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 Rao's - 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 quickly 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.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 small bouquet of fresh basil - about 6 stems with leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves, rough chopped or 1/2 teaspoon dried
- 1/4 teaspoon whole fennel seed - place on a cutting board and give them a bit of a rough chop to release more flavor
- A pinch of crushed red pepper
- One 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes, go for an Italian brand like Cento or Rao's
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat and saute the onion and garlic until softened and translucent.
- Add the basil, fennel and red pepper and cook for one minute while stirring to infuse the flavor into the olive oil.
- Add the tomatoes, 1/2 can water, salt and black pepper.
- Lower heat to medium and bubble for fifteen minutes.
- This is the time to add browned Italian sausage or meatballs with any juices collected in the bowl. Then lower heat, cover and simmer 60 minutes.
- Serve spooned over a scoop of ricotta in a small dish, with chopped fresh basil and pecorino romano or parmesan cheese - for the family serve the sauce ladled over cooked macaroni.