Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Stuff of Dreams

Okay, here we go.  Let's start with the basics.

How to cook:
  1. Read the recipe;
  2. Buy the ingredients;
  3. Do what the recipe tells you to do;
  4. End of story.
Anybody who tells you it's more complicated is lying.

Now, how to cook something good:  marinara sauce.

A good marinara sauce is the secret of life.  It is the measure of an Italian woman's worth.  Sauce is as individual to an Italian family as a tartan is to a Scottish clan.  A grown man, if he is Italian, will get tears in his eyes when he talks about his mother's sauce.  My daughter, Nikki (or “Nicky” like her grandfather, four of her uncles, and three-quarters of her cousins), says you need to marry “up” in sauce.  My husband married me anyway, but clearly expected improvement.

One day, my father-in-law gave me a cookbook, a little pamphlet called "The Italian Cookbook"*.  Just a subtle hint, you know.  Just enough to make me feel like a total loser in the cucina department.  In this cookbook was a recipe for the best marinara sauce in the world, which I have adapted for practical purposes (i.e., I'm lazy), and which I have made at least once a week for the past 200 years.  This sauce is so fast and easy that you can make it while waiting for the pasta water to boil.

Marinara Sauce
Peel some garlic and slice it real thin.  ("Ma!  How much is some?"  "How much you like garlic, Nikki?")  Four to six cloves.  Then pour 1/2 cup of olive oil in a pot.  Put the pot over medium heat and, when the oil is hot, throw in the garlic.  Cook until light brown.  Turn off the heat or the oil will spritz all over the place when you put in the tomatoes.  Meanwhile, take two big cans of plum tomatoes (for the love of God, don't use crushed tomatoes; that's the stuff they scrape off the tables at the factory) and put them - one can at a time - in a blender, just for a second.  Just until the tomatoes bust up.  If you don't have a blender - or if you want to be Italian about it - bust up the tomatoes with your (clean, right?) hands (take off your jewelry first).  Then pour the tomatoes into the oil-and-garlic.  Turn the heat back on to medium-low.  Add 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt, 2 teaspoons of oregano, 1 teaspoon of finely-chopped parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.  The parsley and pepper should be fresh, but it's not a disaster if they aren't.  Simmer everything rapidly for about 20 minutes.  And stir it once in a while.

That's it.  People have told me that they cook their marinara sauce all day.  They're stupid.  Now go to confession and beg God's forgiveness that you ever opened a bottle of Prego. 

Serve the sauce over pasta.  Or risotto.  Or polenta.  With some grated parmigiano, some good bread, and a salad.  Add chicken broth and call it soup.  Crack an egg into it while it's simmering.  Add beans. Or spinach.  Whatever.  This sauce will be your reputation long after people forget that one time you were caught smoking weed with the band at your sister's wedding.

And I am not lying when I tell you that Stefanie Policastro’s boyfriend was down on bended knee, with the ring, not one week  after Stefanie finally learned how to make marinara sauce.  They'd been playing house for four years.  (Four years.  Are you kidding?)  So, believe me, this is wonderful, powerful stuff.

Use it wisely.

*Culinary Arts Institute, Chicago, 1956.   Out of print.   I hope I owe them royalties someday.   


  1. I hope you're perfecting your cue card reading skills cuz I see a cooking show in your future. I'm not kidding.

  2. I will try this sauce with your recipe, dear Linda ... I suspect that it's late for my husband to dream with me, but I'll try it ... Lots of kisses dear friend!

  3. I am going to try to make this---I currently buy Trader Joe's marinara and we use so much of it.

  4. Made today Marinara Sauce.Thanks Connie.
    Taste heavenly.Saffron(Australia)

    1. If you are not already married, you will be soon...

  5. OK Sweetie! I never cooked a marinara sauce before and gonna try it with your recipe next week!!! If it will be as good as you say, I will marry in it :) Cant wait for to try it!!!


  6. Top of my to try list right away, babe!


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