Monday, February 21, 2011

Pasta Marinara

"Life is a combination of magic and pasta."
Federico Fellini
   Every cook needs a marinara in her pocket and in her heart.  This isn't grandma's 12-hour simmered sauce; it's quick, fresher and more adaptable.  It's what you can make for just yourself on a day when you haven't been to the store and need comfort food.  It can be a spicy sauce with the addition of a bit of dried red pepper.  Blend with tortellini and grilled Italian sausage for the night you have a friend to dinner.  Keep it in the freezer in small batches and defrost  in the microwave to dress up a bit of cold, roasted chicken or to stir into some rice dried almost beyond saving. Spoon a little over fried eggs and top with cheese to make a couple of eggs feel more like a real meal.  It makes the dinner if you have a celebration and the bucks for some grilled tuna (see below).  Ladle it into a pasta bowl over and/or under the tuna and add some orzo stirred up with sauteed spinach and garlic or onions.   The options are multitude and all are happy. 

Tuna Marinara with Sauteed Spinach and Onions
 Pasta Marinara serves 2   --  easily doubles
  • 1/2 pound  whole wheat linguine or your choice of pasta shape (I like Whole Foods 365 brand best)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (use olive oil for vegan version)
  • 1/3 cup onion, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced carrot, optional  (Don't overdo the carrot; it'll ruin the sauce.)
  • 1 28-oz can whole tomatoes (I like Cento, but it can be pricey.)
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  •  1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt and 1/8 t freshly ground pepper or more to taste
  1.   Heat large skillet or a 3-quart pot with butter/oil over medium heat.  Add onion, celery and carrot (if you're using it) and cook about 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes, stir and break up by pressing down with a  large fork or a potato masher. Add parsley and a bit of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly. Taste and adjust seasonings (add a tiny bit more salt, sugar or pepper, if needed)
  2. Meantime, bring 6 quarts well-salted and peppered water to boil in a large soup pot.
  3. When at a rolling boil, add pasta and cook about 11 minutes til al dente (Just a bit of resistance when you bite into it.)  Drain, return to pot and keep warm (cover if you need to)
  4. Place a serving of pasta on each of two plates (or in pasta bowls) and top with sauce.  Add cheese (or basil) if you like it.  Unless you're terribly hungry, you'll have some sauce for tomorrow's breakfast eggs or to spike up a simple soup.

Solo Cook's Notes:  You could also
  • add a pinch of dried red pepper 
  • add a pinch of dried red pepper and a few shrimp at end of cooking
  • add a tsp of minced garlic to the sauce
  • top finished dish with some fresh basil  
  • saute a few scallops and eat with a bit of this sauce
  • dust with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese 
  • give the dish a big extra grind of black pepper for garnish
  • make a double or triple batch  and freeze some in plastic or glass freezer containers. 

How I learned about this:  As a much younger woman, I was blessed to become acquainted with a couple of Marcella Hazan's books...ESSENTIALS OF ITALIAN COOKING and CLASSIC ITALIAN COOKING.  And, if my cookbooks weren't packed for a move, I'd go and look to be sure where to find the predecessor for this recipe.  Marcella gives recipes for several quick and easy tomato sauces and discusses their uses.  I had no idea about a fresher sauce then.  I was making only a somewhat Bolognese-style sauce my mom and aunts had made.  But I knew I wanted something different for other uses. The above sauce is like one of Marcella's, but by this point I can't remember which one or how; I just make it.  In fact, I had to make it again just now to see what the measurements were; I never measure these ingredients exactly. You'll adjust your ingredients, too.  For instance, you may like garlic and basil instead of onions and parsley.   Nowadays, people still cook from Marcella, but the rave Italian book is SILVER SPOON,  and everyone and her brother has written some sort of Italian cookbook.  I particularly like CUCINA SIMPATICA by Joanne Killeen and George Germon, TRATTORIA by Patricia Wells or THE ITALIAN COUNTRY TABLE by Lynne Rossetto Kaspar.  Of course there are also the Food Network stars' books.  By the way, there is now a pasta-only edition of SILVER SPOON and it's divine.
     Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,


      1. So funny you posted this today Alyce!! The stores are closed here (It's Family Day) and I was thinking what to make because I hadn't been to the store...of course, this!! I love how you give suggestions for the leftovers, very creative (the egg would be delish).
        Great blog!

      2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      3. Family Day! I love it. It's Presidents' Day here, but the stores are nearly ALWAYS open here and were today. Fast, filling, light meal with infinite variations....also great for a beginner. Glad you liked it! Sing a new song...


      Love hearing from you! If you don't have gmail or a blog, you can choose "anonymous" from the comment pull-down menu. Sign your name within the comment box if you'd like. Thanks, Alyce