Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Michael Chiarello's Ragù alla Marinara

Michael Chiarello's Ragù alla Marinara

Before I discuss the recipe, I'd like to discuss a few items:

1) Thank you for the incredible response to my fajitas recipe. For a website still in it's infancy (like this one), traffic numbers are important and this one has already received twice the number of hits in May than it received in previous months and we are only about halfway through. Many visitors were impressed with the homemade tortillas I made to accompany my fajitas however, I consider the gnocchi recipe I published in March far more ambitious. Check it out!

2) A special thanks to April of Ape's Eats, who announced me as the winner of her taco set giveaway. The items I won will appear on this website in the near future.

3) Who's watching the eighth season of The Next Food Network Star? My early favorite is Eric on Team Bobby because he's local to me (only an hour away by car), his point of view is similar to my own and it's pretty gutsy to resign from his position to become a contestant.

Now, onto the food...

In all honesty, this isn't the most exciting dish I've prepared (call it a Disturbed Foodie Stunt) but the budget's been especially tight recently. My family is always looking for ways to save money and we've been relying a lot on pasta dishes because they're cheap. Jarred pasta sauces will get the job done, but there is no control over the ingredients or the preservatives that are added to lengthen its shelf life at the supermarket. The other issue I have with these jarred sauces is that they are very expensive compared to purchasing the ingredients separately and making it at home. It's almost insulting!

One note regarding tomatoes used in pasta sauces. The best to use, when they're in season, are San Marzano tomatoes. However if they're not in season or not available, the best to use is the canned variety. I find this a little ironic because whenever I watch food competition shows, fine dining chefs always cringe at the thought of using canned food, yet this is an exception.

The Challenge

Save money without sacrificing flavor.

The Source

This recipe was taken from page 33 of Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking by Michael Chiarello with Janet Fletcher.


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup onion, minced
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
4 cups tomato pureé
1 large fresh basil stem with leaves removed (I used 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Baking soda or sugar, if needed


1. Heat the olive oil in a large nonreactive pot over moderate heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 8 minutes.

Add the parsley and garlic and cook briefly to release their fragrance.

Add the tomato pureé, basil and salt.

Simmer briskly until reduced to a saucelike consistency, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. The timing will depend on the ripeness and meatiness of your tomatoes and the size of your pot. If the sauce thickens too much before the flavor develops, add a little water and continue cooking.

2. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If the sauce tastes too acidic, add a pinch of baking soda and cook 5 minutes more. If it needs a touch of sweetness add sugar and cook 5 more minutes. Remove the basil stem before tossing with pasta and serve.


Yes, the sauce had more flavor than the store bought varieties. It needed neither sugar or baking soda. I waited until the pasta was cooked to add any water so I could use the pasta water to thin out the sauce.

I plan to revisit a more complex version of Marinara in the future. Will the extra work make the sauce better? Stay tuned...


  1. I totally agree! San Marzano are the absolute best sauce tomatoes. This looks yummy. Keep up the great work!

  2. Yum! Food doesn't have to be expensive to be delicious - this looks great!

  3. This looks delicious! I love making my own sauce-so much better then store bought!

    WHen you get a chance shoot me an email with your address @ so I can mail you your taco seasonings!!

  4. I've noticed that you make really delicious pasta dish! Your family is so lucky that you cook so well!


Feedback is always welcomed. If you're going to be critical, be constructive. In other words, be nice.