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Everyday Italian: Marinara Sauce

Giada De Laurentiis has a chapter of recipes for the backbone of her cuisine: sauces. This is the classic Italian "red sauce," and it's a nice, fresh, flavorful rendition. It can be made in a large batch and frozen in bags for use whenever you need it. It's also a crucial ingredient in many of De Laurentiis' recipes, and I couldn't get started on her book without it.

De Laurentiis recommends San Marzano tomatoes. These imported tomatoes really do have an outstanding flavor, but they're not available everywhere. If you can't find them, try to find Muir Glen tomatoes, which are also excellent. The recipe calls for 32-oz. cans of tomatoes, but domestic tomatoes usually come in 28-oz. cans, so add another 8-oz. can of crushed or diced tomatoes, or tomato sauce, if you're using domestic tomatoes.

The flavor is nicely balanced between the sweetness of the carrots and the acidity of the tomatoes. The texture is slightly chunky; if you prefer a smooth sauce, give it a whirl in the blender or food processor after cooking.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: about 1 1/2 hours
Yield: about 2 quarts

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 (32-oz.) cans crushed tomatoes (or 2 cans domestic tomatoes, 28-oz. each, plus 1 8-oz. can tomatoes or tomato sauce, see note above)
2 dried bay leaves

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper. Cook until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Taste, and adjust seasonings.

If making ahead, cool, then cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Or transfer the cooled sauce to freezer bags and freeze for up to 3 months.



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