So here is what is going on in my world. Plants are attacking me. Today I can't breathe through my left nostril, yesterday it was the right, tomorrow maybe they'll double team me and I'll walk around all day breathing through my mouth like a creepy guy on the subway. Either way, it's been hard to function for the past few days unless of course you count the countless hours of Benadryl induced coma. But I have a duty to at least three people to blog about something delicious/cost cutting/homemade and easy. The one thing that comes to mind that fits all three of these categories? Marinara sauce. (I think I can hear Meghan cheering all the way from Maryland). When I was younger, especially in the later years of the highschool, I fostered a growing obsession for good spaghetti marinara at most local Italian eateries. It was just the perfect ratio of delicate pasta, to robust and flavorful sauce. The infuriating thing was that even though it was seemingly so simple -- pasta + sauce = eternal bliss right? -- I couldn't reproduce it simply by pouring the contents of some jar over spaghetti at home. There was just that restaurant magic quality that I just couldn't seem to wrap my head around.
Fast forward to present day. (I imagine there would be a high pitched fast forward sound effect here followed by some ethereal music with a slow fade into my grand triplex apartment in the West Village with me laying on a chaise being waited on hand and foot and...oh no? I live in a shoebox in the village on an air mattress? Oh yeah, moving on...). Present day - I'm older and wiser and definitely prettier because I've discovered bronzer and the lipgloss with the bee venom in it, and on top of that, I've figured out the magic. It's simple really...restaurants (good restaurants) make everything from scratch, with love, and fat. I searched high and low for a jarred pasta sauce that would meet my standards and one day I gave up. If restaurants could do it, so could I. So I did some research and tried some recipes and tweaked them to my liking and ended up with something that I'm proud to say meets all of my red saucing needs.
The great thing about marinara is that you can put it on everything -- meatball subs, pizza, chicken parm, lasagna, penne with vodka sauce, you can even stir some into your chicken soup for an extra boost of flavor. Yes, you can still buy the stuff in the jar, and no it's not a bad product (I'll get it in a pinch every once in a while too), but you can make twice as much at home for about half the price and that's just good solid math, and if you won't take math tips from an Asian...well that is a dark world you live in my friend. dark.
So I am officially extolling the virtues of home sauce making, but I will say that there are a few tips to ensure success.
1. There aren't very many ingredients, so don't use crappy ones, or you will have a pot full of crappy sauce.
2. Each ingredient adds a distinct flavor to the mix, and if you understand why you're putting something in, then it can help you learn to improvise as you cook and make the sauce your own. For instance, I put carrot in mine because it adds a little sweetness which combats the acidity of the tomatoes. I also add sugar for the same reason. I put in soy sauce because it's salty but it also adds body, and I use lemon juice at the end because it helps freshen up all the flavors which can get a little dull as they cook. The main thing is to keep tasting as you go and adjust as necessary.
3. Although this is a simple procedure, try not to do this on a day where you have crazy meetings, ten minutes to shovel some food in your mouth and an insurmountable pile of laundry to attack. It will make it a negative experience, and then you'll never want to do it again, and that would be foolish.
4. Don't feel bound to one way of doing something. You might like your sauce thicker or thinner than mine, or less spicy or more spicy. Making marinara is like teaching a kid how to mix colors, show them that red and blue make purple and then watch them freak out and produce poop brown. The ease of improvisation comes with time and experimentation, so don't be afraid because if you screw up, you can throw it in the trash and lie about it to all your friends. But I doubt you'll screw up, because this is pretty easy and delicious stuff.
So here is...
Yeah I Could Just Buy It, But I'd Rather Spend The Five Bucks I Saved On Ice Cream Because I Have Solid Priorities Basic Marinara Sauce.
Stuff you need to get saucy (I'm funny, just sayin')
1 T olive oil
1 medium yellow onion chopped fine
1 medium carrot chopped fine
2 cloves garlic minced
3 T fresh parsley chopped
1 tsp dried italian seasoning (this is the easy way out because i'm lazy. If you want you can do any combination of dried basil, thyme, rosemary or oregano, but be careful with too much of the rosemary because it's strong. You can also use fresh (yay!) but use twice as much)
1/4 tsp chili flake (optional)
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes (you can get the chopped kind if you want, but they're usually pricier and I have my eye on a trip to lego land and a new circle scarf so...)
1/2 cp water (or wine, or chicken broth if you have it, I just had water so that's what I used)
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp lemon juice (You can also use red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar instead)
salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium low heat
Add the garlic and chili flake and cook for 30 seconds
Add the onion and carrot and continue to cook for 5 minutes (The vegetables should be sizzling, but not browning -- this is called sweating)
Salt and pepper the veggies and add the italian seasoning and half the parsley
Add the tomatoes and break up them up with a spoon
Add the water, soy sauce, sugar and 1 tsp of the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
Bring to a boil and then bring heat to low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally (about every 5 minutes)
Taste to check for seasoning, you might need to add more salt or pepper at this point
Add the remaining parsley and lemon juice, simmer for five more minutes.
Marinara is the gravy of Italy, so use it as such. I like mine on sausage and pepper heroes, or heated over leftover chicken and rice, or on several pieces of cheesy garlic bread...cold...out of the fridge...at 3 am. Don't judge me.
Enjoy and expect another blog very soon. Don't forget to subscribe, tell a friend to subscribe and comment below!