Introduction: Multi-purpose Marinara Sauce

About: Let's skip the pretentious titles. At present, I am a paper pusher. In the remainder of my life, I am a mother of two handsome grown men, a wife to a very patient man, a nana of two precious grandchildren, c…

Oh, the magic of the smells floating through your house when a big pot of
this wonderful Marinara sauce is on the stove top.

The longer it simmers, the more intense the flavor, and the thicker it becomes, making
it a wonderful sauce in that you decide what the end result will be. Marinara sauce
is so versatile. Dip mozzarella sticks into a hot pool of it, and you'll melt like the cheese
that would taste great on top of it.

Pour it over a bed of pasta, doll it up further for use as a pizza sauce, there are so many
things you can do with it.

Easily adapted if you wish to vary from the given recipe, so please, by all means, have
fun with it. Add capers, add mushrooms, olives if you desire. Add more onion, less onion,
no onion.

This is your sauce. Let's get started!

Step 1: The Almighty Recipe...

Here I am, still caught up in the delight of this particular book. The Cooking Light
Annual Cookbook from 2008. Just think, only twenty something years to go. At this
rate, I'll never have to decide what to cook for dinner again, I'll just have to pick one
of the many pages.

I hope you're still with me. Most of the time, when someone hears word of 'fat free'
or 'reduced fat', 'lower sodium' or 'light', they run. Not so with this cookbook. Their
goal is to take wonderful dishes and tweak where no one will notice, yet still reducing
the excess that none of us need.

  • 3 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 cups of chopped yellow onion (usually about 3 medium-ish onions)
  • 3 Tablespoons of minced / diced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of dried basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds (crushed, if you prefer)
  • 2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (not apple cider, not white)
  • 2 cups of fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth (no, you can't tell, and it's better for you)
  • 3 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes (you may use salt free tomatoes if you wish to reduce sodium. Nutritional values on step 11 are based on using salt-free tomatoes, then adding 2 teaspoons of salt to the sauce as it cooks)

Step 2: Gather Your Ingredients...

For those lucky enough to have fresh tomatoes on the vine, you might consider
using them in place of canned crushed tomatoes. This sauce, even if made with
canned tomatoes, is still absolutely wonderful.

Skip through a Farmer's Market and grab three onions, and a head of garlic.

Run by a grocery store for three 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes, a good handful of
herbs and spices, and a few other ingredients, and you are well on your way
to a spectacular sauce! Don't forget the chicken broth!

Step 3: Prep the Veggies...

As I am always one to get everything ready beforehand, this recipe is no different.

Slice three onions in half, then cut the ends off each.
Remove the peels, and slice thin, then dice. Don't worry if they are
too small, but you really shouldn't leave them too large, either. You'll need
about three cups of diced onions.

Trim the ends of the garlic cloves, then peel and dice, or send them
through a garlic press.

Step 4: Gadget Alert! (skip If Disinterested)

For the love of Pete, woman, can't you create a single Instructable
without pushing your gadget addiction onto others? Sigh.

Perhaps my love of gadgets began in my youth, when our television
screens were inundated with everything 'handy' or 'dandy' or 'slicer / dicer'.
Maybe we're all under the mystical powers of Ron Popeil and his
seemingly endless parade of gadgets. But wait, there's more!

You may be shocked to learn the exaggerated price I paid for this little
dandy, but I love it, and I use it more often than anything else in the kitchen.
Quite a bit of our meals include some kind of vegetable that requires
slicing, dicing and such. This gadget is not one-of-a-kind, as many manufacturers
sell similar units, but this one happened to come from Q.V.C.

As much as I do love cutting things up, there is often not a lot of time in my
day. Anything that makes life easier, I say. Slap the item on the blade tray, slap
the lid shut, and zip! A tub of perfectly diced ______ (fill in the blank) in a matter
of seconds.

Step 5: Preparations (not a Required Step)...

Instead of having umpteen bottles and jars of spices and such laying about while trying
to cook in a limited space to begin with, I prefer to prep all the little details. This also
eliminates the opportunity to forget something. "Did I add the salt? Was that allspice or
nutmeg? Oh, wait!"

For the attentive folks, I realize there are only three cloves of garlic shown, when
six are actually used in the recipe. My apologies.

The little containers were courtesy of a local sandwich shop which has since closed.
They are provided for peppers and pickles, and no, I did not steal them. I repurposed them. :-)

Step 6: Saute the Onions, Add Garlic...

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. This is the perfect opportunity to
drag out that fifty pound (slight exaggeration) enamel pot known as a Dutch oven.
A big pot is needed, as there will be a LOT of sauce.

Grammar note: there is no such word as 'alot'.
There is such a word as allot, but it means to allow for, to distribute.

Add the diced onions and allow to saute for four minutes.

Add the garlic and saute just a moment longer.

Step 7: Add the Balsamic Vinegar, Spices, Chicken Broth...

Add the next seven ingredients and cook for another minute, stirring constantly.

The next seven ingredients:
  • 1 Tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of dried basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (freshly ground is truly wonderful)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds (crushed, if you prefer)

Still stirring, add the vinegar. Add the chicken broth and stir well.

Once you add the balsamic vinegar, you will begin to think you've done something horribly wrong.
It is dark, funky-looking, and you're thinking this is going to be an utter failure. Hang in there with
me, it's going to be alright.

Step 8: Add the Tomatoes...

Add all three cans of crushed tomatoes. Rinse out the cans and
be sure to re-use them for organizing something.
Those 28-ounce cans are pretty handy!

Stir well, bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat, stirring on occasion.
Reduce the heat. I'll repeat myself in a moment just in case you
forget. I can admit to being a scatterbrain, so I understand.

Step 9: Reduce Heat and Simmer for One Hour...

Reduce the heat to low, and allow the sauce to simmer for 55 minutes. Oh, heck, let's just
make it easy and call it an hour. The sauce will thicken over this hour. Be sure to
stir it on occasion, and sample. Just a bit.

Step 10: Cool and Store...

This sauce will keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to five days, but any longer, and
you should consider freezing it in small batches such as two cups.

What will you make now?

Top a pizza.
Mix it with rice.
Make a cocktail sauce.
Create a ziti dish.
Stuff a few bell peppers.

I hope you'll make something fabulous, and share it with Instructables.

Bon Appetit!

Step 11: A Few Words About the Nutritional Value...

When created as directed, this sauce bears the following nutritional aspects,
based on one half cup serving size.

CALORIES: 50 (32% from fat)
FAT: 1.8 grams (saturated - 0.2 grams, mono - 1.3 grams, poly - 0.2 grams)
PROTEIN: 1.3 grams
FIBER: 2.1 grams
CHOLESTEROL: 0 milligrams. Did you see that? ZERO CHOLESTEROL! Yeah!
IRON: 0.5 milligrams
SODIUM: 270 milligrams
CALCIUM: 28 milligrams

Another reason I love the Cooking Light books.

Step 12: As Promised...

If you enjoyed this Instructable, click HERE to see what I've done with the sauce!

(You might have to move your cursor just right below the word HERE above to get
the hyperlink to show up)

And, oh, yeah, is it GOOD!