Out of this world marinara sauce
Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
For me, the ultimate expression of love is cooking something delicious for someone. For obvious reasons, my ability to do that has been severely curtailed in recent weeks. In the absence of the ability to actually cook for my loved ones, sharing recipes is the next best thing. It turns out, I am not alone.
All this sharing is facilitated by the plethora of technological tools at our disposal. Social media channels are bursting with photos, well wishes and news. Local business owners are getting in on the act. Last month, Pino’s Italian Kitchen & Bar owner, Joe Sabia, shared his recipe for the restaurant’s popular marinara sauce.
In contrast to other restaurants that may use pre-made sauces, Sabia and his crew – Chef Mario and Chef Benito – make the sauce on site daily. As a gesture of hope and goodwill, he recently posted the recipe, along with other sauce recipes, on social media.
“This was a way of showing how much we care about our community and the level of detail and care that exists at our restaurant,” said Sabia. “I hoped that it would improve morale while in ‘captivity’.”
Sabia’s notion that good food helps us cope is one that I share, so I set to work making the sauce in my own kitchen. I had to do a little math, as Sabia’s recipe features restaurant-sized proportions. Aside from that, making the sauce simply required the patience to tend it as it cooked. I cranked up some music in the kitchen and set to work. The sauce is a combination of crushed tomatoes and whole tomatoes that are then broken up to create a pleasing, chunky texture. At the restaurant, Sabia’s team uses a commercial machine to do the job, but I found that my hand mixer handled the task quite nicely. Because the recipe is pretty simple, it is critical to use the best quality ingredients you can get your hands on. I used organic canned tomatoes and the flavor was fresh and delicious, like a sunny spring day.
There is one ingredient in the sauce that surprised me – sugar. Apparently, the fact that this seems to be a “dirty little secret” is not lost on Sabia. He joked that no Italian would ever admit to including it, and confession of the “sin” of using sugar in marinara sauce is why Italy has so many churches!
The sauce comes together quickly and then simmers on the stove; it needs to be stirred frequently to prevent it from burning on the bottom. As it bubbles, the flavors concentrate and deepen, and the sugar brings out the natural sweetness of the other ingredients. The tang of the tomatoes mixed with the brightness of the basil perfumes the air with a smell so enticing, you’ll swear it was made by your very own Italian nonna. It’s really just the thing to heal a wounded world and bring us all together, even when we must stay far apart.