Taking the last swig of wine from my glass, I sit motionless at the kitchen table completely blissed out by the marinara sauce I just made from scratch. The aroma of basil and garlic linger heavy in the air. I strait up rocked those heirloom tomatoes and I’m feeling pretty accomplished!
It struck me some time ago, while having dinner with my good friend Mandy that I had never attempted to make tomato sauce from fresh whole tomatoes. We were standing at the stove of her new apartment catching up after a long stint away. Too long. Until recently she would spend months at a time travelling with her British beau. Three months here, three months in London, Six months in Thailand… chasing visas and loving love. Now they were newlyweds and settling in on American soil. I was thrilled. And I love calling them newlyweds, by the way! Mostly because not too long before the globetrotting, Mandy and I lived just a few blocks away from each other and spent many a single girl nights being silly 20-somethings. Pulling all-nighters to finish various deadlines, drinking French press coffee through the night, painting our nails black, laughing uncontrollably, and talking about boys. Mostly about how we would have gay boyfriends to take us out on the town and be super clean roommates and never marry. Well, times change, and we get swept up in the beauty and joy that comes into our lives. And when you’re living on a tropical island in the gulf of Thailand and fall in love with a truly wonderful yoga teacher with a sexy accent, you marry that boy!
So there we were, neighbors once again, a little more grown up and getting ready to sit down to a meal. I was extra impressed by the homemade tomato sauce she had just whipped up and trying to remember if I had ever seen anything come from her kitchen in the past besides granola and yogurt. I loved the domestic edge she had going on and I was truly inspired! This was the first thing Mandy had learned to make from her beloved and swore it was so easy, there would never be reason to purchase the jarred stuff ever again. And she was right. It was so much better than the store bought variety and from what I could tell, really just involved chopping a simmering. The wheels began to turn.
Back in my kitchen, I sit appreciating how many amazing people come into my life and inspire me to try all kinds of new things. And in this moment, I feel big gratitude for learning to love openly and blissfully, and to make marinara sauce from scratch.
For this recipe I had a basket of gnarly, colorful, beautiful heirloom tomatoes from the farmers market. I also made this a veggie version (dedicated to Mandy and Harry, my vegetarian loves), but you can add any sort of meat and other varieties of vegetables also. The recipe below is how I made it but create your own, play with the flavors and seasonings. And lastly, I don’t eat pasta much. I will attempt zucchini pasta next time, but this go ‘round I used Trader Joe’s gluten-free, organic brown rice and quinoa pasta. It turned out really well! If you’re looking for a gluten free pasta, I’d give it a try. It kept its shape without getting mushy and had a really nice flavor.
Fresh Marinara Sauce
2 1/2 cups brown rice/ quinoa pasta
1 Tbls. coarse salt
1 Tbls. olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
About 12 ounces tomatoes, chopped
2 medium zucchini
8 oz fresh crimini mushrooms
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Pinch or 2 of hot chili flakes
1/2 cup chopped basil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Prepare pasta according to package, adding at least 1 Tbls. of salt. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water after cooking.
2. Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, then garlic one minute later.
3. Add the tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini, or any other vegetables being used. Cook until softened. 5-8 minutes.
4. Add the reserved pasta water and cook until the sauce is reduced slightly and the veggies begin to break down. Another 3-5 minutes.
5. Remove from the heat, add the cheese (optional), red chili flakes, basil and black pepper. Add salt if needed.
Consider adding the following:
Splash of cream at the end for a creamier version
Asparagus, artichokes, olives, leeks, summer squash etc.
Cooked shrimp, chicken, lamp or beef
Thyme, bay leaf, extra garlic or other Italian seasonings to taste