A lot of Italian dishes need marinara as the base sauce but most people in the US prefer the convenience of the jarred or the canned kind because making Marinara from scratch is long-drawn cumbersome process and can take hours. Of course, gone are the days of slow cooking the sauce on a stove because very few people have the time and inclination to stand close to a hot stove to stir it for hours! But a slow cooking crock pot has solved this problem. You can just place the chopped tomatoes in the crockpot and let the sauce cook itself over a few hours and then at the very end you can add all the other ingredients and have a homemade sauce that will beat any that you can buy from the supermarket. Of course, the best part of this process is also that you know what goes into making the sauce and we certainly don’t need any of the ingredients such as preservatives and food coloring in our diet. Additionally, by making it at home, one can also monitor the amount of sodium and sugar that go into it.
At this time of the summer when tomatoes are in full season and at the peak of their taste and also inexpensive, one can make this sauce in large quantities and then freeze or jar it in smaller containers and use it over the course of the year. Also, some of us grow tomatoes in our backyards and often end up getting a lot of ripe tomatoes in one go and it is difficult to use up all the tomatoes that tend to ripen all together. This sauce is a good way of preserving the goodness of the home-grown tomatoes to reap the benefits of our hard work throughout the year.
Yesterday my son’s friend (who is spending the summer with us) brought me a basketful of perfectly ripe tomatoes from the local farmer’s stall that he is working at for the summer. I couldn’t use up all the tomatoes in one go and keeping them for even a day would have meant throwing away half of them because in this heat they get over-ripe or mildew very quickly. So I chopped them up and place them in a large crockpot for the day. 8 hours later the tomatoes were cooked through and I blended the sauce and then added all the other ingredients to give it more flavor. The result is a delicious home-made marinara that I can now freeze in Tupperware and then use it as when I need to.
1. 15-20 ripe medium to large tomatoes.
2. One medium sized onion
3. 3-4 large cloves of garlic
4. Salt and pepper to taste
5. 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
6. 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
7. 5-6 sprigs of fresh oregano
8. A handful of fresh basil leaves
9. 5-6 sprigs of fresh flat-leafed parsley
10. 2 tablespoons of honey.
11. 2 teaspoons of sweet paprika (it gives the sauce a great red color)
12. ¼ cup red wine (I used Merlot)
1. Wash the tomatoes and chop them in large chunks.
2. Place the chopped tomatoes in the crockpot and set it to high and begin slow cooking the tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes for 7-8 hours. If possible, lift the lid of the crockpot and stir the sauce every 2-3 hours. It may take less time – it depends on how hot your crockpot gets.
6. Peel and finely chop the onion.
8. While the onion pieces are getting cooked, peel and finely slice the garlic cloves and then add them to the skillet. Cook the onions and garlic on medium heat for 3-4 minutes (don’t let the garlic get brown or it will taste bitter in the sauce).
10. Taste the sauce for a balance between savory, tart and sweet and adjust according to your preference.
11. Let the sauce cool down before putting it in jars to freeze it or store it in sealed containers.
12. Enjoy the sauce over boiled pasta or over Eggplant Parmigiana or Chicken Parmigiana or as a dipping sauce for fried Mozzarella sticks. You can always freshen the sauce up with some more fresh herbs when you are ready to serve it.