Saturday, February 14

Perfect Simple Marinara Sauce

Marinara is so beguilingly good, you think there's gotta be a mystery to making it. Turns out, great marinara for topping pizza, pasta or breaded eggplant is not only simple, it's quick and cheap.

The Foundation
There's really only one thing you need to actually plan for to make good marinara, and that's the tomatoes. Unless you've got a stash of ripe, fresh ones, next time you're at Whole Foods or your favorite local upscale-ish grocer, buy half a dozen 28oz cans of whole San Marzano tomatoes (so you never run out). Now you're set.

The open secret to great marinara is the tomatoes you use. San Marzano tomatoes are simply a variety of plum tomatoes that have more flesh, fewer seeds, and richer flavor than romas, making them perfect for sauce. I buy them whole in cans like you see pictured above.

You can get the San Marzano variety from many brands, but tomatoes grown in the actual vicinity of the town of San Marzano are said to be especially good because of the volcanic soil and endless bright sunlight in the south of Italy. You can get high quality specimens from US producers, too, and since these red gems have become so popular, getting the super duper genuine article is nearly impossible (unless you want to spend some serious coin).

The Recipe: Make it in 20 Minutes Flat
1 28oz Can of San Marzano tomatoes
2 cloves fresh garlic, very very thinly sliced (like paper)
1 teaspoon of salt
3-5 grinds of black pepper
1 8oz small can of Hunt's Tomato Sauce (yes, you read that right!) Use only the plain unseasoned tomato sauce...avoid the cans that have garlic, basil or other "herbs and spices" added.

Empty both cans of tomatoes into a high-sided pot, crank up the heat to medium and grab your immersion blender. Press down and blend each tomato until coarsely chopped, but not pureed. The high sides of your pot should help control the spatter, but you might want to don your fave apron.

If you don't have an immersion blender, you can chop with a food processor or knife before they go into the pan, but it's just messier and adds clean up. Next add everything else and continue heating on medium-low heat until you achieve the thickness you require from evaporation, about 20 minutes. Seriously, that's it.

A word about Hunt's. Some may be surprised to see the extra can of Hunt's, but trust me, it's the simplest, best product for adding liquid, additional tomato richness, and a bit more acid to the balance the San Marzanos, which when boiled down, can get mighty sweet.

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