Marinara Sauce is a basic Italian ingredient that can be used in many recipes. My marinara sauce has no added sugar. Ground up fennel seeds are used to give the illusion of sweetness. This is actually an Indian cooking tip that I learned from my great grandmother. TIP: Use fennel powder to impart the illusion of sweetness without using any sugar or sugar substitute.
When I was 12, my family moved to America. We settled in Queens, New York. We lived in a very Italian neighborhood. Most of the Italian families were related to each other, and everyone had vegetable and herb gardens in their backyard. I had never even heard of Italian food, much less tasted it. The Italians I met were full of joy and very generous. They loved to feed me whenever I visited. This was my introduction to Italian food, where I learned how to make marinara sauce from one of the Italian grandmothers (nonnas.) They always seemed to have jars of homemade marinara in their cupboards.
I learned from the nonnas, the great TIP of having marinara sauce on hand because it can be used to make so many dishes. I have already created and photographed two recipes using my homemade marinara. They will post on July 11th and July 18th. For the 4th of July, I have planned a very special red, white and blue Italian dessert that is low carb and keto friendly. I named the dessert Berries & Fennel Scented Zabaglione.
- 8 large ripe tomatoes ( these beauties came from my neighbor’s garden. I have the best neighbors 😃)
- a large handful of basil ( the basil in the photo was grown by me. I grow herbs in pots in the sun room just outside my kitchen. This way I can get fresh herbs when I need them. I feel truly blessed to be able to have the luxury to do this.)
- 1 large white onion (this one was grown by my neighbor. He brings us vegetables and we give him eggs from our chickens and ducks.)
- 3 Tbsp of the best extra virgin olive oil you are able to find (the can of extra virgin olive oil in the photo, was picked up in Tuscany while I was taking a pasta making class.)
- 1 bell pepper and 1 Serrano pepper (optional. I like adding the peppers for an extra kick.)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp of dried oregano
- 1 tsp of red chili flakes (leave these out if you want to make the dish less spicy)
- 2 tsp of fennel seeds ( grind these to a powder in a spice grinder)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Parmesan cheese rind. TIP: Keep leftover cheese rinds in the freezer and use them to add flavor when making marinara sauce.
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup of red wine
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
PREPPING THE TOMATOES:
- Score an “X” mark in the skin at the base of each tomato
- Boil a large pot of water
- Get an ice bath ready
- Blanch each tomato in the boiling water for 30 seconds
- Immediately place the blanched tomato in the ice bath to stop the cooking process
- Once the tomatoes are cooled, peel off the skin starting at the scored “X” mark. It should peel off easily.
- Dice the peeled tomatoes and place them in a crock pot
TIP: Use a crock pot to make the sauce so you don’t have to spend hours stirring the sauce like the Italian nonnas, who taught me to make the sauce did.
Its a good time saver. If you want to make it like the nonnas, feel free to make it the traditional way in a large sauce pot.
PREPPING THE OTHER INGREDIENTS:
- Add the bay leaf and cheese rind to the tomatoes in the crock pot
- Turn the crock pot to high, and put the lid on while you prep the other ingredients.
- Dice the onion and bell pepper
- Mince the garlic and Serrano pepper
- Tear the basil into small bits
COOKING THE AROMATIC BASE (SOFRITO):
- Coat a stainless steel pan with the extra virgin olive oil and place on medium heat
- Add the onion, garlic, peppers, basil, red chili flakes, oregano and fennel powder
- Saute until lightly brown
- Add the tomato paste, stir it in and cook for another minute
- Add the cooked sofrito to the crock pot that already has the tomatoes in it
COOKING THE SAUCE:
- Add 1 cup of red wine
- Turn the crock pot to low and cook for about 4 hours. At this point the sauce should have turned a deep red color.
- Now add salt and pepper to taste
- Turn the crock pot to warm and let it sit for 30 minutes to let all the flavors marry
I wait until the end to add salt and pepper because it allows me to balance the flavors once everything has already blended and come together.
You can use the marinara immediately for many recipes, or you can put it in mason jars and keep in the frig for up to 2 weeks. It will keep in the freezer for 6 months.
On a final note, I want to credit Ceramiche d’Arte Carmela, in Ravello, Italy for making the beautiful bowl and plate that I used to present my Marinara Sauce.
I visited their shop when I was in Ravello and fell in love with their ceramics. I ended up ordering a whole set. I use it frequently and remember Italy fondly. I get no compensation for mentioning Carmela’s lovely art work here, but I like giving credit where credit is due.
Please use the comments section to let me know what you think if this recipe. I always love hearing from you.
Ciao for now. 🖐😃