Tomatoes are starting to ripen and I’m THRILLED. There’s nothing like fresh tomatoes straight from the garden.
Yesterday, I must have been channeling my inner 50’s housewife. (I’ve got an apron, the pearls, and a pair of high heels in the back of my closet so what the heck!) Anyway, I got it in my head to make homemade marinara sauce with FRESH tomatoes from my garden. Now, I’ve never actually made marinara sauce from scratch. I’ve never looked at a recipe for marinara sauce. I have read the ingredient list off of a generic jar of pasta sauce, plus Rachel Ray was on TV as background noise while I was cleaning earlier, so I felt pretty confident that I could make this happen.
I started out with a large sauce pan and my tomatoes. Tomatoes seemed way too big to just throw them in there, so I cut them up. So far, doing good! Wait…marinara sauce has onions in there somewhere, right? Probably. Time to get out the BIG sauté pan—the good one with the Wolfgang Puck stamp on it from the Salvation Army. Now I’ve got TWO pans going on the stove at once like a real chef. (At this point the sauce pan is still empty because the tomatoes are scattered across the cutting board like a vegetarian crime scene.)
Time to sauté some onions!
Heat a drizzle of oil in Wolfie’s pan and…
I can’t sauté onions because my cutting board is full of massacred tomatoes and I still need to cut up the onion. (Turn off the back burner and let out a mild curse.) Am I ready for the tomatoes? No, I am not. They still seem too big. Do I need water in the sauce pan? Are the tomatoes supposed to cook down or should I help them out a little? I could throw the tomato bits in the blender…
Blend tomato pieces until juice: skins, seeds, and all. Wow! They’re really liquidy. (And more pink than red.) Glad I didn’t add water. I suppose the sauce will thicken up when the liquid cooks down? Hmm…
Throw liquefied mess into the large saucepan and simmer.
Now, I have my cutting board free to cut up onions. Sweet! Heat up oil (again) in ye old Wolfie pan. Add chopped onions. Bam! (Whoops! “Bam” isn’t in Rachel Ray OR Wolfgang Puck’s vocabulary. At least I don’t think it is. Have I actually ever SEEN Wolfgang Puck on TV? No, but he makes excellent cookware, especially when purchased cheaply from the second-hand store.) Cover and ignore.
What else do I need? There are green flakes in marinara sauce, right? I’m sure I have something dried that fits this description in my cupboard. I’ve got dried basil and parsley in the cupboard. Good enough! Add a bit of that to the tomato pulp and a little salt. Stir and continue to simmer.
What’s going on with the onions? I hope I didn’t burn them. Nope! Looking good and the onions are starting to soften. (Good cookware makes a big difference.)
Hey! Doesn’t marinara sauce have garlic in it? I have garlic and an excellent garlic press. (I think I got the garlic press as a souvenir while visiting a friend in Canada. ??? Better than a t-shirt! I love kitchen gadgets, don’t you?) Squish garlic cloves in the garlic press and add to cooking onions. Cover and ignore.
Stir tomato juice. Yeah..it doesn’t look like marinara sauce. It is a flattering shade of pink.
What else do I have? Time to check the fridge for random stuff that could be added to the sauce. Baby spinach leaves? Spinach can go in sauces, right? It’s a little wilted but not slimy. No longer good for salads but perfectly fine if cooked down.
What’s going on with my onions and garlic? I kind of forgot about stirring them. Yay, they’re fine! (I’m telling you, it’s the pan. Wolfie’s pan has a heavy bottom and heats evenly. Nothing seems to burn in it.) Onions and garlic sure smell good. Slide the onions into the sauce pan with the tomato “stuff” and stir. (Do the tomatoes look a little redder? Perhaps it’s just my imagination. Best to think positive thoughts. It’s definitely reddish.)
Wilt spinach leaves in trusty Wolfie pan. Heck, I don’t even have to wipe it out first. There just enough oil in the pan from sautéing the onions to make it happen. Stirring. Wilting. Hmm…
Spinach leaves look a little stringy and I already have my blender out…
Blend cooked spinach leaves.
Wow! That’s a vibrant shade of green!! Who knew they’d brighten when smushed? Pretty!!!
Add spinach puree to tomato slush and…
Why is it brown?
Like not just brown, but ugly brown. A shade of brown only seen in restrooms. Not appetizing. Not good.
But…what does it taste like. Do I try it? I know what’s in it. It shouldn’t hurt me. It looks gross. Brown with chunky bits. Really horrible. WOW!
It tastes fine but also sweeter than I’m used to. Weird. I didn’t add any sugar. My homegrown tomatoes must be sweeter than the ones used commercially.
There’s a LOT of brown sauce pan. Like…a LOT. Why did I make so much? What was I thinking? What am I going to do? (I can’t serve this for dinner.) Time to panic!!! Pour a glass of wine. Sip wine thoughtfully while stirring fugly brown concoction.
I do vaguely remember a lesson I learned in art class when I was five. Red and Green make Brown. Brilliant! Anything I can do to fix this? Not really. I could add something else that’s red… Nothing red in the fridge. Anything in the cupboard?
Jarred tomato sauce to the rescue!!!
Which totally defeats the purpose of making homemade marinara sauce…
Time to drink more wine!
Add jar of tomato sauce to brown goo and hope for the best.
It looks better. A lot better. Not as pretty as I’d like, but edible. Plus, the jarred sauce cut some of the sweetness.
Would I make marinara sauce again?
Well, I do have more tomatoes to use up so…
But, I wouldn’t recommend adding the spinach pulp to the marinara sauce—even if the spinach needed to be used up before trash day. The spinach added a nice flavor to the sauce, but WOW. Not cute! However, Juli’s Marinara Sauce tasted delicious over Trader Joe’s ravioli.
Feel free to use and share my recipe. (It’s not like you’ll find it in any cookbook). Oh, and try not to burn the house down—because that would be incredibly tragic AND terribly inconvenient.