Tomatoes were originally brought to Europe from the Americas, and the hearty, acidic sauce made from these fruits helped recipes prepared with them to resist spoiling. What started as a dish served on ships as a convenience became more widely known as a sauce in the "sailor style" around Naples, Italy, in the mid-16th century.
This seafarer's staple was often made with onions, garlic and other spices, and probably looked and tasted similar to what we normally refer to in the United States as spaghetti sauce. Although traditional marinara sauce seldom contains meat, it's thick, rich and hearty nonetheless.
Like all good tomato-based sauces, marinara made from fresh, ripe, garden tomatoes should be prepared by peeling, and seeding the tomatoes, trimming out the stem ends and squeezing out as much moisture as possible. Where cooks on sailing vessels may have been limited in the ingredients they added to their marinara sauces, modern versions often contain ingredients like:
Because creating a flavorful sauce is so important, use your best tomatoes and cook the sauce relatively quickly. Simmering a slightly chunky sauce for a half-hour to 40 minutes should be enough. If the mixture looks too thin, keep simmering to evaporate the excess liquid. If you're in a hurry, add a little tomato paste as a thickener. In some circles, this is considered a cheat unworthy of the serious cook, so just hide the can if you're having guests over. Serve marinara sauce hot over linguini with crusty Italian bread and a dipping-quality olive oil. Chilled marinara makes a very tasty dipping sauce for fried foods like cheese sticks, fried zucchini and tempura mushrooms.
If you're not sure how to prepare your summer tomato windfall, you can always use part-fresh and part-prepared tomatoes in your recipes. Where tomatoes are concerned, it's all good.
We love these marinara and other tomato-based recipes because they're special enough to serve when you're entertaining but easy enough to prepare on family night. Oh, and the great flavor is cooked right in: