Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dinner from the Pantry...Pasta with Marinara Sauce

Pin It This is my go to meal when I haven't planned ahead and need something quick. It's all made from the staples I keep around. What makes it special is the Marinara Sauce, which is quick, authentic and delicious...what you get in Italy and in only 20 minutes. The recipe is adapted from Lidia Bastianich, co-owner of three New York restaurants, several cookbooks and the celebrated PBS show, Lidia's Italy. I used to stay up until 1:00 a.m. to catch her show here in Florida. Use what you need and freeze the rest for a million other things like Bruschetta, Eggplant Parmeggiana or another quick meal of pasta. It is also a good base for Penne alla Vodka. That's why I keep a bottle handy in the freezer! Use the best and freshest ingredients, after all that's what makes this simple sauce great.

Marinara Sauce

1/2 Cup extra virgin olive oil
8 cloves garlic peeled
1 box Pomi Crushed tomatoes(or one 35 oz San Marzano tomatoes seeded and lightly crushed, with their liquid

1/2 tsp. sugar
Crushed hot red pepper (go easy!unless you like it hot)
10 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

Heat the oil in a 2 to 3 quart saucepan over medium heat. Whack the garlic with the flat side of a knife, add it to the oil, and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Carefully slide the tomatoes and their liquid into the oil. Bring to a boil and season lightly with the salt, sugar and red pepper. Lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer and cook, breaking the tomatoes with a whisk or a spoon (if you got the can of whole tomatoes) until the sauce is chunky and thick, about 20 minutes. Stir in the basil* about 5 minutes before the sauce is finished. Taste the sauce and season with salt and red pepper, if necessary. Set aside.

You can bring to a boil and cook the spaghetti while the sauce is cooking if you are pressed for time. I prefer to cook my sauce first and let it settle. It will get thick but I thin it with water from the spaghetti just before I pour it off the saucepan.

*Do use fresh basil and do not chop until right before you add it. Herbs release their best aroma when they are just cut and you want this released into the sauce, not the counter.


Boil the spaghetti for about 10 minutes in a big pot with lots of water and a dash of salt. Don't skimp on the water! This prevents it from sticking in the pot. When the spaghetti is almost done and before you drain, take one or two laddlefulls of water and add it to marinara sauce to thin. If you want to eat it like a real Italian add the spaghetti to the sauce, not the other way around, and cook it in the saucepan for a couple of minutes. This and the water helps the sauce stick to the pasta. Add freshly grated Parmeggiano-Regianno and enjoy. I serve mine with a baguette and a tossed salad.

Wine suggestions: Peppoli from Antinori, if you can afford it, or Santa Cristina, the least expensive of the Antinori wines. Monte Anticho, found sometimes in the supermarket and fairly inexpensive, is also good. But stick with Italian wines, preferrably from Toscana-- remember terroir! P.S. You can find Peppoli sometimes at Costco, at great savings. It is one of my daughter's favorites.

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