I made this recipe for a friend at school who recently gave birth to her fourth child. She seems relatively non-plussed by the whole situation. Apparently I’m the one who’s totally freaked out. I feel frazzled for her! So, putting myself in her shoes, I thought, “If I had four kids, what’s the one thing I’d want someone to do for me?” I mean, before they locked me up in the loony bin.
There, that was easy. So I scoured a bunch of recipes suitable for cooking in large quantities: enchiladas, lasagna, casseroles of all varieties, etc., etc., and I found this recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis at The Food Network. Now, I’ve always been a meat sauce kind of gal. It’s what my mom cooked. It’s what I’ve always cooked myself. To boot, nobody has ever complained when I make spaghetti sauce with meat. Bam! So that’s what I’ve always done. But I always cook with health in mind and I’ve regularly pondered the marinara!
Not knowing whether any of my friend’s kids were averse to meat sauce, I thought marinara would be a safe bet. The problem was, I made it and gave it away, keeping only what wouldn’t fit in the Tupperware container.
Last night I made a batch I intended to keep all to ourselves and I’m almost afraid to admit I might never make a meat sauce again. This sauce is so good, so flavorful, so aromatic, so….easy. The prep is more time consuming than the original recipe indicates (I think they say 10 minutes, but that’s if you’re Giada DeLaurentiis), but if you get all your fine chopping done ahead of time, it all goes together relatively quickly. Simmer and serve. Like all good sauces, stews, soups, etc., this one is delicious the day of, but mellows beautifully after a day or two in the fridge. Enjoy!
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 small onions, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
- 2 dried bay leaves
In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste.
***Cook’s Notes: I threw in a small handful of fresh basil leaves close to the end of simmering. Remove with bay leaves before serving. Also, because I was working against the clock on this batch, my “finely chopped” was a little less than fine. After simmering, I ran my emulsion blender through the sauce to smooth out the consistency.