Monday, August 11, 2014

Ellen's Marinara Sauce

I am such a big fan of pasta.  I know it's something I shouldn't eat all the time because it's pretty much just straight up carbs, but I don't care, I love it anyway.  I don't eat it all the time, but about once a week.  One of my favorite sauces of all time is a thick, rich and hearty marinara sauce.  In my opinion, a pasta sauce should coat the pasta and there shouldn't be a lot of excess sauce on the bottom of your plate.  This is my version of marinara and how I think it should be done.  In this recipe, I build different levels of flavor by using multiple techniques that each achieve a different flavor.

2 large onions or 3 small onions, rough chop
5 small carrots, rough chop
4 celery ribs, rough chop
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 14 oz. can petite tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
extra virgin olive oil
1 c. red wine
fresh basil, chiffonade 

Rough chop the onion, carrot and celery.  This combination is known as mirepoix.  It is 50% onion, 25% carrot and 25% celery.  I don't even bother to peel the carrots because the skin on these is very thin, but if your have a rough, yucky looking skin, peel them.

Throw all of the rough chopped veggies into a food processor.  I had to do two batches because my food processor is pretty small.  If you don't have a food processor just cut all the veggies as small as you can.  Don't process the veggies too much.  We're not looking for a puree here.  Although if you do process them too much, don't panic, you can always cook out the excess water, which is exactly what we are going to do anyway.

Faron is always into everything!

Heat a large pot over medium high heat and coat the bottom in extra virgin olive oil.  Please excuse my pot, I am a broke, young line cook with not a lot of extra cash to throw around so I don't have the best equipment!  Toss in the veggies.  Generously season with salt and crushed red pepper.  I don't normally use a lot of black pepper because I don't think it adds much.  You won't see me use it much.  I like crushed red because it adds a lot of heat.  I'm a big fan of spice!  Continue to stir and cook until the veggies get some nice color on them and the water starts to evaporate.  This will take a while.  Depending on the size of your pot it could take up to 45 minutes.  The more surface area your pot as the faster this process will go.  I have a small, old pot so it took mine a while to develop color.  When you notice most of the water has evaporated out, you're in good shape.

I keep little bowls of crushed red pepper and salt next to my stove for easy access.

You'll notice the veggies will start to stick to the bottom of the pot.  That's a good thing.  It means the sugars are starting to come out and they are beginning to caramelize.  That's a good thing! That's exactly what we want.  Keep stirring and keep developing a nice brown color and letting the liquid evaporate.  

Once you have developed a nice color, add the garlic.  You don't want to add the garlic at the beginning because it will burn.  And burned garlic is probably one of my biggest pet peeves in the kitchen.  It tastes terrible. You will definitely know if you have burned your garlic when you taste it. Let the garlic cook for about 2 minutes.

Deglaze with 1 cup of red wine.  The wine is going to add a nice, rich flavor to the sauce but it is also going to help pick up all the brown bits of food on the bottom of the pan.  This is called "fond" and it is delicious flavor you want to incorporate back into the veggie mixture.  

Be sure to pour yourself a glass of wine.  The recipe doesn't need that whole bottle....

Malon wants some too!

Next, add the tomato paste.  We want to develop some color on this as well.  It's been in a can for a while and we need to wake it up!  With the tomato paste, add all 3 of the dried herbs as well.  They also need to be woken up a bit.

Trader Joe's has great inexpensive herbs and spices

After about 5 minutes go ahead and add the rest of the tomatoes.  I like Hunt's tomatoes.  It might sound weird but they just taste more like tomatoes than some of the other brands.  If the sauce still seems a little too thick, you can either add more wine, stock or even a little water.  Make it as thick or as thin as you'd like.  Be sure not to go too thin because you will lose the flavor we've worked hard to develop.

Once it starts to bubble, reduce the heat to simmer, cover the pot half way with it's lid and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

In the mean time, chiffonade some fresh basil.  Stack up some basil leave, roll them up tightly together and slice thin with a sharp knife.

When you're ready to eat, prepare your favorite pasta.  I just used thin spaghetti but any pasta would be fine!  Sprinkle with the fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, or extra virgin olive oil.  Or all 3!

This makes a big pot of sauce.  I always freeze some.  I like to freeze my sauces in 2 cup portions which is plenty for 2 people.  I just pull one from the freezer and put it in the refrigerator overnight to thaw and it's ready for dinner the next day. 

Hope you enjoy!

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