Marinara Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes
I always hated it when you would look up a marinara sauce recipe, that would say “fresh” or “from scratch”, you check it out and the first ingredient is a can of crushed tomatoes. Really? A marinara recipe isn’t hard, there’s no secret ingredient. Sure there are variations, but for the most part most people know what goes into it. I like using fresh tomatoes because I have more control over the salt and final flavor that it has. I’ll share my recipe here with you, but remember that marinara is all about how you want it, so make it your way.
4lb Roma Tomatoes
2 Yellow Onions diced
2 Stalks Celery diced
5-6 Cloves Garlic minced
1/3 Cup Fresh Parsley chopped
1/3 Cup Fresh Basil chopped
1 Tbs Dried Oregano
1/4 Tspn Red Pepper Flakes
1 Tbs Sugar
1/2 Cup Dry Red Wine (Preferably Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot)
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Makes 4-5 cups
Your tomatoes should be as ripe and red as possible. This may be an obvious statement, but if they are not, like mine aren’t in the picture, then you can end up with orange or brown sauce. It will taste just fine. It will just be lacking that bright red color that makes it so appealing.
The most annoying part of making fresh marinara is peeling all of the skins off of the tomatoes. They need to be blanched and shocked, which means to boil them for about 30 seconds (blanch) and then put them in ice water (shock). After sitting in the ice water bath for a minute or so, the skins should peel right off.
Use a paring knife to cut the cores out of the tomatoes and then slash an “x” in the bottom. The slashes in the bottom will help the skins come off later. Prepare a bowl of ice half filled with water, and boil enough water to put 5-6 tomatoes in at a time. DO NOT put all of the tomatoes in at once. The temperature of the water will drop dramatically and you will no longer be blanching but poaching and thus ruining your tomatoes. Boil a few at a time for 30 seconds to a minute each. The skins should look a bit cracked when they are ready. Put them in the ice water to stop the cooking process and finish the rest. Once done, the skins should come off fairly easily.
You can either chop the tomatoes or pulse them in a food processor to break them down, either will work the same in the end. Get a big ol’ pot and heat the olive oil. Add the red pepper flakes and then sauté the onions and celery. Season with salt and cook for a minute before adding the garlic. Cook for another minute before adding the sugar, oregano and tomatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1-1/2 – 2 hours over medium low heat. Stir as you go so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Near the end add the wine. Remember that it will thicken as it cools, so don’t make it too thick now, or it will be paste when it’s cools.
I used a hand blender to puree some of the marinara, but left some chunks. A food mill works well for this also. Add the fresh herbs in after pureeing. Cool in a jar and use with your favorite pastas.
The sauce will last about a week in the refrigerator.