Homemade Marinara Recipe

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Marinara is a staple in Italian and Sicilian food. It’s fairly easy to make and there are so many variations of that it can be tailored to fit almost any pasta, vegetarian or meat dish… Perhaps you just want to have a snack and want a good tasting dip for breadsticks.  Follow these recipes and you too will be able to serve up some delightful entrées that will please your family.

Basic Marinara:

  • 4 – 28 oz Cans Italian Style Peeled Plum Tomatoes (I use a company called Tuttorosso)
  • 4 – 26.5 oz Boxes of Chopped Tomatoes (Pomi)
  • 2 – 28 oz Cans Tomato Puree (Tuttorosso)
  • 4 – 6 oz Cans Tomato Paste (Contadina)
  • 56 oz water
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, julienne
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 4 Tbsp dried oregano or 3 Tbsp Fresh Oregano, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup grate Pecorino Romano cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Using a food processor, blender, an immersion blender or even your hands, puree the chopped tomatoes and peeled tomatoes. In a large stock pot add 1 tsp olive oil and sauté the onions over medium high heat for about 30-60 seconds, then add the garlic, cooking for about 10-15 seconds, just enough to brown the garlic. Quickly add the wine and reduce heat to medium. Add all of the tomato products to the stock pot along with the water. Bring the mixture to a soft boil, then reduce the heat to medium low. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Cover and cook for a minimum of 4 hours and continue to stir the sauce periodically throughout the cooking process. Don’t cook the sauce for more than 6 hours and no more than 8 hours unless you are using it for lasagna or pizza. Now you have a flavorful marinara to enjoy.

Recipe variations:

  1. Replace oregano with with 6 Tbsp dried basil or 4 Tbsp fresh basil
  2. Replace Romano cheese with an Asiago, Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan) or any type of Italian hard cheese (add accordingly to taste)
  3. Replace water with low sodium vegetable stock
  4. Replace thyme with 2 Tbsp dried rosmary or 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary (use food processor to provide a fine chop of herbs). Be warned that using oregano with rosemary is not a great idea, their flavors tend to clash with one another and will leave your sauce tasting more on a bitter side.

*When using rosemary for sauces, sautéed dishes, compound butters, infused oils or breads/pizza, remember to remove leaves from stem, but it is not necessary to do so if you are making stocks or roasting food.

Wine Examples:

  1. Barolo [great for a sauce if serving over game meat like venison, bear or rabbit] (Italy)
  2. Brunello di Montalcino [perfect for a sauce when serving over rabbit or rich-pasta dishes like baked ziti or lasagna] (Italy)
  3. Conte Priola Pinot Noir [wonderful edition to sauce that’s served over pork and chicken] (Italy)
  4. Colosi Rosso Sicilia [goes great when making a sauce for bear or rabbit] (Sicily)
  5. Cusumano Nero d’Avola Sicilia [a beautiful touch to a marinara that will flow atop grilled lamb or rabbit] (Sicily)
  6. Chateau Bellevue Bordeaux [not only is this a nice wine to drink, but does wonders for a sauce served over pasta dishes] (France)
  7. Chateau La Jorine St. Emilion – Bordeaux [great with a sauce for serving over venison or chicken parmesan] (France)
  8. Luc Pirlet Merlot [like the Bordeaux, this wine enhances the flavor of a marinara that’s be severed on top of pasta] (France)
  9. Alspaldi Rioja Cosecha [compliments the game meat (venison) it’s served with due to the hints of cherry and blackberry] (Spain)
  10. El Prado Tempranillo Cabernet [inexpensive, yet it adds a sublime fruity flavor to a marinara that won’t leave pasta unfinished] (Spain)
  11. Valserrano Rioja Reserva [even though there are Asian spices mixed mix in, it goes surprising well in a pizza sauce] (Spain)

Most of these wines I buy from a local wine dealer, Total Wine, http://www.totalwine.com, which has an exceptional and wide variety of wines, spirits, and beer. Check them out for any of your alcoholic needs, plus the Orlando store has knowledgeable staff and wonderful management.

*NOTE: Now you can change the flavor profile by adding a combination of red wines or using different types of reds. Experiment and come up with your own recipes. These recipes are building blocks for those of you who wish to try new things.

Goda di un gusto della Sicilia!

Rustic Minestrone

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Vegetable soups have been around for decades and they are great as a starter or as a meal itself.  The recipe can either be made for Summer or Winter seasons, it just depends on the vegetables that you use. Now let’s get started!

Summer Minestrone:

  • 2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium store-bought)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white wine (dry, semi-sweet)
  • 2 large summer squash (zucchini)
  • 1 large white onion, Julienne
  • 6 tomatoes, peeled and cut 1/2 inch pieces  (*see notes below for instructions*)
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 4 large carrots
  • 1 lb red potatoes, quarter, then cut in half
  • 2 cups green cabbage
  • 4 cups red kidney beans or 3 cups ciciri (Sicilian for chickpeas)
  • 9 oz tomato paste (Contadina)
  • 1 1/4 Tbsp coarse sea salt
  • 2 medium bay leaves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 spring fresh thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp sugar or 2 1/8 tsp natural pure honey
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Preparation:

After washing the vegetables, take the zucchini and cut both ends off and discard. Cut in half lengthwise then cut 1/4 – 1/2 inch slices; place in large mixing bowl. Next, Julienne the onions, with this Julienne cut we will slice the onion approx 1/8 inch thick; place 3/4 of onion in mixing bowl. Proceed to peel and cut the carrots on a bias (a diagonal cut), discard the peeled portion and both ends. For the cabbage, this cut will be similar to a chiffonade cut (shredded or finely cut), but it will be slightly larger in size; same method of cutting. after cutting both ends off celery, slice the celery evenly about 1/4/ inch thick. Once the potatoes are cut, place them in cold water to prevent oxidation, which causes potatoes to turn brown of grey. Before adding the potatoes to the soup, discard the original water that they were sitting in and rinse them one more time, draining all of the water. If using canned beans, drain well then rinse. After beans are drained, place in bowl with carrots, celery, cabbage, onion, and zucchini. Add 1 tsp oregano, 1 Tbsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp thyme, 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder, 1 tsp sugar, a splash of olive oil.

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over med. high, once the oil is hot add the garlic cloves. Once the garlic has cooked for about 10 seconds add 1 quart vegetable or chicken stock and  1 cup water, bring to a hard boil, then reduce heat to medium. Add the fresh oregano, fresh thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Cover and cook at a soft boil for 30 minutes, depouillage any foam/bubbles that form at the top (this means to skim the top with a spoon to remove the foam like substance, also known as impurities, after 30 minutes remove from heat. In another large stock pot, pour liquid into a fine mesh chinois, removing any impurities and any undesirable particles of herbs/spices. Place stock pot over medium low heat, adding the vegetables (be sure to drain the potatoes before adding them to the soup) and remaining ingredients and stirring occasionally. Simmer for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours (stoves may vary), but check the vegetables, they should be soft; mushy vegetables are terrible. A good way to check to see if the zuppa is done is to pierce a potato with a sharp knife, it the potato slides off the blade with ease, then the soup is ready to serve.

Winter Minestrone:

  • 2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium store bought)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup Marsala wine
  • 2 large yellow squash
  • 1 large yellow onion, Julienne
  • 6 tomatoes, peeled and cut 1/2 inch pieces  (*see notes below for instructions*)
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 4 large carrots
  • 1 1/2 lbs potatoes, quarter, then cut in half (Round White and Yellow potatoes work better)
  • 1 cup green cabbage
  • 1 cup red cabbage
  • 4 cups red kidney beans
  • 9 oz tomato paste (Contadina)
  • 1 1/4 Tbsp coarse sea salt
  • 2 medium bay leaves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 3 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 spring fresh thyme
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp sugar or 2 1/8 tsp natural pure honey
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Preparation:

After washing the vegetables, take the zucchini and cut both ends off and discard. Cut in half lengthwise then cut 1/4 – 1/2 inch slices; place in large mixing bowl. Next, Julienne the onions, with this Julienne cut we will slice the onion approx 1/8 inch thick; place 3/4 of onion in mixing bowl. Proceed to peel and cut the carrots on a bias (a diagonal cut), discard the peeled portion and both ends. For the cabbage, this cut will be similar to a chiffonade cut (shredded or finely cut), but it will be slightly larger in size; same method of cutting. after cutting both ends off celery, slice the celery evenly about 1/4/ inch thick. Once the potatoes are cut, place them in cold water to prevent oxidation, which causes potatoes to turn brown of grey. Before adding the potatoes to the soup, discard the original water that they were sitting in and rinse them one more time, draining all of the water. If using canned beans, drain well then rinse. After beans are drained, place in bowl with carrots, celery, cabbage, onion, and zucchini. Add 1 tsp oregano, 1 Tbsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp thyme, 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder, 1 tsp sugar, a splash of olive oil.

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over med. high, once the oil is hot add the garlic cloves. Once the garlic has cooked for about 10 seconds add 1 quart vegetable or chicken stock and  1 cup water, bring to a hard boil, then reduce heat to medium. Add the fresh oregano, fresh thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Cover and cook at a soft boil for 30 minutes, depouillage any foam/bubbles that form at the top (this means to skim the top with a spoon to remove the foam like substance, also known as impurities, after 30 minutes remove from heat. In another large stock pot, pour liquid into a fine mesh chinois, removing any impurities and any undesirable particles of herbs/spices. Place stock pot over medium low heat, adding the vegetables (be sure to drain the potatoes before adding them to the soup) and remaining ingredients and stirring occasionally. Cover and simmer for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours (stoves may vary), but check the vegetables, they should be soft; mushy vegetables are terrible. A good way to check to see if the zuppa is done is to pierce a potato with a sharp knife, it the potato slides off the blade with ease, then the soup is ready to serve.

The best way and the proper way to peel a tomato is to make tomato concassé (peeled, seeded, and chopped). This process is fairly easy:

  1.  Start with ripe tomatoes, then with a parring knife make an “X” on the bottom of the tomato.
  2. Carefully drop in to a pot of boil water (blanching) and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Immediately remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice water; this stops the tomato from cooking any further.
  4. After it has cooled (don’t leave to long [10 seconds or so], otherwise it will become waterlogged. Transfer to cutting board.
  5. Peel the skin off the tomato. It helps to use a parring knife to peel the skin off (with the edge of the blade to you, hold the blade, exposing only the tip of the blade, between the tip of your thumb and the first knuckle of your index finger. Gently begin to scrape the skin starting at the “X” on the bottom.)

Also, the white wine or Marsala wine doesn’t have to be expensive. I have found that a wine that cost about $10 will do the trick. Always have a few cheap red and white wines on hand for cooking. Save the really good stuff for drinking!

Pasta in the zuppa…

Here are some types of pasta that go well with minestrone soup:

  • Ditalini (very short in length, tubular macaroni)
  • Fusilli (spiral)
  • Farfalle (butterflies or bowtie)
  • Conchigliette (little shells)
  • Orzo (pasta that resembles rice grains)