Here's another use for fresh tomatoes: marinara sauce. The best part is that you can make this all year with canned crushed (or whole) tomatoes. I grew up on jarred sauce and relied on it for the first few years when I was living on my own and cooking at my apartment. Prego, Barilla, and Classico sauces were staples on my grocery list. I think the turning point for me was watching the Food Network where Rachael Ray whipped up marinara sauce in five minutes and visiting authentic Italian restaurants (i.e. not Olive Garden) and learning the difference between sauce in a jar and fresh sauce made with fresh basil. Oh how I love fresh basil. To me, basil tastes like summertime.
It goes without saying that I'm not Italian, I just appreciate Italian food. This is my way of making a basic sauce. There are many, many ways to do it, but here's my version of an authentic marinara...
Saute one small onion (chopped finely) in olive oil over low heat until soft (about 8 minutes).
Once the onions are soft and translucent (but not brown), toss in 3 cloves of minced garlic (or if you love garlic, add more) and cook for 1 minute). Then add crushed tomatoes. You can do one 28-ounce can, or you can add about 2 pounds of peeled, seeded, and diced fresh tomatoes. If you use fresh tomatoes, you'll need to add some salt.
Stir in pepper and oregano. Bring up to a simmer on medium heat. Once the sauce is simmering, you can add red wine or chicken stock to thin it out a bit. Cook it at a slow simmer for about a half hour, then remove it from the heat and stir in some chopped fresh basil. Splurge for fresh basil, it makes a huge difference.
Taste for and adjust seasonings as necessary and that's it!
This is a really basic sauce. Sometimes I add roasted red tomatoes (especially when I have tons from my garden), merlot, green peppers, more garlic, whatever. But this basic recipe yields a marinara that's great in spaghetti, lasagna, served over pasta, or even as a dipping sauce.
We still keep a few jars of prepared sauce in our pantry for those evenings when my husband cooks dinner (rare) or when I'm eating alone and I need something to toss on my pasta and I'm sleepy and I only have enough energy to boil water. You know how it is.
a Keeley original recipe
yield 1 quart
1 small or medium onion, minced
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes or 2 pounds of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and crushed
salt (optional, to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
3/4 cup dry red wine (such as merlot) or chicken stock
1/2 cup fresh basil, torn into small pieces
Put onions and olive oil in medium saucepan over medium low heat. Cook onions slowly until soft and translucent (about 10 minutes). Stir in chopped garlic and cook for an additional minute.
Pour in tomatoes and increase heat to medium. Add black pepper, salt (optional), oregano, wine or broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When sauce is cooked and thickened, remove from heat and stir in basil. Serve immediately or refrigerate and use within three days.