It’s that time of year again in the North East, school will be starting in the next few weeks!! Normally you wouldn’t think I would be happy, but I am. I have missed my girls and missed cooking for them! With the start of the year we will be getting right back to our culinary program to start its second year, I am excited!! This year I already have 13 trained students!
I will be able to do so much more with them this year. As I did last year I will start my new students with safety and sanitation lessons, knife skills doing prep work ( cutting potatoes, onions, celery, and carrots), and the Mother sauces.
I always start with my favorite, and probably the one I use the most Marinara Sauce, which got its name from the sea or Mariner’s Sauce.
Wikipedia says “Cooks aboard Neapolitan ships invented marinara sauce in the mid-1500’s after the Spaniards introduced the tomato ( a New World Vegetable) to Europe. This meat free sauce was easy to make and resisted spoiling due to the high acid content of the tomatoes. This made it ideal for lengthy sea voyages hundreds of years before refrigeration methods were invented. “
Now in Italy you will usually hear it referred to as Salsa al Pomodoro, as Marinara refers more to a specific pasta dish. Traditionally Marinara was a quick sauce, something prepared aboard ship with their limited resources, it should be bright red and cooked just long enough to cook the tomatoes. It is a very fresh sauce. (That being said there are as many family Tomato sauce recipes as there are Italian Families, mine is just one passed on to me.)
Now I have to admit that I rarely make a classical Marinara, but more of a cooked tomato sauce, I do like to start my sauce at home with a little sweet sausage ( my wife loves good sweet sausage). When Mama Jeanette taught me the secret to good tomato sauce she used pork bones for flavor, and simmered her sauce for at least 3 hours. This is still my favorite type of sauce, slow cooked allowed to build flavor. Mama Jeanette would let me have some the when it was finished the first day, but her rule was to let it set for 24-48 hours before serving to guests, that way the flavors would really develop. When I make Tomato Sauce at home, we do eat it the first day, but I let it set 2-3 days before freezing the remainder( I usually use 2 #10 cans of tomatoes when I make sauce at home). And please in Italy they do not call Tomato Sauce Gravy! Gravy is usually brown and served over meats…….that is one thing living in Philadelphia that makes me cringe when I hear it…..sigh……
At School I do not add any meats to keep it vegetarian but I do allow it to cook for about 3 hours, if you can afford the time I would suggest doing it that way. Here is my basic Marinara Sauce recipe, you will notice that there is no Oregano!! Mama Jeanette would tell me “sonny boy, oregano is for the pizza”. Of course feel free to have fun with your fresh herbs.
- 4 cloves fresh garlic chopped
- 2 28-32 oz Cans Crushed Tomato (San Marizano)
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- 1 small onion finely diced
- ½ cup Olive Oil
- 1-2 teaspoons sugar
- Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
- 32 oz Tomato Sauce
- 16 oz Heavy Cream ( use light cream or a combination of cream and Greek yogurt)
- 1 Cup Grated Romano Cheese
- In a large skillet or small sauce pot, sauté diced onion and chopped garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent, do not allow them to burn!
- Add crushed tomatoes, rinse cans with just a little water and add to the sauce (if crushed tomatoes are not available use whole tomatoes and crush by hand or with an immersion blender).
- add chopped basil, sugar, sea salt and black pepper to taste (don’t over season you can always add more later).
- After your sauce has reached a boil, reduce the heat to low, a simmer for 15-20 minutes for classical Marinara / simmer for 1-3 hours for a rich hearty Tomato Sauce.
- add in cream, and grated romano cheese to the marinara. mix well and allow to simmer until hot.
If you have never used San Marizano Tomatoes, you don’t know what you are missing! They are less acidic, and have a great flavor, coming from the Pompeii area of Italy. I am currently buying Cento brand in #10 cans from my Wegman’s, they are even DOP Certified! I use to always buy the jars of Cento Passata and crushed tomatoes, I hate opening cans!
To properly serve your pasta, cook it to the directions on the box, you want it to be aldente’ , pasta was meant to be chewed, so it should not be too soft! Unless you are storing your pasta and reheating prior to serving, never oil your pasta!!! Oiling your pasta will only make it harder for your sauce to adhere to the pasta……adding oil to your cooking water is just a waste of oil! But you do want to make sure you add salt to the water. Folklore says the slat was added so the water was like the Mediterranean…..sigh…..I tell my girls that one in my best Italian accent. Adding salt to your pasta water before you cook it allows you to season your pasta some so it is not too bland. Now to properly serve your pasta with red sauce, toss your pasta with just enough red sauce to coat the pasta. If you like a little more sauce add it to the top of your pasta. Now is also a good time to add a drizzle of your best Olive Oil, adding the oil now allows you to taste the full flavor of the oil! Have some freshly grated Romano cheese and you are ready to enjoy a plate of pasta the way it was meant to be served. Add sausage or meatballs if you like, or make a nice vegetarian sauce full of garden fresh vegetables!
My girls favorite sauce is a Rosa or you may have heard it called a Vodka or Blush sauce. Personally I do not like the flavor of vodka in my sauce, vodka was always my alcohol of choice in my younger days so its not that I don’t like vodka, its just that I don’t think the taste adds anything to the sauce. The only addition to make it a great Rosa is Cream and Romano Cheese. I have even substituted Greek Yogurt for half of the cream, you almost can’t tell the difference!
Here are a few teasers from my Farmer’s market purchase this week! They are both Eggplant, the bright orange was called “Festive Eggplant” which I have now been informed is “Turkish Orange Eggplant“, and the little white balls were called “Christmas Tree Ball Eggplant” or “Thai Eggplant“……..I have never seen anything like them before, how cool are they!! Now you have to wait until Friday to see what I am making with them.
My wife was in the mood for Sangria, she had brought home some white wine, so I got out some fruit that I had on hand, Watermelon, cherries, nectarines, raspberries, and an orange.
I used about 3 cups of fruit all together, about 6 cups of white wine, 1/2 cup of Pomegranate Liquor, and a 1/2 cup of Organic Italian vodka. I also added about a 1/2 cup of superfine sugar (if you don’t have superfine you can pulse your sugar in a food processor just a bit, it makes it easier to dissolve) feel free to adjust the sugar to taste, or use another sweetener, I don’t like it too sweet, but it does need some sugar. I have to say my wife absolutely loved this Sangria, as did our neighbor, but after to wine glasses she was a little tipsy….lol…..lets just say she slept very well that night! So if this is too much alcohol for you add your favorite fruit juice to it to dilute it, or just leave out the vodka. But hey it summertime, relax have a glass of Sangria and enjoy the sunset!!!