12 May 2008

Chloe's Magical Marinara

If there's one thing about grocery store spaghetti sauce that bugs me most of all it's that nearly all the brands available contain sugar. Marinara sauce is not a dessert. I do not think the flavours of tomatoes and onions and such are enhanced with sugar. Did I mention I don't think tomato sauces should contain sugar?!
My magical marinara sauce does not contain sugar and, well, I was never humble, it's better than grocery store brands. It's delicious. It's fabulous. I use it as a pizza sauce, too. Would you guys be interested in home-made pizza crust recipes or home-made pasta recipes? Ooh, and flavoured vinegars (that's an easy one).

Before we continue, I should mention I recently purchased a spiral-bound 1975 edition of Joy of Cooking. It's not so much a collection of recipes (although there are over a thousand recipes in the tome) as it is a book of cooking techniques. It describes, in a warm and engaging narrative, individual ingredients, how to store them, how to tell if they are fresh, ways to cook them. It describes cooking processes -- everything from frying to steaming to boiling to baking to canning. It describes different meals, snacks, serving ideas. It gives example menus for different meals and occasions. It has a section on cocktails.

I have read various reviews and they seem to agree that the older editions are better. In fact, there's a rather recent version that took out most of the narrative sections (including the section on canning) and included several bogus recipes, causing such a kerfluffle that a subsequent edition based more on the older editions was released in rather a hurry. Or something like that. In any case, my edition is fab and I got it from the US on ebay for just a couple bucks. There are loads of good old used copies available and they tend to sell for very low. This book is totally worth the investment, even if you live outside the US like me and have to pay extra for shipping.

Where was I going with that? Oh yeah, I'm taking a leaf from that book and I may start writing my recipes out in that style, where the ingredients are in bold face and optional ingredients are in parenthesis. But I'm not going to do that right now. Just a heads-up.

I have recently read that tomatoes are one of the few foods that may be healthier and more nutritious after cooking. It had something to do with the lycopene.

Magical Marinara:
  • Tinned Tomatoes (if they are not chopped, you will need to chop them yourself)
  • Finely-chopped Onion
  • Smooshed and finely chopped clove of garlic (more or less to taste)
  • [Optional: mushroom, zucchini, peppers, etc.]
  • [Optional: tomato paste/concentrate if you want to really up the tomatoey-goodness or if you are in a bit of a hurry and don't want to wait until more of the liquid boils out]
  • Olive Oil (I use an extra-virgin olive oil)
  • Red Wine (a couple glugs -- don't use a sweet wine like concord, but most any red wine will do -- it doesn't have to be a fancy wine since you're cooking the bujeebus out of it and the other strong flavours will cover any nuances in that good vintage) [and/or a glug or two of cider vinegar]
  • Italian Herb Seasoning (tbsp or so) [OR a few generous dashes of dried basil, a dash of oregano, dash marjoram, dash rosemary (finely crushed is best in this case unless you want to add a sprig of fresh rosemary and remove it afterward), bay leaf (remove afterward)]
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • [Optional: fresh basil, to be added at the end, sliced olives (any kind will do), capers, chili peppers or flakes, etc.]

Fry the onions and garlic [and any other veggies] in oil on low until the onions are clear. Stir in everything else (you might not even need the salt) except the optional fresh basil, olives, and/or capers. Simmer for 5-15 minutes or until sauce has thickened (it will look saucy, not soupy) and seasonings have mingled (you can kind of tell when things are done by smelling them -- once the seasonings get a chance to work their way in, they start to smell really good and the whole dish gets a bit more fragrant). [Throw in the olives and/or capers when everything looks almost, but not quite, done.]

Add a glug of extra virgin olive oil at the end if you want -- I like it that way. Garnish with chopped fresh basil (optional, but tasty!).


  1. My mom recently gave me her copy of the Joy of Cooking. Copyright 1976.
    The only thing I made from it was Canton or Candied Ginger. I had around 4 cups of ginger syrup after the ginger was finished. It is excellent for homemade ginger soda or as an ingredient in granola.

  2. I love the older version of the book as well. I was the lucky girl that got my grandmother's book after she passed. My mom has one as well. we made some scalloped potatoes from it on Mother's day!

  3. There was a thing on NPR last weekend about how Heinz is breeding a sweeter tomato, because the price of corn syrup has skyrocketed. If they can do that, that would take the sugar out of a lot of their products, and then competitors would follow. Wouldn't that be great?

  4. Rachel -- that reminds me, I've been meaning to make my own ginger syrup for ginger ale because I like a -*really*- dry ginger ale. Vernon's Ginger Ale (so dry!) is hard enough to find in North America, but it doesn't exist here at all and Canada Dry only seems to come in really tiny cans.

    Amanda -- One of my aunts says my grandmother made every recipe in the entire book! I'm not sure if she *really* made every recipe or not, although she did have a husband and 7 kids (that's a lot of food right there) and her repertoire really was amazing. She did canning and made her own jams and wines and everything.

    Lelah -- I've been in the UK long enough to keep forgetting that corn syrup is the norm in the US instead of sugar -- the US government has an import tariff on sugar and corn is subsidised, so it's cheaper to use corn syrup. (How Travisian of me to know that! I'm proud of myself.)
    I would LOVE it if everyone took the sugar out of their tomato products! Heinz are known here for making baked beans and they use too much sugar in those, too. ;p