Growing up, when we went out to eat, which was rare, we went to a Mexican or occasionally a Chinese restaurant. My idea of an Italian restaurant was any local restaurant with spaghetti on the menu or the local pizza parlor. Fettucini, linguine, ravioli, manicotti, ziti, and all the other excellent pasta varieties were not even in my vocabulary. The first time I heard someone call spaghetti sauce gravy, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would put gravy on pasta. Gravy belonged on potatoes or meatloaf, not pasta.
Shortly after our arrival on the East Coast/New York, we ate at an Italian restaurant in New York City. After eating the most wonderful meal, I realized I had discovered a new food group – PASTA!! Oh, the delightful ways to enjoy pasta! There is pasta with marinara, with alfredo, with pesto, with Pomodoro, with vodka, with…. so delicious.
This recipe is a Classic Marinara Sauce for pasta. My Italian friend Vinny taught me to make it the way his grandma in Italy made it. It is vegan and my favorite pasta sauce. His original recipe calls for dried Italian herbs. I make it using the herbs I’ve grown and dried. His recipe also uses purchased cans of tomatoes. I suspect that his grandma made her sauce from tomatoes she grew and canned. I use my home-jarred tomatoes. These are my recipes for making your home-jarred tomato sauce and stewed tomatoes.
My secret ingredient: Fresh herbs instead of dried herbs. You can make it with fresh herbs year-round by using my SIS (simple is smart) method for freezing fresh herbs. (see bonus tip below) The frozen fresh herbs in this classic marinara sauce taste like fresh herbs. In my opinion, much more flavorful than dried Italian herbs.
My other secret ingredient: Tomato sauce made from homegrown or farmer’s market tomatoes. They make the best classic marinara sauce if you grow and can your tomatoes. You will need 2 quarts of home-jarred tomato sauce and 2 quarts of home-jarred stewed tomatoes, and one can of tomato paste. Marinara made this way is sooo good. However, if you don’t have any home-jarred sauce, purchase two (28-ounce) cans of tomato sauce, two (28-ounce) cans of whole plum tomatoes, and one can of tomato paste.
Put the stewed tomatoes or whole plum tomatoes in a blender and puree them. In a large 4-quart pot, mix the pureed tomatoes with the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Saute the garlic in a little olive oil until fragrant. Add the sauteed garlic to the sauce. Add the finely chopped fresh herbs or dried herbs. Add some red wine merlot or malbec simmer for 2 hours and salt to taste. If the sauce is too acidic (slightly bitter), add up to 2 tablespoons of sugar. The sauce will thicken as it simmers. At the end of the two hours, use some starchy pasta water to thin the sauce to the consistency you prefer.
BONUS TIP: My SIS (simple is smart) method for “fresh” herbs all year long. During the summer months, purchase fresh herbs from a local farmers market, or grow them in your garden or pots on a balcony. Harvest the herbs, wash and dry them. Remove the leaves and then freeze the leaves in ziplock bags. Don’t forget to label the bags. Keep the herbs frozen until you need them for a recipe that calls for herbs. Remove just the amount of frozen herbs you need, taking care not to defrost the rest of the ziplock bag. Chop the frozen herb leaves and add them to the recipe. A tablespoon of frozen chopped herbs equals a teaspoon of dried herbs. You will be amazed at how flavorful the frozen herbs are in your recipes. The frozen herbs can be stored frozen for up to a year.
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- large kettle (4-quart)
- 1 quart tomato sauce home-jarred is best. For purchased, use one 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 quart whole tomatoes home-jarred stewed tomatoes are best. For purchased, use one 28-ounce can of whole plum tomatoes.
- 1 can tomato paste
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- ½ cup red wine merlot or malbec
- 1 tbsp basil minced fresh
- 1 tbsp oregano minced fresh
- 1 tbsp Italian parsley minced fresh
- salt to taste
- sugar to correct the acid at the end (about 1-2 Tbsp.)
- Blend the whole tomatoes in a blender, put them in the three or four-quart kettle.
- Saute the garlic until fragrant in a little olive oil. The add to the sauce.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the Kettle.
- Simmer for 2 hours stirring occasionally.
- At the end of 2 hours, salt to taste and adjust acidity by adding up to 1 tbsp sugar.