Marinara Sauce

on Thursday, February 3, 2011

We begin with the humble onion. Make it a medium, about 10 oz.

Dice the onion.  Do this by hand, not in a food processor or blender.  You want the onion chunks to have contact with the air in order to generate the sulfur gas that gives onion their flavor. (Onions have no taste, only a smell.)  The sulfur gas turns into sulfuric acid on contact with your eyes and causes pain, but is the reason for the onion's "taste."  If you chop it under water or in a food processor, they don't contact the air enough to generate very much taste.  The longer they sit in the open air the more flavor they will have.

Pre-heat a medium pan and add 3 fl oz of olive oil (or 3 tablespoons unsalted butter). Add the diced onion reduce heat to very low. Add 1/4 tsp of freshly ground black pepper, and a pinch of of red pepper flakes.

Add 1.5 fl oz of vodka.
Add a tiny pinch of rosemary and thyme.
Add 1/8th tsp garlic powder, basil, and parsley.
Add 1/16th tsp oregano.
Add 1 tsp salt.
Add 1/4 cup tap water (reduces acidity).
Add a bay leaf (optional).
Add 1 oz. red wine (use good wine).

Stir on very low heat. The goal is to infuse the oil with the flavor of the spices. The vodka (40% ethanol, 60% water) helps dissolve flavors that are not fat-soluble.

Add one tbsp tomato paste. The best in town is currently Hy-Vee brand. It also happens to be the cheapest. Go figure.

Stir on very low heat. The heat should remain very low to avoid burning up the flavors.

Taste. It should taste like the blood of Baby Jesus.

Add one 28 oz can of diced tomatoes. Make sure they are plain diced tomatoes and not "petite diced" and make sure it doesn't have spices added. Hy-Vee brand is currently the winner in this category as well.  Stir and raise the heat until sauce bubbles, then add a little water and simmer (covered) for about 45 minutes on low.  This is very important.  If you don't cook this bad boy for 45 mins or more it will taste like raw tomatoes.

Blend half the sauce (remove bay leaf first) and add it back to the pan. Serve with pasta, top with fresh-grated parmesan cheese and broil until the cheese melts.