My Italian family has cooked this fresh tomato basil or marinara sauce for a hundred years.
It’s my favorite recipe and technique to share with people that I love. This fresh tasting light sauce comes together so quickly that there is no need to ever buy sauce in a jar. (yes, I still occasionally cheat but only with Mario Batali – I still wouldn’t tell Grandma)
I use this bright snappy sauce with so many dishes – to sauce grilled chicken, sliced steak, halibut or swordfish, to simmer mussels and shrimp. It’s delicious spooned over ricotta with lots of shaved Parmesan, or to simmer fresh summer vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, or spaghetti squash. Make an Italian Chili with sweet fennel, Italian sausage, cannelini beans, and enough sauce to simmer. Everyone wants to be Italian and here’s your chance! Mangia.
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced - please do not use pre-chopped stuff in a jar
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (a big pinch)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- One 28-ounce can Italian Crushed Tomatoes - I buy San Marzano, Cento, Muir Glen or Progresso brands - it makes a big difference
- One small package of fresh Basil (or if you really do not have fresh available, 1 tablespoon dried basil)
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cook the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes in the olive oil in a heavy saucepan, over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until garlic is softened and fragrant. Your intent is to infuse the oil with the flavor of the garlic and crushed red pepper to more fully blend into the tomato.
- Add the San Marzano Italian crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.
- Add 3 or 4 whole stems of fresh basil. Just take them out of the package, arrange them into a little bouquet and toss them in whole!
- Season with a good teaspoon of Kosher salt - 8 to 10 good turns of a fresh pepper mill - add a cup of white wine if you have it.
- Reduce heat to medium low and allow sauce to bubble like crazy for 8 to 10 minutes, giving it a stir now and then.
- As for the other half of the package of fresh basil; remove about 10 nice big leaves, stack and tightly roll them up. Cut across the roll, into very fine slices, and fluff the shreds. (This is called chiffonade if you want to impress people)
- Stir your chiffonade of basil into the sauce - cook another 2 to 3 minutes - and that's the dish.