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The Marinara Variations March 29, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in Cooking, Food.
Tags: , ,

I haven’t had sauce from a jar in more than twenty years, and in that twenty plus, I’ve constantly experimented with slight differences in the recipe for my homemade pasta sauce.

I make a mother sauce to keep around & add stuff to (sausage, mushrooms, clams, ground turkey) as I dole out portions from the batch in the ‘fridge, so what I’m interested in, mostly, is how to bring out the flavors of the tomatoes, the balance of the garlic, and whatever other spices I’m throwing in.

I posted my basic sauce recipe a while ago, but to recap: 1 chopped carrot + 1 cup chopped onion sauteed in 1/4 cup of olive oil until translucent, add 4-5 garlic cloves, minced until fragrant. Then, a 28 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, mashed & 1/4 cup of wine. Bring to a rolling boil, cover, reduce to simmer for a half hour. Then, add 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp pepper & 1 tbsp of dried basil. Ba-da-bing!

Now, I’ve played with this recipe in numerous ways. I’ve dropped the onion and replaced it with about a teaspoon of sugar. I’ve added the wine to the carrot/onion/garlic mash and cooked it down to a near syrup before adding the tomato. I’ve fried half of the tomatoes to bring out their sugars before adding the rest. I’ve added chicken broth instead of, or combined with the wine. I’ve dropped the pepper in favor of some garlic powder and dried mustard. Thyme is nice instead of basil. All the results have been good, although different.

Generally, the better the quality of tomato, the less “stuff” I like to add to the sauce. I’d rather have the flavor of pure sweet tomato, so when I spring for real imported San Marzanos, I’ll usually go light on the additions. Cheaper canned tomato, like the Trader Joe’s version, can be easily dressed up with the additions above. But with the top of the line, I usually only go with carrot, garlic & the chicken broth/wine combo before adding salt & pepper to taste at the end.




1. Conor Bofin - March 29, 2012

Not possible to get a decent tomato here in Ireland. I have to wait to go to France to make a pasta sauce with them. Good thing I am going later in the year…

Jim Berkin - March 29, 2012

Why not order them online, Conor? In the meantime, I guess the trade-off is that your Guinness on tap is better than the version over here!

Conor Bofin - March 29, 2012

Good thoughts. Both the online and the thought of a nice cold pint of plain….

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