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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Jersey Style Marinara Sauce.

In the pot, just bubbling along.
Italian cooking, which is my favorite by far, is also one of the the richest in variety of flavor, despite the same basic components in many dishes. A line like this can be drawn in the various sauces that are used to complement pastas and such.

One particular distinction, and if you've ever lived in New York or New Jersey, you've heard it - sauce vs. gravy. Most of us think, gravy? Isn't that what they put on turkey or mashed potatoes? Nah. Not this time.

From the way it was explained to me, the difference is that gravy is what most would consider to be a meat sauce, with things like pork and veal as the base and cooked with tomatoes and other traditional ingredients all day. So in a way, it kind of is a gravy. A tradition. (I have my own take on that - another day.)

Another tradition is the tomato based marinara. They all pretty much start with the same base: tomato, olive oil, and basil. There are many incarnations of it, as each region, each family  has their own way of doing things. This is mine. I like to use as many fresh tomatoes as possible, even if they're a little overripe. All the better. This marinara is good for a simple pasta, or as a component of things like lasagna or stuffed shells.

For my version, you'll need:

1 large or 2 medium chopped onions
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
4-6 tbsp fresh basil
2-3 lbs. of  chopped fresh tomatoes,
or 1 can each stewed or crushed tomatoes
or a combination of both
1 cup port wine
olive oil
1 tbsp sea or kosher salt
1 bay leaf

(optional: 1 tbsp each fresh chopped oregano and/or parsley)
Also, keep a box of chicken or vegetable broth on hand.

Heat some olive oil (about 2-3 tbsp.) in a stockpot. Add garlic and onions, saute until onions are slightly opaque. Add tomatoes and  wine, cook at low-medium heat until bubbling slightly and tomatoes cook down a bit. Take an immersion blender and blend intermittently, only enough to break the tomatoes down further. Add the bay leaf, salt, and basil. If you're using the optional ingredients, add them now as well.

Simmer for an hour or two, stirring regularly. Let the tomatoes break down into a thick sauce. If it renders too much, add an occasional splash of broth. Don't waste your time with water. If you like, you can also add another tbsp. or two of basil in the last few minutes for additional fragrance and flavor.

My home made stuffed shells with the marinara. Bellissimo!
Make up your favorite pasta dish and add your marinara ( as you can see, I used it in my own take on stuffed shells. Absolutely delicious! )

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