Fresh Tomato Marinara Sauce - A great make ahead sauce to have in your fridge or freezer

You know you are truly blessed when friends drop by for a casual visit with fresh vegetables straight from their yard! We now have fresh Karela (bitter melon), Cucumbers , three different kinds of chili pepper ranging from mild to HOT and Tomatoes.... lots of tomatoes! Sweet and juicy heirloom ones and mildly tart but incredibly flavorful cute Cherry tomatoes. 

When you have almost three pounds of extremely ripe tomatoes, that might not last a week in your fridge, you do the most reasonable thing to do. You make Marinara Sauce!  

Sid can eat pasta with marinara 365 day a year and 3 times a day! That's how much he loves it. Me and Sam not so much. We either find it too acidic or overtly sweet. And we actually never had a fresh marinara made from scratch. We rarely dine at a Italian restaurant. And when we do, we indulge in guilty pleasures of Alfredo and Carbonara!

This recipe comes from my little sister. She loves all things Italian. She was the one who told me that, "you don't like Marinara, coz you never had the real stuff". And may be she was right. I  have softened my stance on Marinara after trying this recipe.

A pot, a wooden spoon and few simple, uncomplicated ingredients and my home turned into an Italian kitchen. The sauce was still simmering when Sid came back from school. He walked in and said, "Mommy.. our house smells like Olive Garden!"

If you know me well enough, you would know I never follow any recipe to the 'T'. I have to add my own spin. I did it here too. Firstly, the recipe asked for a little Tomato Paste, which I didn't have. So I skipped it. The Tomato Paste gives a nice rich red color to the sauce. To get the gorgeous red color, I added a heaping tablespoon of Smoked Paprika. The smoked paprika not only made the sauce vibrant, it also added a delicious smokiness. Not traditional but we liked it. A lot actually!
 Finally, to counterbalance the acidity of the tomatoes, we had to add sugar. But I added brown sugar instead of white. It heightened the smokiness of the sauce.

After all that tweaking, it is difficult to call it an authentic Italian Marinara Sauce. My Italian friend's Nonna won't be impressed. But I was. Mighty impressed by the result of my maiden attempt at 'from-scratch' Pasta Sauce. And that's what matters to me....

You know the sauce is done when all the runny liquid has evaporated and you are left with thick yet viscous, saucy, mildly chunky textured sauce. But I went a step further. By accident....

I answered a call and completely forgot that the sauce was still on heat. The heat was low. Thankfully. But when I came back to it, it had thickened further and was of a spreadable consistency. The flavors was concentrated and intense. It looked almost like tomato paste. Only this was way better.

Having a fresh 'Marinara Spread' does have its advantages! Sid and I had a quick snack of rice crackers, marinara, mozzarella and olives. It was so good....!!!

The next day I made pasta for Sid's lunch box. I simply heated 2 tablespoon of the sauce with about half a cup of pasta water and it was perfect. Coated the pasta nicely and was delicious.

Here is the recipe. Hope you'll like it. We LOVED it!

Recipe Snapshot: Fresh Tomato Marinara Sauce

Makes: a lot 

What I used:
Fresh Tomatoes - 3 lb, roughly chopped

Garlic - 8 - 10 fat cloves

Onion - 1 medium sized, chopped

Dried Basil - 2 tsp, heaped

Dried Oregano - 1.5 tsp, heaped

Red Wine or Balsamic Vinegar - 2 tbsp  

Tomato paste - 2 tbsp (optional)

Smoked Paprika - 1 tbsp (optional)

Brown or white Sugar - 2 tbsp (or more if the tomatoes are very acidic)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 2 tbsp

Salt and pepper

What I did:

1. Roughly chop the fresh tomatoes and keep aside along with the juice rendered while chopping.

2. In a large pot, warm the EVOO over gentle heat. Add the garlic and let them sizzle and release their aroma. 

3. Add the onions and saute them till they are translucent.

4. Add the whole bunch of chopped tomatoes. Add salt and mix will with the garlic-onion mixture. After sometimes, the tomatoes will start to break down and release its juices. Keep simmering the sauce on medium heat, stirring intermittently. 

5. Add the dried oregano, basil, tomato paste (if using), balsamic (or red wine) vinegar, sugar (brown or white) and the smoked paprika (if using). You can even add some red wine too. Mix well. 

6. Keep simmering till the tomatoes have completely broken down, all the juice is evaporated and you are left with a nice viscous, saucy texture. My heirloom tomatoes were very ripe and they released a lot of juice. It took almost than 3 hrs of simmering for me to get the right consistency. It will depend on the kind of tomatoes and the quantity too. 

7. Do a taste check and add salt, sugar or more vinegar as needed.

8. The sauce is done when all the runny liquid has evaporated and you are left with thick yet viscous, saucy, mildly chunky textured sauce. 

9. This step is  completely optional, but I prefer to do it.  I blend the sauce with my immersion blender. The resultant sauce is smooth and silky and of a "dropping" consistency.

9. You can leave you sauce at this stage. Pour it it clean glass jar and refrigerate or freeze it, once the jars have cooled down to room temperature. 

10. Or you can the sauce simmer for 10 more minutes. Make sure that the heat is low. The sauce will thicken into a spreadable consistency. The flavors will be concentrated and intense. To use just dilute it with pasta water or chicken broth before tossing your pasta in it.

1. I made a pretty concentrated sauce and I need to check how many servings I can get from it. I will update the serving size later.

2. Tomato paste gives a nice rich color to the sauce. I didn't have any, so I skipped. 

3. I added some smoked paprika. Its not traditional, but it added a smokiness to the sauce which we all loved. 

4. I added brown sugar to add to the smokiness, but white sugar can be substituted. The amount of sugar will depend on the sweetness of the tomatoes. Taste and adjust accordingly.

Diabetic Platter:
A 1/2-cup serving of marinara contains negligible amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol and only 2 grams of total fat, or 3 percent of your daily intake. Marinara sauce is also rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that helps to protect you from prostate cancer. A 1/2-cup of marinara sauce has 19 percent of your daily sodium and only 70 calories. In addition, the recommended serving size of marinara sauce contains 2 grams of protein, 8 percent of your dietary fiber and only 3 percent of your daily carbohydrates. Marinara sauce also contains some vitamins and minerals, providing 8 percent of your daily vitamin A, 2 percent of your vitamin C, 6 percent of your calcium and 4 percent of your daily iron. 



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