Sunday, April 18, 2010

I might have just changed my mind . . .

. . . about Marinara sauce! lol

I'm serious!  I never tasted a Marinara sauce that I actually liked!  They were either too watery, or too acidic, or too tomatoey . . . or had no flavor at all!

Last night I was watching "Cook's Country" on CreateTV.  This show features the cast and crew of America's Test Kitchen, the top-rated cooking show on public television—now in its tenth season. Cook's Country is now in its second season, and is filmed in a renovated 1806 farmhouse in a western Vermont village.

I think I've mentioned before that I'm not really too keen on pasta either . . . but I still decided to watch the show . . . just because . . .

The first of the two featured recipes was "Meatballs and Marinara".  I have to admit that the ingredients and technique caught my attention.  Since I had 99% of the ingredients, I decided to give it a try today.  Of course, I had to modify the recipe a little bit to adjust to my own ingredients and quantities.  And now, I'm happy to say that I'm a convert to Marinara sauce . . . well, to my own version, that is! :)

Meatballs and Marinara
(Recipe adapted from Cook’s Country - From the episode: Feeding a Crowd, Italian-Style)
Serves 6


Onion Mixture:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 big red onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Easy Marinara:
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 cup Burgundy wine
1 cup water
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil leaf
1 (4-ounce) whole sliced mushrooms
Salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 teaspoons sugar, as needed

4 slices hearty white sandwich bread
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup dry parsley leaves
2 large eggs
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 pounds ground bison


1. For the onion mixture: Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook onions until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer half of onion mixture to large bowl and set aside.

Is there anything better than the smell of onions and garlic cooking in olive oil? :)

2. For the marinara: Add tomato paste to remaining onion mixture in pot and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in water and tomatoes (my own preference is to puree the tomatoes in the blender) and simmer over low heat until sauce is no longer watery, 45 to 60 minutes. Add the mushrooms (which have been previously sautéed in butter and olive oil). Stir in cheese and basil and adjust seasonings with salt and sugar.

3. For the meatballs: Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Mash bread and milk in bowl with reserved onion mixture until smooth. Add remaining ingredients, except ground meat, to bowl and mash to combine. Add ground meat and knead with hands until well combined. Form mixture into 2 1/2-inch meatballs (you should have about 12 meatballs), place on rimmed baking sheet, and bake until well browned, about 20 minutes.

4. Transfer meatballs to pot with sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes. Serve over pasta. (Meatballs and Marinara can be frozen for up to 1 month.)

I must perhaps add that the original recipe is made with ground beef chuck (80 percent lean), sweet Italian sausage (casings removed), and no mushrooms.  I guess the Italian sausage would have been a great addition but, unfortunately, didn't have any!  Maybe next time . . . and, yes, the recipe was amazingly yummy! :)