Marinara became a catchall term for tomato sauce in Italy because its ingredients are all plentiful in Campania, the area around Naples that sent so many families to the United States in the last century. Italian-American cooks treated it as a multifunctional ingredient: a starting point for other sauces, the base of soups, the acid that breaks down meat in stews. Generally speaking, it consists of olive oil, ripe tomatoes, a substantial amount of garlic, a pinch of dried pepper flakes and dried oregano and or, fresh basil. The list of things that do not belong in marinara is much longer: no onions, no wine, no meatballs, no sugar no anchovies, no tomato paste and no butter. Shhh, I cheat and use a sprinkling of sugar, depending upon the season of the San Marzanos.
San Marzano tomatoes are an essential key ingredient for this quick delicious sauce; they are mild, smooth, slightly less acidic and provide the basis of balance when blended with the 2 sweet, yet pungent herbs in this recipe.
This sauce is perfect over all shapes of pastas; a personal favorite is angel hair or thin spaghetti. It’s a wonderful pizza and dipping sauce as well. Serve over pasta with copious amounts of grated Parmesano Reggiano cheese, a side salad (I chose fresh sliced avocado & roma tomatoes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkling of pink Himalayan sea salt and fresh cracked pepper) and a fringe of sweet Sicilian sausage.
1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
7 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered or minced
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp sugar (shhhhh…this is optional, but recommended) 😉
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsps or more kosher salt; to taste
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 large fresh basil sprig, and 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning, more to taste
Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and crush with your hands. Pour 1 cup water into can and splash around to get tomato juices. Reserve.
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. When it is hot, add garlic and pepper flakes
As soon as garlic is sizzling (do not brown it imparts bitterness), add tomatoes, reserved tomato water, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, oregano and salt. Stir.
Place basil sprig, including stem, on the surface and let it wilt, then submerge in sauce. Simmer sauce until thickened and oil on surface is a deep orange, about 15 minutes. Taste sauce after 10 minutes of simmering, adding more salt and oregano as needed. Tell, whomever receives the basil to make a wish because it will bring them good luck 🙂