Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Secret to Marinara Sauce

In a previous post, we promised to share La Cucina at the Market Chef/Owner Anna Florio's secret to Marinara sauce.  Here it is:

Don't overcook it.

Anna elaborates:  "When Italians first came to this country as immigrants they were generally poor.  This meant that they could not afford expensive cuts of meat, so what they did buy had to be simmered for hours to make it tender and palatable.  Hence the notion of the pot of Italian Gravy cooking all day."

But Marinara sauce is different--you're essentially cooking tomatoes.  Anna continues:  "The word 'marinara' derives from mare which is Italian for sea.  Historically it was a tomato sauce that contained seafood, which cooks very quickly.  It has evolved into a simple tomato sauce--and how long does it take to cook a tomato?  Not very.  Marinara sauce only needs about 30 minutes in the pot."  And with the warm weather coming, and tomato season arriving soon, this sauce is a great go-to for a simple, light summer meal.

Anna shared another great trick of the trade.  Cook the pasta just to al dente (generally a minute less than the package recommends) then pour it into the pot of sauce.   Anna explains:  "This enables the pasta to absorb some of the sauce's flavor and blends everything well.  Most people drain the pasta, then pour it into a serving bowl and put the sauce on top.  The sauce never gets a chance to infuse with the pasta, so people tend to keep adding sauce to achieve sufficient flavor.  Putting the pasta into the hot pot of sauce for a couple of minutes avoids that problem."

Anna Florio's Sugo Alla Marinara

1 lg can whole peeled tomatoes, San Marzano recommended
Olive oil
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon pepperoncini (red pepper flakes)
½ teaspoon dry oregano
4-5 leaves fresh Basil

Pour olive oil into a large sauce pan.  Add chopped garlic and saut√© just until garlic is golden.  Add tomatoes, then fill tomato can 1/2 way with water, rinse can and pour water into pot.  Add oregano and hot pepper. Using the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher, gently crush the tomatoes. Add basil.  Stir well, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 30 minutes.

When pasta has cooked al dente strain the pasta and add it to the sauce in the pan.  Simmer about 2-3 minutes, gently stirring.

Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl and serve immediately with freshly grated pecorino cheese.

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