Making Marinara From Scratch

making marinara

Marinara is often called The Mother of Italian Red Sauces and I can see why. Marinara can be the base for so many dishes, think lasagna, stuffed shells, manicotti, meatballs, eggplant and chicken parmigiana, eggs in purgatory, dipping sauce for fried veggies, pizza, seafood stews, I can go on and on.

Marinara can be slightly altered to create other sauces such as arrabiatta, roasted red pepper and vodka just to name a few. Needless to say marinara is an important staple in any kitchen.

If you’ve never made your own now is the time to start. There are so many ways to make marinara and each family has their own special way, this is mine. You won’t find any butter and onions in mine, no wine, meat or tomato paste but you’ll always find fresh basil and garlic.

saute garlic

Over the years I’ve used many different brands of tomatoes, some have come and gone but the thing that is consistent is that I always use the San Marzano variety, specifically the cans that are stamped with the D.O.P. ( Protected designation of origin ).

D.O.P. Certification guarantees that a tomato is of the San Marzano variety, and the taste in my opinion is far superior than other canned tomatoes. Smooth with no acidity, pronounced flavor, dense with fewer seeds and slightly sweet, you’ll never need to add any sugar to your sauce.

When you use quality ingredients all your dishes will be superior tasting with little effort, and you just can’t get that from a jar. In my opinion they are well worth the higher price tag.

whole tomatoes

Look how thick and dense those tomatoes are!

immersion blender

Making your own marinara really takes no time at all, it’s quick and easy to make and you definitely won’t find that fresh taste in any store bought jar. You can make it ahead of time, it’s freezer friendly and you can double or  even triple the recipe if need be.

simmering sauce

There’s nothing like the smell of homemade marinara simmering on the stove.

large canned tomatoes

If you’re making a large amount look for those big cans which are around six pounds, I find they’re usually a pretty good price and perfect for making big amounts before the holidays and special occasions.

large pot of sauce

Just make sure you have a big enough pot!

cooking with kidsfreezer ready

Quart containers that you can purchase that are  food safe and freezer friendly are perfect for storing your surplus of sauce if you’re making a lot.

empty pot

Good to the last drop!

pasta girl

Making your own marinara is great to have on hand for a quick dinner, when unexpected company stops by or when your grandchild has a taste for some pasta with YOUR sauce. It’s like money in the bank!

Making Marinara From Scratch
 
There are many different versions of homemade marinara, this is my family favorite.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 3 - 28 oz. cans of San Marzano whole tomatoes with the D.O.P. stamp on the can
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 large fresh cloves of garlic per can ( 9) crushed ( please don't use bottled garlic!)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt per can (3)
  • pepper to taste
  • a generous handful of fresh basil, plus extra
Instructions
  1. Add your oil to a heavy bottomed pot.
  2. Toss in the. crushed garlic and cook on medium until you start to smell it and it's very lightly golden, if it burns start over.
  3. Pour in the whole tomatoes.
  4. Take an immersion blender and mix until smooth, the immersion blender will infuse all the garlic pieces into the sauce that were crushed.
  5. Toss in the generous bunch of basil and submerge it into the sauce.
  6. Simmer low for 1 to 1½ hours.
  7. NOTE;
  8. If you want your sauce a little thicker I sometimes add half a bottle of passata which is a strained tomato puree, readily available in most stores. Never use paste for this.
  9. When sauce is finished, remove basil bunch inside and discard.
  10. To finish add in some torn fresh basil leaves.
  11. NOTE:
  12. You can double, triple this recipe and you can freeze your marinara for up to 2 months. It freezes well.
  13. This recipe makes 3-4 quarts depending if you use a bottle of passata.

 

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Summer Corn and Zucchini Chowder

corn chowder

Take all that fresh produce which is at it’s peak right now and make this one pot summer corn and zucchini chowder. Soup in late August you might ask? why yes, why not!

It’s filled with chunks of potato, corn and zucchini and for a smokey element some bacon, it’s a bounty of summer vegetables!

making chowder

It’s a hearty soup perfect for a light lunch on it’s own or for dinner with an additional salad or some crusty bread, either way I promise you will be completely satisfied with this delicious chowder.

I like to toss in the corn cobs after I cut the kernels off so they can release all their milky goodness right into the broth.

pot of chowder

As thick as this chowder looks you’ll be surprised to know that there isn’t any flour of any kind used or a roux to thicken it up. It’s mostly thickened with an immersion blender which I quickly zapped on one side of the pot and then finished off with a touch of cream, and don’t forget there’s potatoes in there too so that helps to thicken it as well.

chowder bowl

This is the perfect summertime soup, it was a hit in my house and I’m sure it will be a hit in yours, enjoy!

4.0 from 1 reviews
Summer Corn and Zucchini Chowder
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 medium zucchini, medium diced
  • 3 or 4 ears of corn, shucked raw ( save the cobs for stock)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 lb. baby red potatoes, cut in quarters
  • 1 carrot, diced ( I didn't have one and it was fine
  • 3 slices bacon, chopped in pieces
  • 1 qt. box, chicken or veggie stock
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • smoked paprika, cayenne (optional)dried thyme, fresh parsley and basil, salt and pepper to taste
  • butter and olive oil
Instructions
  1. Have all the veggies cut and set aside
  2. In a large heavy bottomed pot cook up the bacon until the fat renders, but not crispy.
  3. Remove bacon, if too greasy wipe out with paper towel.
  4. Drizzle a little olive oil and add a teaspoon of butter then add back the bacon.
  5. Add in the onions, garlic, celery, carrot, along with a pinch of dried thyme, smoked paprika, optional cayenne, stir until veggies get softened.
  6. Add the potatoes and almost all of the stock, reserve the rest.
  7. Add in the scraped off corn cobs, you can break them in half.
  8. Simmer on low until the potatoes start to get tender.
  9. Remove the corn cobs.
  10. Toss in the corn and zucchini and cook for a few minutes, don't let them get mushy.
  11. Take an immersion blender and quickly whiz just on one side of the pot, making sure not to blitz a large amount, you want all that chunky goodness.
  12. If you don't have an immersion blender you can remove a couple of cups of the chunky broth and whiz it in a blender, then return it to the pot.
  13. Lastly add in the heavy cream and stir til it's thick enough.
  14. taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper, chopped parsley and basil for garnish.
  15. Ladle into bowls with a sprinkling of smoked paprika.
  16. NOTE: If chowder gets too thick you can always add the rest of the stock or water to thin it out.

 

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Melrose Pepper Salad With Heirloom Tomatoes

tomatoes and peppers

If you’re from the Chicagoland area chances are you know all about Melrose peppers, the much loved and coveted heirloom peppers that are thinned skinned and extra sweet.

Each year in August they start to appear and word spreads quickly as to where they are. I’ve featured them several times over the years here on my blog, sometimes simply sautéed and sometimes stuffed but this will be my first time featuring them in a salad.

It’s the perfect time to make this salad with the summer abundance of perfectly ripe tomatoes and farm fresh Melrose peppers, it’s a match made in heaven!

farm fresh peppers

I realize not many people are familiar with Melrose peppers so let me give you a little background.

They came to be called Melrose peppers because as the story goes, many years ago a family from Calabria Italy eventually settled into a suburb of Chicago called Melrose Pk. They brought with them the seeds of this very special, thinned skinned sweet pepper. They quickly became popular among gardeners in the Italian community and then soon after that they started appearing in all the fruit and vegetable stands, and the rest is history. I was recently told that these peppers go by the name, peperoni di Senise.

If you can get your hands on them you’re in for a real treat!

If you’re unable to find them you can still make this recipe using those colored, mini sweet peppers, the ones you usually find in a bag.

pepper salad

This salad ticks all the flavor senses with layers of vine ripened heirloom tomatoes topped out with roasted Melrose peppers, briny olives, sharp cheese and sweet red onions, all you’ll need is a hunk of bread!

melrose pepper salad

I hope you recreate this Melrose pepper salad in your own home  this summer and become a devoted fan like me!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Melrose Pepper Salad With Heirloom Tomatoes
 
Quantities are loosely stated which gives you the freedom to add more or less of what you like.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 large, ripe heirloom tomatoes, preferably different varieties.
  • 7 or 8 roasted Melrose peppers ( or mini sweet colored peppers if using them)
  • 8 oz. of asiago, fontinella or provolone cheese, small chop
  • ½ red onion, small dice
  • 2 handfuls each of kalamata and castelvetrano olives, sliced
  • fresh chopped basil
  • olive oil
Instructions
  1. Rinse, dry and remove the stems and seeds from the peppers.
  2. Roast the peppers at 375F drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast them til tender and slightly golden, then cool them down.
  3. Slice the tomatoes and arrange them single layer on a nice platter and sprinkle with salt.
  4. Place the cooled down roasted peppers on top of the tomato slices.
  5. Scatter the sliced olives, onions and cheese all over and around.
  6. Add the chopped basil.
  7. Finish the salad off with a generous drizzle of good olive oil all over.
  8. Enjoy!

 

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