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Here at Cooking With Flew, we stand by the motto "Always Avoid Alliteration"!

So I had a wild hair* to make a homemade spaghetti sauce. Y'know, scratch marinara. As with most of my recent experiments, this started out with me looking up recipes, comparing and contrasting, and then deciding on some fundamentals. And then, of course, modifying wildly.

I used as a base a recipe I found on Cooks.com, which I followed almost as directed. When I tasted the results, my reaction was: "You're kidding, right?" It was seriously underspiced, and bland. Not good. So, I went to work modifying. Here, then, is the revised recipe!

Ingredients:
  • 1 large onion. I used a large vidalia.

  • 4 cloves garlic. In a marinara, you can always use more garlic.

  • 4-6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil. The original recipe called for 1-2, but why skimp on it?

  • 28 oz can tomato puree.

  • 18 oz can tomato paste.

  • 46 oz of water. This is the "fill the cans with water after you empty them of puree or paste" trick. If you want to make the sauce thicker, consider a bit less water, or just simmer it for longer.

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar.

  • 1/2 cup white cooking wine. A red might have worked better, but I didn't have that handy.

  • At least two TABLESPOONS, not teaspoons, of basil. (Seriously, 1 teaspoon? SERIOUSLY?) Add more if you think it needs it, which it probably does. Be liberal.

  • At least a tablespoon of oregano. Again, be very liberal. It's hard to overdo the oregano (or basil) in a marinara, especially with this volume of sauce to work with.

  • Two teaspoons of salt. I used kosher salt.

  • A teaspoon or so of black pepper. Well, a number of turns of the grinder, at any rate. Do this to taste.

  • A teaspoon of sugar. This will help enhance the sauce's flavor.

  • Two teaspoons of cinnamon. Yes, cinnamon! It gives the sauce a very interesting undertone.

  • Half a teaspoon of cumin. This adds an interesting body to the sauce.
And that's just the basics. If you want meat in the sauce, add some. I added a pound of ground beef (I think I will use more next time). Sausage? Go for it. Meatballs? Sure! You can also add vegetables, mushrooms, more garlic, more onion, other spices if you want. It's a marinara, they are not easy to screw up.

Equipment needs are minimal for the basic sauce: just a nice big sauce pot, spoons, a stirrer, and a separate pot for preparing the pasta. If you add other things that need cooking, like meat, you'll want a pan for those, of course.

So, basic instructions. Part of this is just cribbed from that Cooks.com recipe, so I will quote that here:

Dice onion and garlic. Sauté onion in the bottom of a large pot in the olive oil. When onion is clear, add the garlic and cook until very lightly colored.

Stir in the can of tomato puree. Fill the empty can with water and add to pot. Add can of tomato paste, fill can with water, stirring with a spoon to mix all remaining paste into the water; add to pot. Add oregano and vinegar or wine.

Bring sauce to a boil, stirring continuously. Immediately reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook over lowest heat until ready to serve...


This neglects to instruct you to add the basil, so I would do that at the same time as the oregano. Stir it all in, and then taste it. If it needs more basil or oregano, and it probably does, by all means add some. Add the sugar, the salt, and the pepper at this point.

If you're going to add a ground meat, brown it in a pan at this point, while the sauce is simmering. Add the meat with any fat from it right in there, there won't be enough to really make the sauce greasy, but it will add some body. Meatballs, you should cook in a pan first, and then add. Sausage, well, you can probably just chop that up and drop it in.

Vegetables could possibly go in raw, or steamed or lightly pan fried, depending on the veggies. Mushrooms I would definitely sautee in a bit of olive oil and garlic first.

Spices can be added while it simmers, of course. I used cinnamon and cumin, but other good choices would be ginger, allspice, maybe some cloves, a bit of turmeric. You could try coriander or cardamom, if you want. Don't go TOO overboard here, you probably still want this to taste like a marinara, not a chili sauce. (If you DO want it to taste more like a chili sauce, do not think I intend to stop you.)

Once it's simmered for awhile, which should probably be at least half an hour, serve it over al dente pasta. With a marinara, pretty much any pasta that is larger than couscous or orzo is a good choice: I used linguine, but fettucine, rigatoni, tortellini, ravioli, farfalle, rotini**, tagliatelle, and of course spaghetti will do great. This could possibly make a good sauce base for lasagna, as well.

Be advised: you are going to have a lot of sauce! I recommend being ready to save some. It keeps very well in the fridge, or in the freezer. Or in jars or cans, if you're into that.

That's it for this edition of Cooking With Flew, and remember: less time cooking means more time eating!



















* As opposed to a wild hare, who is not appearing in this picture.
** Also known as "Jawa pasta": ROTINI!

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July 2014

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