July 6, 2018

Garlic Marinara

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I find this sassy red sauce essential for my best eggplant, veal and chicken parmesans. (Try: Italian-American Veal Parm.) It also holds its own simply tossed with pasta or slathered on Italian subs. Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe.

1/4 cup (60 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp (5 mL) or more kosher salt
12 cloves garlic (1 head), pressed or minced
3 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp (2 mL) chili flakes
1 tbsp (15 mL) tomato paste
1/4 cup (60 mL) dry white wine
2 cans San Marzano tomatoes (each 28 oz/796 mL)
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) water
1/4 cup (60 mL) coarsely chopped basil
1/2 tsp (1 mL) dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional)
1 to 2 tbsp (15 to 30 mL) cold unsalted butter, to taste (optional)

In medium dutch oven (preferably enameled cast iron), heat oil on medium-low until shimmery. Add onion and 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt. Cook, stirring often, 5 minutes, or until soft and golden. Stir in garlic, anchovies and chili flakes 1 minute, or until fragrant. (Do not brown.) Add tomato paste. Cook, stirring often, 2 minutes, or until well combined. Add wine. Cook, stirring often, 1 minute, or until almost evaporated. Add tomatoes (with juices). Swirl water in empty tomato cans, then add to pan. Stir in basil, oregano and 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt. Raise heat to medium-high. Stir with wooden spoon to break tomatoes into large chunks. When liquid comes to boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 2 hours, or until sauce thickens and top layer darkens.

Remove from heat. Cool 15 to 30 minutes. In food processor, purée until almost smooth. Stir in butter (if desired). Add pepper (if desired). Adjust salt.

Makes 6-1/2 cups (1.625 L).

  • It’s important for all that garlic to have a fine texture. I push the cloves through a garlic press.
  • Butter gives marinara a lovely silky finish. You should omit it if you are using the marinara in a rich dish or on eggplant, veal or chicken parmesan.

Shopping Cart: It’s vital to buy only the best tomatoes for marinara. I use premium San Marzano plum tomatoes from Italy. They are canned in thick juices (passata), unlike the watery, feeble stuff found in standard canned tomatoes.

Make-Ahead: Marinara tastes better the next day. I freeze marinara in batches so it is ready when I am. About 2 cups (500 mL) marinara is enough sauce for 1 lb (500 g) pasta.