Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Marinara--less meat, more veg

Everyone loves Italian food, and nothing smells quite so good as marinara simmering on the stove top. Garlic, onions, basil, olive oil and, in this case, sausage. Mmm. Toss it on some spaghetti, serve with toasty garlic bread and a salad and you have home comfort food or dinner for company. Bag your extra marinara for the freezer or put some aside in the fridge. This recipe will make about 12 cups of sauce.

My original marinara recipe comes from my mother-in-law. She uses a tri-fecta of meat to flavor her sauce--stew beef, breakfast and Italian sausages, and homemade meatballs---and cooks it for five to six hours. It's absolutely delicious. With trying to cut back on meat at our house I went for maximum flavor for minimum meat and fat with turkey sausage and extra veggies instead with the carrot puree.

I also tried a little experiment on the cook time. We're running low on gas and I didn't want to simmer my sauce for five to six hours. Instead I set aside a quart of sauce that had cooked for just about two and half hours in the fridge and poured the rest into the crockpot. I set the crockpot to low and let it sit overnight. The next morning I tasted both versions and found...that I liked the version that cooked for less time better. Maybe I cooked it for too long or maybe the crockpot just didn't do the trick. One thing Mom does put in this sauce that I had never tried and found incredible was dried dill. Dill gives the sauce a nice fresh flavor.

Long story short, if you don't have time to cook your sauce all day and if you want to cut back on meat and add some extra veg to the mix, give this recipe a try. Thanks Mom for your help in learning how to make marinara from scratch. You saved me from Ragu!

Makes about 12 cups

1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cups cooked carrots
1 head of garlic, minced
olive oil, salt, pepper to taste
3 turkey Italian sausage links
6 turkey breakfast sausage links
3 cans of tomato paste (and 3 cans of water)
4-29 oz. cans of tomato sauce (each with 1/4 can of water)
1 tsp dill
1 tsp red chili flakes
1 1/2 Tb basil
pinch of sugar
1/2 cup grated parmesan
 1.) Break up the sausage, squeezing the meat from the links. Saute in Dutch oven or large pot until browned. Drain any fat and set meat aside.
2.) Saute onion in olive oil until soft and translucent. Transfer to food processor or blender.
3.) Add cooked carrot to the onion in the food processor and blend until smooth. Might still be a little chunky. Don't worry, it will cook down in the sauce.
4.) Add tomato paste to the Dutch oven and cook for a few minutes. Fill each paste can with water and add to the pot.
5.) Transfer pureed carrot and onion puree and cooked sausage and cook for one hour.

6.) Add tomato sauce and about 1/4 can of water for each. Add all spices and a pinch of sugar. The idea with the sugar is just to add enough to balance out the strong acidity in the tomatoes. I prefer my marinara more spicy than sweet. Adjust spices to taste.
7.) Add parmesan. I use the regular Kraft grated parmesan. Real parmesan grated into this sauce turns into a gloopy mess.
8.) Cook sauce at least another hour. Serve immediately, refrigerate for a week or freeze for a month.

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