IN French cooking there are five sauces ( maybe six ) and none are marinara. When a friend asked me to teach him to cook, this is what I started with because it’s dead simple and infinitely adaptable. Most people will eat hearty on Italian, it’s inexpensive, easy to adapt to vegetarian, and simple.
My mother worked in a pizza joint when she was younger, learning how to make baked ziti, lasagna, pizza sauce, the whole gamut of Italian-American cuisine. I found later that most of what we think of as “Italian” is southern Italy, the poorest region, so simple and cheap were the watchwords. To this day when the family gets together it’s always accompanied by ravioli baked with cheese on top.
When I was in High School, I went to a friends house, and we were going to have spaghetti for lunch. This Italian guy pull out a can of chef boyarde, I almost choked. When your last name is Vingnatti you have no excuses for not making sauce from scratch. They pull your card for that. I doctored a bottle of ragu ( from the Italian for ragout, or a main dish stew ) until it was unrecognizable and we ate. In my house we always have several cans of tomatoes, either crushed or diced ready to become chili, sauce or whatever else we need.
One truth is if you ask 100 Italians how to make sauce, you’ll get 132 answers. Regions have there own specialty, families have particular taste, and different application take different sauces. Here is a basic sauce-
4 28 oz cans of tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp oregano
2 tbsp basil
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp olive oil
over medium heat, heat the olive oil in a pot, then add the onion and garlic. When the onion is just soft ( about 3 min ) add the tomatoes. when it bubbles, add the herbs and reduce. This can be served in about 10 min, but could simmer all day reducing.
Optional you can add the following - 1 cup red wine , 1 pound ground beef ( brown the beef first) , one pound Italian sausage ( brown first ) .
If you add olives, red pepper, and capers, it makes a puttanesca. Slice some fresh vegetables into 1/4 wide strips, add to the sauce and cook only briefly for a primavera ( first of spring ) sauce.
Mushrooms make a happy accompaniment. In the last 10 min , a pound or so of oysters or shrimp will make a nice flavor. I would adjust the spices accordingly.
For Lasagna make sure to use crushed tomato , and mince the onion. If you want to be exact, send the ingredients for a spin in a blender to make sure it’s smooth. Mix 2 eggs, 1 pound of ricotta, and 1/2 cup parsley. start with sauce, then noddle , cheese sauce, noodle cheese sauce. Keep building until the last layer of sauce, and then bake for 1 hour in the oven at 375. In the last 15 min. add a layer of Mozzarella.
Double the oregano and mince the onion, send through the blender to make a pizza sauce.
So this is what marinara can be, what it can turn into. I’m hungry , let’s eat.