First Courses - Primi Piatti


Marinara Sauce - Sugo di Pomodoro

This sauce can be used on spaghetti or linguine or in Marinara Lasagna, Eggplant Lasagna or on polenta.

Make this when you have some time to spend in the kitchen. The aroma will fill your home, and bring your family and guests into the kitchen. If you wish to have sauce left for future meals, only prepare half or less of the pasta.The sauce will keep very well for 3 days and you can prepare some pasta whenever you want to have this dish.

Serves 6 as a main course or 12 as a first course

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 head of garlic peeled and chopped into a small dice
2 medium onions or 1 large onion peeled and chopped into a small dice
2 packages (8oz.) button mushrooms (peeled* optional), rinsed and the ends of the stems removed if they are dry looking
3 cans 1lb. 12 oz. each plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
1 6 oz. tomato paste (optional if you want a little thicker sauce)
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp. dried oregano 
1 tsp. dried onion powder
1/3 cup rinsed and chopped parsley leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tsp. sugar
1 lb. package (16 oz.) dried spaghetti or linguine
1 Tbsp. kosher salt for the pasta cooking water
1 cup finely grated Parmiagiano-Reggiano

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pot. Add the garlic when the oil is hot enough to sizzle when a piece of minced garlic is dropped into it, and gently saute for a minute, then add the chopped onion. Watch carefully to make sure that the garlic turns only a golden color and the onion only becomes translucent and does not turn brown. If using tomato paste add it now. Cut the mushrooms into quarters and place in a small pot, and place over medium heat. The water contained in the mushrooms themselves should be sufficient to cook them. Keep an eye on them as you are sauteing the garlic and onions and turn the heat off when the mushrooms are cooked. Add the plum tomatoes to the pot with the onions and garlic  and break them up with a potato masher or a wooden spoon. you can break up the tomatoes in a large bowl before adding them to the pot if you wish. A potato masher makes quick work of this. Stir over medium heat until the sauce starts to to bubble, then lower the heat so that the sauce is barely at a simmer. Add the red pepper flkes, dried oregano, the dried onion powder, and sauteed mushrooms, and continue to simmer very gently over very low heat for 1 1/2 hours stirring every few minutes making sure that the sauce does not burn. Towards the end of the simmering time, add the salt and pepper, tasting to see how much to add, and the sugar and taste to see if a little more is needed. Add the chopped parsley leaves, and stir.

Place a large pot of water on to boil. When it reaches a boil add the kosher salt and the pasta, return to a boil, and cook the linguine according to package directions until al dente (tender but firm to the bite). Remove 2 cups of sauce and place in a serving boel. When the pasta is al dente remove it with a tongs and add it to the sauce. Toss with the tongs and place in a large serving bowl. Serve immediately. Place the bowl of reserved sauce on the table, along with a bowl of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on the table for everyone to help themselves.

This pasta can be served as a primi piatti (a first course) or as the min attraction. In true Italian style it would be served as a primi piatti. In my home it is often served as a main course. A salad with an olive oil vinaigrette sauch as Green Salad (page 164) goes beautifully with this pasta. The Toasted Garlic Bread on (page 7) also goes so well with this. The vegetable dish (Simple Celery (page 85) with a little parsley added is also a great dish to serve with this pasta. If you are serving this as a first course a great main course to serve with this is Roast Chicken (page 144). The pasta can be prepared while the chicken is roasting.

* To peel mushrooms - use a paring knife to remove the outer skin or layer of the mushroom.