Not-Your-Grandma's Marinara Sauce
Most families have their own "famous" marinara sauce, or tomato-based sauce that contains a "secret" ingredient. Maybe it's been passed down for generations or decades. For Italians, sharing and building on family recipes is the very heart of cooking. Any good Italian will tell you: jarred sauces don't hold a candle to the smooth, velvety texture that is so crucial in homemade marinara.
This is not a family secret recipe. My family isn't Italian. Our marinara was usually Ragu or Prego. I didn't come to find the importance and obsession with homemade sauce until I started dating my fiancee and being around chefs all the time. (They take sauces very seriously) And once you make your own, there's NO GOING BACK.
We recently had a lot of cherry tomatoes in our refrigerator and I knew we weren't going to eat them all before they went bad, so I decided to try my hand at making marinara sauce for the first time (unsupervised). The tomatoes were plump, sweet, and juicy - I knew they'd make a great sauce.
How hard could it be?
Surprisingly, it wasn't hard at all. It was a piece of cake! Knowing the basics of cooking and understand what spices go well together helps. But, I think the key to having a really smooth sauce is having a killer food processor or blender (and thanks to dear fiancee, I have a Vitamix).
2lb cherry tomatoes or small salad tomatoes
1.5 sweet yellow onion
3-5 garlic cloves (to taste)
1 tbsp pepper
1 tbsp Oregano
1 tbsp Red Pepper Flakes
Optional: 1 Dried Chili Pepper
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. While oven is getting hot, rough chop onions and garlic cloves. Toss tomatoes, onions, and garlic in a bowl with Olive Oil and salt.
2. Spread out tomatoes, garlic, and onion on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes. (Your house will smell amazing). You'll know they are finished when some of the tomatoes have burst open and the onions are partially translucent.
3. Take baking sheet out of oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes. After cooling, place tomatoes, onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, and pepper into blender or food processor.
4. Starting on the lowest setting, begin blending. Slowly turn up the speed once the ingredients are well mixed. For smooth and creamy sauce, blend for 5-6 minutes on medium speed. If you prefer a chunkier marinara, blend on a lower speed for 2-3 minutes.
5. Add spices to taste.
6. Pour into a sealed container or right onto your pasta and enjoy!
Once I had my base sauce flavored properly, I poured a small portion into a container for my daughter. My fiancee and I love a little heat in our food. This was when I added the dried chili pepper. Break the pepper up and the seeds should fall out. I left the seeds out of the sauce. A quick blend to mix the pepper into the rest of the sauce and voila! Sauce was complete.
I am super proud of how my sauce turned out, being the first time I attempted it. The difference between jarred sauce and homemade sauce is uncanny (all puns intended).