Easy Homemade Marinara Sauce
It’s Easier Than You Think.
Yes, you, too can make homemade marinara sauce. It’s astonishingly easy once you know how. Homemade sauce is healthier than the stuff that comes in a can (and is full of high-fructose corn syrup) and almost certainly tastier, since you will control both the amount and quality of the ingredients. In fact, you can grow most of the ingredients yourself (not the pepper and olive oil) in a window box or backyard garden. The next best thing to growing your own is getting it from your local farmers’ market. You can use canned, too, but the fresher, the better. Let’s get started.
To make the sauce you’ll need a few tools. First, you’ll need a saucepan that a tomato can float in. If you have a large enough one, you can do several tomatoes at once, but a small one will do. You will also need a large mixing bowl, a sharp knife, a cutting board, a large spoon, a spatula, and a wide frying pan.
Several tomatoes (more or fewer, depending on size—I like Roma tomatoes best.), olive oil, a clove or two of garlic, black pepper (freshly ground, if possible), basil, and oregano.
Start by putting your tomatoes in the refrigerator. You will want them to be cold before you start. Next, fill your saucepan with enough water for at least one of your tomatoes to float, and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, get your tomatoes from the fridge and put one of them in the boiling water. Watch carefully. When the skin splits (it will probably happen very soon!), fish the tomato out with your spoon and put it in your mixing bowl. Repeat. You are not cooking the tomatoes in this step, you’re simply splitting the skin to make peeling easy.
Once you’ve split the skin of your tomatoes, you’re done with the saucepan. Take your tomatoes and pull the skin off them with your fingers. You should be able to pop them out of their skin by squeezing gently. Be careful not to launch your tomatoes across the kitchen. Put the skinned tomatoes into the bowl and discard the skins as you go.
Now you have a bowl of skinned tomatoes. This is the fun part. Reach into the bowl and smoosh the tomatoes with your fingers. You want to get them good and mangled, with the bits being more or less uniformly small, about the size of a dime. When you’re done with this step, wash your hands again (you did wash your hands before you started, right?) and get the knife and cutting board.
Mince your garlic. I love garlic, so I usually use two or three cloves of it, depending on size. Use as much or as little as you like. Some people prefer to crush or slice their garlic. Crushing sure is quicker, and you don’t get as much garlic smell on your hands. But mincing makes it easier to spread the garlic bits around. It doesn’t matter much which you do, as long as your end product is tasty.
I like to cook on cast iron.
The Actual Cooking Part
Put some* olive oil into your pan and turn on the heat. Sprinkle in some pepper and add the garlic. Soon your kitchen will begin to smell very much like heaven. Once the garlic is sizzling, carefully add the crushed tomatoes. You don’t want to splash the hot oil out of the pan. Keep the tomatoes moving around in the pan either by jiggling the pan or by stirring with the spatula. In a few minutes, the tomatoes will be heated through and the liquid will have boiled off. At this time you will want to add the oregano and basil. Use as little or as much as you want, to your taste. I tend to go light on the oregano and heavy on the basil. Stir it all together. Tadaa, you’re done.
Your homemade marinara sauce will be chunkier than the store-bought kind, and you will control its thickness. If you like a thicker sauce, keep it on the heat until most of the liquid has boiled away.
*You will have noticed that the measurements in this recipe have been decidedly imprecise. I do this on purpose, for two reasons. First, cooking should be as enjoyable as eating, to my way of thinking, and if we get too bogged down in teaspoons and precision, we might miss the wonderful things that are happening as our ingredients become a delicious meal. Pay attention to your ingredients as you cook. The finished product (and your satisfaction) will be much the better for it. Second, you’ll need more stuff to cook for a dinner party than for an intimate dinner for two. Start small, and once you’re sure of yourself, impress the heck out of your friends and family.
You can serve this sauce over plain pasta, ravioli, tortellini, or whatever you like. You can use it over sautéed chicken breast or sliced zucchini. You can pour it over a mushroom and Parmesan omelet. It’s also good with gnocci. Cook it long enough to get very thick, cool it down, and it will even work as a bruschetta. Don’t be afraid to experiment with additional ingredients like mushrooms and olives. Enjoy!
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