Memorizing this recipe was simple, since the ingredients were so basic. However, learning that carrots and celery do the same trick as sugar in sweetening a sauce was nearly essential, since so many jarred sauces sadly have high fructose corn syrup in them (or other evils that I dare not mention). Although sauce takes a while, it can be made in enormous batches and used long into the future*.
I understand why this sauce was considered the most "boss" of them all. It's bright, acidic, tomatoey flavor struck a perfect balance between the light taste of fresh tomatoes and the comforting warmth of a sweet marinara. It also allowed me to reach the exact level of chunkiness that I wanted by starting with whole canned tomatoes. Finally, since bay leaf is the only herb in the recipe, it is one that I could easily adapt with thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano, or any other herb of my choosing. The sauce went perfectly with the meatballs I made, and the whole meal was quite a hit.
Three days after making the Marinara Sauce, I still think of it often, but not just because of its delicious taste. You see, I finally made my "big error" in this whole learning-to-cook experience: I did not stir the sauce during its simmer time, leading to a 1/2 inch thick crust of blackened marinara sauce on the bottom of our household's big stainless steel pot. I wish I were exaggerating, but the pot is still sitting in my sink, soaking in the highest-powered dish soap I could find. I have soaked it overnight, scraped at it with a spatula (if you think nails on a chalkboard is horrific, try spatula on burnt sauce), and definitely destroyed a sponge. It's getting slightly better, but I cannot say it strongly enough: STIR YOUR SAUCE!
|I like a nice, thick sauce, and this is exactly how mine turned out|
The Modified Recipe: Marinara Sauce, adapted from Giada de Laurentiis on the Food Network
Yield: 2 quarts (64 ounces)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped*
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 32-ounce cans whole tomatoes (not drained)
- 2 dried bay leaves
- In a large, non-reactive pot, heat the oil over medium-high flame.
- Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Add the celery, carrots, salt, and pepper.
- Saute until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
- Crush the tomatoes by hand to your desired consistency and add to the pot.
- Add the bay leaves and simmer* uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, STIRRING FREQUENTLY*, about 1 hour*.
- Remove the bay leaves and season with more salt and pepper to taste.
- Storing Marinara Sauce: If you want to keep some fresh sauce on hand for quick meals, you can freeze it easily by cooling the sauce down to room temperature, placing it in a freezer-safe container, and saving the frozen sauce for your next Italian craving. Pouring the Marinara into ice cube trays and tossing the frozen sauce cubes into a freezer bag makes it simple to divvy up smaller portions of the sauce as well for a quick weeknight meal. Your ice cube tray will take a while to stop smelling like tomato, though!
- Finely Chopping Carrots & Celery: The finer you chop, the faster it softens into an integral part of the sauce (the goal is for people to not know that carrots and celery are part of the recipe). I recommend pieces no larger than a pencil eraser.
|Here's a quick idea of what "finely chopped" means in this recipe.|
- Simmering: This is the point just below boiling, so you should expect to see a couple of bubbles here and there. Anything more will thicken your sauce before all the flavors have set in, in which case it's better to just toss fresh tomatoes on pasta!
- Stirring the Sauce: I just can't reiterate this enough! Stir, stir, stir!
|The consequence if you don't follow the aforementioned tip|
(I am too embarrassed to show the bottom of the pot)
- Simmer Time: The thicker you want your sauce, the longer you should leave it simmering on the stove. The hour cook time ensures that your sauce will be infused with flavor, but it also will allow the liquids to evaporate. I like my sauces thick, so I left mine on the stove a little longer than an hour.