A simple marinara sauce is a great dish to have in your cooking repertoire. I have tried many versions, but found that simplest is best. A friend taught me how to make this sauce, and though I’m sure my version has evolved I think it is still pretty close to the original. I did add fennel which adds a really nice flavor. Depending on your weekly CSA Share contents your ingredients might change a little. This version has spring onions, fresh basil, and fennel. I’m using canned tomatoes, but during the height of tomato season you can use fresh, especially if you get a box from our online farm store. I highly recommend doubling or even tripling the recipe and freezing the leftovers. Ground beef or sausage removed from the casings are also a great addition, just brown the meat and add back to the pan after you purée the tomatoes.
Start by coarsely chopping the fennel, tomatoes, and garlic.
Add a few basil leaves to the onions and garlic while they’re sautéing. One of the small things I learned from my friend is to use a lot of olive oil at the beginning. It adds to the flavor and makes the sauce richer. I usually cover the bottom of a dutch oven before adding the onions, garlic, and fennel, a pinch of salt and pepper, and just a few leaves of basil (the rest of the basil will finish the sauce). When the onions are cooked and starting to turn translucent, add the red wine to the pan and stir to scrape any bits up from the bottom. Cook until red wine is reduced by half, then add the tomatoes.
When you add the tomatoes, purée with an immersion blender. I usually try to keep everything a little bit chunky while I’m blending but if you prefer a smoother sauce just blend longer. When everything is as smooth as you like it. Simmer the sauce over very low heat for about an hour, the sauce should be darker in color without watery edges. Add remaining basil, and parsley if you have it. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. If your sauce tastes a little acidic, add a teaspoon of sugar or honey to balance it out. Let the sauce cool to room temperature before storing in the refrigerator or freezer. Sauce lasts in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, and months in the freezer.
Simple Marinara Sauce
1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes in sauce
3 spring onions or 1 large onion
6 cloves garlic
1/2 fennel bulb (optional)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup basil leaves loosely packed and minced
1/4 cup parsley leaves minced(optional)
1 tsp sea salt + more if necessary
fresh ground black pepper
Coarsely chop fennel, onions, and garlic. Heat olive oil in a stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Sautè onions, fennel, garlic, and one or two basil leaves until the onions and fennel are softened. Add the wine to pot, stirring to scrape any bits off the bottom. When the wine is reduced by half add the tomatoes with sauce, and puree with an immersion blender. Add salt and a few grind of black pepper. Simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally until sauce is thickened. Add basil and parsley if using. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.
Serving suggestions. Toss with cooked pasta, and freshly grated parmesan. Use in lasagna, summer squash parmesan, or other baked pasta dishes.