Saturday, February 15, 2014

Marinara Sauce

When it comes to recipes, I love simple. One of my favorite recipes is Marcella Hazan's world famous red sauce ( Just four ingredients. Absolutely remarkable.

At the end of January, The New York Times published Lidia Bastianich's recipe for marinara sauce. It's simplicity captivated me. This was not a sauce that would require hours of simmering in a stockpot. In fact, Lidia's sauce only requires 15 minutes of simmering.

There are two things that are critical to her recipe. First is the tomatoes. You must use Cento's San Marzano Italian tomatoes. There can be no substitutes here. This is the heart and soul of the sauce and you must not compromise.

Second, and this is a bit of a surprise, you have to make the sauce in a skillet....not a sauce pan. This is her genius method to her madness that insures the sauce cooks evenly and quickly (just 15 minutes!). Those are the two key things to follow. The rest is simple. As Lidia says, "It takes work to get to the simplicity."

You can use the sauce by itself, or feel free to toss in some protein. Sauteed shrimp or deeply browned Italian sausage would do the trick. This recipe yields 3 1/2 cups of sauce, which is the perfect amount for one pound of pasta.

1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
7 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
Small dried whole chile, or pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large fresh basil sprig      


  1. Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and crush with your hands. Pour 1 cup water into can and slosh it around to get tomato juices. Reserve.
  2. In a large skillet (do not use a deep pot) over medium heat, heat the oil. When it is hot, add garlic.
  3. As soon as garlic is sizzling (do not let it brown), add the tomatoes, then the reserved tomato water. Add whole chile or red pepper flakes and salt. Stir. 
  4. Place basil sprig, including stem, on the surface (like a flower). Let it wilt, then submerge in sauce. Simmer sauce until thickened and oil on surface is a deep orange, about 15 minutes.  Discard basil and chile (if using). Serve.

Wine pairing: Chianti or Sangiovese

Lidia Bastianich

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