Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Back To Basics...

My colleagues and I spend a tremendous amount of time talking about food. Granted, it's kind of what we do being an emergency food provider - but we also just love to talk about recipes and ingredients.  Recently, a group of us were sitting around the conference table stuffing a mass mailing and the subject of sauces came up. We were originally talking about the mother sauces - the five basic sauces from which all other sauces are born (bechamel, veloute, espagnole, hollandaise and tomato). The conversation than turned to pasta dressings. And then, one of my colleagues said that word...that horrible word that makes my skin crawl and my stomach turn..

She said that sauce to her was Ragu. And not the hearty meat based Italian sauce. No - she meant Ragu as in that awful stuff that comes in a jar.  I've had Ragu once in my life while visiting a relative in Florida. I'll protect this person's anonymity and not reveal their name - but suffice it to say it was the one black mark in an otherwise perfect person. As you can imagine, her revelation left me gasping for air and sputtering for words.  I understand that not everyone will spend hours slaving over a stove for a perfect slow cooked sauce. But ... but... ragu??? Really? 

A simple marinara sauce is one of my greatest pleasures. It's a few ingredients, a quick simmer and poof. A perfect, simple sauce that is pasta's best friend. Or pour it over a grilled chicken breast. Or pour it over some gently baked fish. You can use it in so many recipes I can't even begin to list them.  I've given this recipe out so many times over the years I'm shocked that I haven't blogged about it before. It was one of the first things I learned to cook from my mother and I bet one of the first things she started cooking too.

The recipe is simple and the ingredient list short. Extra virgin olive oil, garlic, good crushed tomatoes (save time and buy them already crushed), red wine and basil (fresh is best but dried will work). 

So the next time you feel like a quick pasta for dinner I hope you'll ignore that jar of ragu (or Prego, or Francesco Rinaldi) that's sitting on your shelf and cook up a quick marinara and think of me. Or better yet, cook up a double or triple recipe and freeze it for later use!  

Maryanne's Marinara
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 32 oz. can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano are great. I use Tutto Rosso when I"m on a budget.)
A big splash of red wine
1 tablespoon fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute just until fragrant and just starting to turn golden. Be careful because your garlic can very quickly go from brown to black. If it's black you're whole sauce will be ruined so throw it out and start again. 

Add the crushed tomatoes and red wine to the pot and stir to combine. Allow the sauce to come to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Add the basil and stir. Let the sauce gently simmer for about 20 minutes and voila! 

To serve: Ladle a few spoonfuls over al dente pasta, top with grated pecorino romano cheese and a sprinkling of fresh basil.

Enjoy! And for heaven sake - toss the ragu! (and by toss I mean donate it to your local food pantry!)


  1. I tried out this recipe for a second time, and damn. You're right, Maryanne. Never would have admitted to using jarred sauce (to you), but now I don't have to. Goodbye jar. My 2-year old approved wholeheartedly too. I cooked it an extra long time, adding a pinch of sugar (trick from another Italian friend) during the simmer and some chili flakes to spice it up for my sweetheart. The world needs you, Maryanne. Keep up the good work! :)

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