No matter what though, the sauce ALWAYS contains*:
- Olive Oil
The base of this recipe can be used on everything from lasagna, spaghetti and chili to sloppy joes, pizzas and tacos. It's so simple and versatile I can easily say that I make a batch every week.
Now, here's where the variations come into play. For pasta dishes, I usually have meat in the sauce - Ground lean beef; and once meat is added, so are onions. This variation is more a bolognese than a marinara, but still not traditional because of all the tomato in it. Here's how I do it:
I brown the meat along with the onions and garlic in a heavy saucepan. If the meat is super-lean then I help it along with a little of the olive oil. If there's alot of fat left in the pan I suggest you drain *most* of it before continuing. Once the meat is brown I add in the cans of tomatoes. DO NOT DRAIN THEM. The juice that the tomatoes are packed in are full of flavour and help the sauce form. Along with the tomatoes I add a can of tomato paste, the herbs, and the spices and let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes.
With the addition of beans, paprika, cumin, chiles, a cinnamon stick and whatever else your heart desires, this can easily transition to a chili recipe. Or taco meat.
Or you can use less tomatoes and more beef with diced bell peppers for a thicker sauce that can be used in sloppy joes.
See how fun this is?
Now, if I'm making more of a marinara type sauce, it would be meatless. Think pizza sauce, topping for parmigiana, dipping sauce for breadsticks..
These would only call for tomato paste, not whole tomatoes. I like to add a little grated parmesan in these as well. I wouldn't usually cook this variation on it's own, as it will be topping the pizza/parmigiana when it goes in the oven.
As I continue with the blog I will post more specific recipes that will utilize this sauce base, but for now you should try your own variations. This sauce is easy to modify and very forgiving. Have fun with it!
*Notes: I use canned tomatoes and tomato paste, extra virgin olive oil, dried spices when I can't find fresh, brown sugar, and ground black pepper or crushed red pepper flakes depending on the recipe.