Contrary to some accounts, it is not named for the men of the sea (mariners) based on its ingredient list. While fish (most commonly in the form of anchovies) feature prominently in some marinara recipes, the name apparently derives from the old Italian grandmothers of Naples who served this delectable sauce to their sons and husbands upon their safe return from the sea.
Of course, tomatoes didn't exist in Italy until mariners brought them from the new world... so perhaps there's more to the story of how this sauce got its name.
Full disclosure: this recipe is adapted from the Cook's Illustrated "Best Quick Tomato Sauce" recipe from the May / June 2009 Issue.
I didn't change much.
As is true with many a great recipe, this recipe's brilliance stems from its expert pairing of sweet, salty, acidic, and bitter flavors—along with a proper dose of savory (also called Umami).
Unsurprisingly, the saltiness and sweetness come from... salt and sugar. The acid comes from the tomatoes. The bitterness comes from the seared garlic, olive oil, and oregano. The savory flavor comes from butter and the fond developed during caramelization.
This recipe is cooked in stainless steel as opposed to cast iron.
I bring it to you for the following reasons:
- Stainless steel is safe cookware, and affords the cook the development of a robust fond (browned bits of goodness that stick to the pan) for later deglazing.
- This recipe is really easy to make, and the flavor far surpasses anything you will ever get from a jar. Seriously.
- This marinara sauce is featured in several other recipes on this blog, and thus it would seem a disservice not to provide it.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup grated onion
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano)
- 3 medium garlic cloves, pressed (about 3 tablespoons)
- 1 - 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 - 14 ounce can tomato sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- salt, to taste
Heat a medium stainless steel saute pan on medium heat. While the pan is coming up to heat, grate the onion using a coarse grater (your garden variety grater, the one with roughly 1/4 inch holes). A third of a cup is about a third a medium onion.
Once the onion is well-caramelized, clear a spot in the center of the pan and drop in a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Immediately add the pressed garlic and black pepper. Stir the garlic and black pepper around for 30 seconds or so, and then add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, sugar, and oregano.
Just before serving (or using the marinara in another recipe), add that last tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to freshen up the taste.