by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich with David Nussbaum
from Lidia’s Family Table
Makes 4 cups of sauce, enough to dress 1 pound of pasta
Marinara is my quintessential anytime tomato sauce. I can start it when the pasta water goes on the stove and it will be ready when the pasta is just cooked. Yet, in its short cooking time, it develops such fine flavor and pleasing consistency that you may well want to make a double batch, using some right away and freezing the rest for suppers to come. The beauty of this marinara sauce is that it has a freshness, acidity, and simplicity of taste.
This recipe for marinara includes lots of fresh basil, which I keep in the house at all times, now that it is available in local supermarkets year-round. I cook a whole basil stalk (or a handful of big sprigs with many leaves attached) submerged in the tomatoes to get all the herb flavor. Then I remove these and finish the sauce and pasta with fresh shredded leaves, giving it another layer of fresh-basil taste. (If you are freezing some of the sauce, by the way, you can wait until you’re cooking with it to add the fresh-basil garnish.)
This sauce can be your base for cooking any fish fillet, chicken breast, pork filet, or veal scaloppini. Sear any of these in a pan, add some marinara sauce, season with your favorite herbs, and let it perk for a few minutes, you’ll have yourself a good dish.
This sauce is good with dry and fresh pastas and raviolis. It is wonderful for baked pastas.—Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
4 cups (one 35-ounce can) San Marzano or other Italian plum tomatoes, with juices
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
7 or 8 fat garlic cloves, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 teaspoon dried peperoncino (hot red pepper flakes), or more to taste
Hot water from the pasta-cooking pot
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 stalk or big sprigs basil, with 20 or so whole leaves
For dressing the pasta
1/3 cup shredded fresh basil leaves, packed (about 12 whole leaves)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano
1. Pour the tomatoes and juice into a big mixing bowl. Using both hands, crush the tomatoes and break them up into small pieces. (You don’t have to mash them to bits; I like chunkiness in my marinara, with the tomatoes in 1-inch pieces.)
2. Pour the oil into the big skillet, scatter the garlic slices in the oil, and set over medium-high heat. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes or so, until the slices are sizzling, then add and toast the peperoncino in a hot spot for another 1/2 minute.
3. Shake and stir the pan until the garlic slices are light gold and starting to darken. Immediately pour in the crushed tomatoes and stir in with the garlic. Rinse out the tomato can and bowl with 1 cup of pasta-cooking water, and dump it into the skillet too.
4. Raise the heat; sprinkle in the salt and stir. Push the stalk or sprigs of basil into the sauce until completely covered. When the sauce is boiling, cover the pan, reduce the heat slightly, and cook for 10 minutes at an actively bubbling simmer.
5. Uncover the pan and cook another 5 minutes or so. The sauce should be only slightly reduced from the original volume, still loose and juicy. Remove the poached basil stalk or sprigs from the skillet and discard (but save the sauce that’s clinging to it), and keep at a low simmer until the pasta is ready.
6. To dress pasta with marinara sauce, toss and cook them together, incorporating the shredded basil. Remove the skillet from the heat and toss in the cheese just before serving.
Recipe © 2004 Tutti a Tavola, LLC. All rights reserved.