24 January 2014

You say tomay-to, I say pass the wine...

Everyone has a red sauce they swear by, and mine is probably no more special.  But, given the number of times every winter it is requested at home, I feel compelled to at least record it for posterity (or for that day when my memory finally starts failing in a major way and I have to follow recipes for everything).  This sauce has gone through many incarnations from my first attempts in grad school, which were better than Ragu but not by much (no sugar in the sauce for this girl!) to what I think is finally the right balance of spicy, bright, and earthy.  I learned the red wine trick (cook some in, add some at the end) from an Italian friend and think it makes the sauce exponentially better than it ever was before.

I use this for everything--over pasta or all kinds, in lasagna, and little spoonfuls added to soup bases--so I always make a big pot and freeze it in variously sized containers.  It will keep in the freezer for up to 4 months and thaws in a big pot over medium heat in about 15 minutes when you have surprise company for dinner.

Nicole's Spicy Marinara

Makes about 12 cups (½ cup is a serving over pasta)

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes in their juice
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 4-oz. can tomato paste
1 small yellow onion, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons dried oregano (adjust to taste)
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons capers
¼ cup pimento-stuffed olives roughly chopped
1 cup + ½ cup dry red wine (preferably the same you'll drink with this meal)
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a Dutch oven or large stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  When it shimmers, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent.  Add the canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and 1 cup of the red wine and stir to combine.  Stir in the salt, oregano, bay leaves, capers, and olives, lower to a simmer, and cover.  Allow to cook at least 20 minutes (but no more than 30), then stir in the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes.  Cook another 20-2 minutes; you don’t want the garlic flavor to disappear.  When it’s done cooking, turn off the heat and stir in the final ½ cup of red wine.  Season to taste and remove the bay leaves.