If you’ve do any amount of Italian cooking, eventually you are going to come across Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce. It’s really an ingenious recipe: it tastes delicious, it has hardly any ingredients, and it takes hardly any effort! Just add 5 tablespoons of butter to a pot filled with a medium sized onion and 28oz of diced or squished tomatoes and cook until the flavours are combined. If you need a recipe, you can find one at Food52 or the New York Times.
Well, that’s great you say, but what does that have to do with marinara? It turns out there is a fantastic version of a marinara sauce at the New York Times you should know about too. All you do is cook 7 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered, in 1/4 cup of olive oil for just a bit. Get them releasing some flavour but not burn them. Then quickly add some chili flakes and a sprig of basil or oregano and 28oz of tomatoes and cook for 20 minutes or so. That’s all there is to it!
I love that recipe: I’ve made it a number of times. And I think it is great for the same reason Hazan’s sauce is great. Both have a good sized portion of alliums (onion, garlic). Both have a good amount of fat (5 tbsp of butter vs 4 tbsp = 1/4 cup of olive oil). And both have the same amount of tomatoes. The marinara has just a bit more with the herbs and the chili flakes which is great but you might even be able to get away without them. I don’t: I like that bit of heat and herbiness.
For both recipes, don’t skimp on the fat. You really want it all there. Same with the onion and the garlic. I love seeing the fat in all that wonderful tomato mixture. I recommend you splurge and get the San Marzano tomatoes if you can. But get real ones, not ones labelled “San Marzano type” or “in the style of San Marzano”. Heck even with pricey tomatoes this meal is still cheap. If you can’t, it’s still good, but try and grab the best tomatoes you can get.
As for pasta, I love penne with Hazan’s dish, and spaghetti with the marinara. But do what you like: it will but good with rigatoni or orecchiette or bucatini too.
Any nice Italian wine is good with these, red or white. Add a simple green salad and some crusty bread and you are living simply and living well.