Tuesday, September 27, 2005

My 15 minutes

No day off today (DS is better) so probably no brownies either. Besides, I think I need a break. My stomach was a little overwhelmed yesterday from 2 days of brownie tasting. But I won't wait long - it's much easier to compare recipes if you don't let too much time pass inbetween...

Not sure what will be going on in the kitchen today, but since I'd like to post at least once a day, I thought this might be a good time to post my marinara recipe.

But first my apologies to anyone from the CL boards who is reading this! They have heard about this sauce ad nauseum - so much so that it's a bit of a joke any time someone asks where to find this recipe!

Several years ago I was hunting for the perfect marinara sauce to make at home. I like a thick, slightly sweet, deeply red, sauce. My experimenting began in earnest after this thread from, where else, the Cooking Light Bulletin Board (if you need to know anything, this place is a GREAT resource!!!): What dish are you trying to perfect? . When I mentioned my pursuit of the perfect marinara, I got many suggestions.

Once I picked the suggestions that sounded interesting to me, I got to work and pretty quickly came up with a sauce that I really, really liked. I posted my results to this thread: Marinara .

My memory is a little fuzzy, but I think I submitted the recipe to Cooking Light shortly after developing the recipe, but never heard anything and that was that. For a while. Then came this thread: Lindrusso's Magnificent Marinara and my recipe started to receive a lot of attention. So much attention that I finally decided to send it in to Cooking Light again, directing them to the thread so they could see the response for themselves.

The second try was success and after a few phone calls, emails and a photo session, my recipe was published in the August 2004 issue of Cooking Light. I kept it a secret from my friends and family until the issue came out. It was a lot of fun and my Dad complained that I got more attention from my one recipe than he did for his many published works in the paleoclimatology field!

Of all the suggestions that I used, I think the tip for caramelizing the onions was the key. One thing I had not liked about my past attempts was that the onion seemed to leave a harsh, unpleasant flavor behind, not the mellow flavor I was seeking. Caramelizing the onions gives it a more mellow flavor that I adore. Same with the garlic. By crushing, rather than mincing, the garlic is less harsh and imparts a much more subtle flavor.

This is a simple sauce. I created it that way on purpose so that I could use this sauce as a base for many different things. Add a little more crushed red pepper and a bit more garlic and you have nice base for a red clam sauce. Or add more fresh or dried herbs for a stronger, more savory sauce. Add a capers and black olives and you have Puttenesca.

Some folks find this sauce too sweet and some folks even go so far as to say that sugar does not belong in marinara sauce. If you don't like a sweet sauce, you may want to leave out the sugar. The main reason for the sugar is to help the onions caramelize,but it also helps neutralize canned tomatoes which can be quite acidic.

An embarassing side note: Just this past year, I realized that I had forgotten to include 2 bay leaves with my recipe. I always use 2 bay leaves! I have no idea how I forgot to include them.

The published recipe also says to cook the sauce for 3 hours - I actually cook it for closer to 6 hours. I think they edited that part of the recipe so as not to turn off too many busy people. The minimum I think you can get away with is 2 hours - the flavors really begin to mellow and come together at this point. You can also cook this recipe in a crockpot if you don't have time to watch a simmering pot on the stove - your sauce may turn out a little more watery since it won't cook down quite as much, but it still works quite well.

Here is the recipe (for those who don't frequent the Cooking Light boards and haven't seen it a million times...wink, wink....):

Marinara Magnifica

Dry red wine intensifies the well-blended flavors in this lusciously seasoned tomato sauce--magnifico! Serve over your favorite pasta.

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cups chopped onion (about 3 medium)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dried oregano1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
(2 bay leaves)
6 garlic cloves, crushed
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes, undrained
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion and sugar. Cook 30 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Stir in wine; cook 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Yield: 9 cups (serving size: 1 cup)

NUTRITION PER SERVINGCALORIES 169(20% from fat); FAT 3.8g (sat 0.5g,mono 2.3g,poly 0.6g); PROTEIN 5.3g; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 131mg; SODIUM 960mg; FIBER 6.5g; IRON 2.9mg; CARBOHYDRATE 30.9g

Cooking Light, AUGUST 2004

Here are the links to the article and the recipe on Cooking Light but I don't know if the link will work for non-subscribers.


  1. Congrats!! If you want to turn it up a notch, try san marzano tomatoes and leave out the sugar. San Marzano's are imported from Italy and they are fabulous. Expensive, but so worth it in flavor.

  2. Thanks for the San Marzano's tip - I'll look for them. I'm in a very rural area, though, so we it's pretty slim pickings out here as far as those kind of choices go! Not the best place for a foodie to live!

  3. I just made your sauce this weekend. I'm not sure if I should admit this, but I used apple cider instead of wine. I hate to buy a bottle of wine for a recipe, as the remainder goes to waste, and Trader Joe's grape juice is horrible, IMO. Anyway, the apple juice worked great, and your recipe made a fantastic sauce, even with my modification. I cooked it for 5 hours.

  4. Colleency - That's an interesting tip to know for those who don't want to cook with wine! Glad you enjoyed it. :-)

  5. Alysha,
    I posted your sauce on my recipe blog (Fear Ye No Carb), and I just noticed your comment so I had to look you up. I love this recipe, so I'm sure to become a regular to your blog. Thanks for the sauce, it rocks. BTW, beautiful Golden you have.

  6. Anonymous7:39 PM

    My husband is extremely allergic to onions... i was wondering if you could suggest something i could substitute.... the sauce looks so tasty!! i want to try it desperately, but i dont think he would survive the 6 cups of onions... (yikes)!


  7. Liz - Is he allergic to all onions? I don't know if there really is a good sub for onions here, but you MIGHT be able to get away with using leeks. I'd probably be tempted to just forget the onion and go without anything....

    Sorry, I don't think that's much help!