|Ripe summer tomatoes. Photo: The Ewan, Flickr.
When I was a kid, the end of the summer brought with it a painful, unpleasant tradition. Every August, when the farmers' market was filled with tomatoes, my parents would buy a few bushels, and the whole family would spend a couple of days blanching, peeling and processing the fruits. Every time, the process resulted in clothing and skin that reeked of tomatoes, fingers that stung and a freezer full of watery tomato sauce that we would defrost throughout the year.
As an adult, I have continued the tradition, although I make my sauce in the fall, when cooking pleasantly warms and perfumes the house, rather than turning it into a sweatbox. I also prefer using canned tomatoes, rather than fresh ones: In addition to sparing my fingers from burns, they produce a sauce that is richer, more flavorful and has a better texture than my parents' marinara. On the other hand, I still use my mom's recipe, which she learned from her Italian godmother, although I add a little bit of red wine vinegar, which gives the sauce more depth. Ultimately, it's a spicy, fennel-accented marinara that freezes well, tastes delicious and is inexpensive to make.
Get the recipe for all-purpose marinara after the jump.
Spaghetti Sauce Saponaro: The Big Batch
4 28-ounce cans tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 12-ounce can tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons dried red-pepper flakes
3 tablespoons dried basil
8 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1/4 cup fennel seeds
3 tablespoons dried oregano*
Combine all ingredients in a large, thick-bottomed stock pot and simmer until thickened and slightly darkened, about 2 to 3 hours. Adjust seasoning as desired.
*Note on amounts of spices: My mother's take was that all spices should be added to taste. While I have included some guidelines for usage, I strongly encourage anyone making this recipe to experiment with flavors. I like a strong garlic, red pepper and fennel combination, which produces a spicy, slightly tangy sauce; however, others may prefer to reduce these ingredients.
Do you add a little sugar to your sauce? Red wine? Bacon? Share your favorite way to enhance homemade marinara in the comments.