first frost is itching to steal. I decide on Marinara.
Fortunately, I’ve just returned from our Two Rivers Community Garden plot with a bounty of onions and leeks, and the garlic has been harvested and cured for a few weeks. How many onions do you need for a big pot of Marinara? I dunno, two? One? How onion-y do I feel today? I decide on two.
Our garlic was as sharp as a tack this year so I bet one and a half large heads will do. Who doesn’t love a ton of garlic?
I FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT GOOD INGREDIENTS MAKE GOOD FOOD!! So, if I don’t use my personal garden dried herbs, I usually get my spices from the bulk/organic section of a grocery store (can’t wait to buy these soon from the Clipper City Co-op). I luckily have a quality Italian mix on hand along with some of our personal dried oregano (which, as my wife brought to my attention, really makes a good marinara). As I throw in a healthy handful of herbs and reduce to a simmer, I search out my wife to join in on whatever mischief she’s gotten herself into.
A couple beers and records later I return to find the sauce level down about 2” lower than when I left it. Definitely a couple more hours to go. Who likes watery sauce Reduce!
I now remember I forgot to put salt in. I throw in a few tablespoons and also remember that marinara is sweet, and throw in a few tablespoons of sugar as well. I’m out of crushed red pepper so I substitute with some black pepper instead. If its not spicy enough, I can always add crushed red pepper at a later date. I also toss in some olive oil, can’t hurt right?
A couple more hours and records later…..
My tomato water has reduced into a thick slurry consistency so I decide to turn off the heat and add the chopped fresh basil (fresh herbs are best added at the end of a boil/simmer). I spot the Sartori Shaved Parmesan in the fridge and figure it would give some flavor, “cadence”, and “stick” to the sauce. Viola! It’s done…this sauce is not asking for any more. Now I let it cool, so I can ladle into quart size zip lock bags and send them to freezer camp.
Straining tomatoes is not the same as reducing, in my opinion. The magic happens in a long slow simmer.
Tomato varieties are important. I like to use a mixture. Celebrity for acidity, Brandywine for deep flavor, Roma for thickness, and some kind of cherry variety for sweetness. Although, no combination is wrong.
Salt and Sugar levels are really important. Your tongue will tell you.
Use quality ingredients
Freezing is easier than canning
If you burn it, it makes a great start to a chili!
Be fearless! It’s really hard to make something inedible. Adapt and improvise! If I would have picked a few of the ridiculously abundant wild mushrooms this morning, I would have made a spaghetti sauce instead. Above all, love your food!