Thursday, October 28, 2010

Comfort Food - My Ritual and Recipe

Now that Fall is here I am finding that my stash from the Saturday morning Farmer's Market runs are not making it through the week the way they used to. I, of course, did not realize this tonight it was creeping on dinner time and hunger began to strike not only my stomach, but my head as well. I had to think of something quickly before full-on brain-pain struck me down for the night. Don't let the "Rivera" in my name fool you - that is my married name, my maiden name is 100% Sicilian - there is one thing a girl raised with an Italian last name always has in her home: supplies for a marinara sauce.

My whole body released its tension - everything was going to be OK. Armed with my birthright - grandma's recipe - and all of the ingredients required, my hunger tonight would be satiated with my favorite dinner of them all. Tonight we would have pasta and marinara sauce, thank the gods!

The Ritual

It begins with the smell that I swear used to emanate from the walls of my grandmother's kitchen in Brooklyn - onions and garlic sauteing in olive oil. I think if I ever seriously take up the habit of meditating regularly, that I should do it with this smell rather than that of any candle or insence, I know of nothing in the world that has such a calming affect on my entirety.
Oh how I wish pictures could smell!
Once the onions have started to become translucent and before they brown, I grab the can of tomato paste and put it in the  pot along with one can full of water. I stir it all up and let it simmer. There's a new smell now, sweeter, too sweet for me, but I know this is progress and the color is beautiful.
One little can of paste and all my garlic and onion has become invisible!
As the paste mixture simmers, I reach for the big can (I am still on a search to find my perfect tomatoes in a jar!). These aren't any old tomatoes, you can't really negotiate here, they have to be San Marzano tomatoes. I have tried to deny it, but I can't, this truly makes a difference. When the can is opened, I pour it into the pot (keeping as close to the pot as I can to avoid splashing) and see my sauce coming together at last. There are tomatoes in there - this is what I've been waiting for!
THAT'S a beautiful thing :)
 And then things move a little bit faster...

I add my cute little basil leaf.
and the rest of my spices.
I stir it all up, put the lid on and wait.
Tonight's sauce was a one-nighter. Most of the time I will make 6 times this recipe (in a much larger pot, of course) and the wait is much longer, but for this sauce it is enough time for me to get some other things in order. Like check in on the family...
My husband gets his lesson plan together while our furry children could care less - they already had their dinner!

I also have to get the pasta ready. I know what you're thinking, "Nicole! You can't have pasta - it has GLUTEN in it!!" I thought that was true, too. I thought I would never have this comfort food again, but I found the GREATEST thing EVER in my Stop n Shop:
Thank you bionaturae! This pasta is delicious!!
So, while the sauce is still cooking, I get the pot of water.
Don't forget to add the salt!
And wait for it to boil...
First come those little bubbles (I already feel like I've been waiting forever!).
Then some bubbles start creeping up from the bottom of the pot. But you MUST STILL WAIT!
Go back and stir the sauce if you need a distraction. I get stuck here for awhile, the savory smell is simply intoxicating. I think, "I need to cook a really big batch next time so I can get the whole house to smell like this for hours."
THAT is what I've been waiting for... a full-on bubble party. It's pasta time!
Pour it in.
It never fails. The pasta party poopers have arrived. The water is still.
I HAVE to stir to keep these guys from sticking (especially with the gluten-free stuff!).
To get al dente pasta: FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS ON THE PACKAGE OF YOUR PASTA. I use a timer - no joke.
And so I keep stirring...
And when my timer rings that 10 minutes is up, I grab the strainer and
I put it back in the pot and add a spoonful of sauce, so that any pasta left over doesn't get stuck together. (If you don't want to commit your entire package of pasta to one batch of sauce, just put a small amount of olive oil in it for the same purpose.)

I call my husband. Dinner is ready, and I simply can not wait to eat it!
Oh boy that was delicious. I needed that.

The Recipe

A while back I posted this recipe on what is now (it was Recipezaar at the time).  If you have a account and would like to add this recipe to one of your cookbooks, here is the link. Otherwise, here is my family recipe as it is published on that site:

"tomato" Sauce

By Nicole Dominiqué on December 01, 2008
1 Reviews
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 2 1/2 hrs
  • Servings: 4-6

About This Recipe

"A family staple. I am not sure how the ladies before me (mom, grandma, et cetera...) would feel about me making this recipe public, but the WORLD needs to enjoy this. This marina sauce runs through my blood. This marina sauce is the REASON I needed to learn how to cook for myself... I could NOT live without it simply because my ladies passed away! The "Tomatoe" spelling is from my mother's hand-written recipe card where she wrote down the recipe as my Grandma Tina taught it to her. I will post the recipe exactly as I found it and add the little changes I made to it in parentheses. Please feel free to double or triple this recipe, freeze it for later, to send to family or anyone else who needs a little food affection (this sauce = love) - excellent on pastas, ravioli, on pizzas for italian bread dipping... whatever else you would like to do with a delicious marina sauce!"


    • 1 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
    • 1 (28 ounce) cans whole tomatoes 
    • 1 teaspoon oregano
    • 1 dried leaf basil (if I used any tomatoes canned with basil in the can I skip this ingredient)
    • 1/2 onions, diced
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon pepper
    • 1 teaspoon sugar ( or less... I sometimes leave this one out)
    • 2 garlic cloves, diced
    • 1 -2 teaspoon olive oil ( enough to cover the bottom of the pan for sauteing)


  1. Sauté garlic and onion in olive oil.
  2. Add tomato paste plus one can of water and simmer for a few minutes.
  3. Add strained can of whole tomatoes plus 1/2 can of the water from that can (I found this step annoying and silly and I always ended up adding more liquid in the process anyway! So I just throw the whole can in at this point - liquid and all plus a half of a can of water.).
  4. Add all of the remaining ingredients and cook for 2 HOURS (stir and enjoy the aroma intermittently throughout the process).
San Marzano Tomatoes

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