Marinara to Master

A few weeks back, the New York Times published a recipe for a “Marinara Worth Mastering“—alongside the call to action: “Every home cook should have a basic marinara sauce in his or her repertoire.” Challenge accepted! Ever since, Aron and I (but Aron in particular) have been meaning to give this one a shot. (And judging by how long the article remained near the top of the most-emailed list for the Times, it looks like quite a few others wanted to as well.)

Our baby Skyler is one week old now, and we’re so lucky to have a lot of friends bringing by meals (or else we’d be playing clean-out-the freezer most evenings), but Aron made this one for us, one rainy, sleepy day.


The phrase “to master” is perhaps misleading. This seems really too simple a recipe to master; Aron noted that after you make it once, you’ll more or less “get it.” But I suppose that’s a good thing! After all, its appeal is in its rich simplicity: the way just a few basic (yet specific) ingredients combine such that you both get something new and yet can still really taste each one.

You can read the recipe here (and I’ll link it again below), but some key points from the article:

“Use garlic cloves that are not sprouted or yellow, but firm and white. Once peeled, they can be thinly sliced or slivered, or left whole and lightly crushed, but not chopped or minced.”

“Use fresh basil sprigs, preferably not the overgrown Jack-and-the-Beanstalk kind with floppy leaves and fibrous stems, but it will do.” (We made do.)

And “If you happen to live near Mount Vesuvius, by all means use ripe local tomatoes. If not, canned are almost certainly your best option.” We went with San Marzano DOP, but America’s Test Kitchen actually found that there’s no need to use Italian tomatoes in their taste test. The lesson: just try various brands, in fact, until you find the right balance of acid and sugar.

Finally: “Marinara should never be spooned on top of plain pasta, but tossed with it in a preheated serving bowl—or in the cooking pot—as soon as the pasta is ready. This may be the most important step of all…”

All told, it will take you about 25-30 minutes to make a bright, delicious marinara.

See the recipe for Marinara Sauce (worth mastering). Full article here.

Do you have a go-to pasta staple? Mine is usually butter with lots of parmesan and cracked pepper. And I love making fresh pesto. I’m intrigued to learn there’s an entire book dedicated to which pasta shapes go with which sauces (Sauces & Shapes


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