Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Simple San Marzano Tomato Sauce

I found this simple recipe in the New York Times Cooking section about 6 months ago and have been using it ever since.  It’s simple - only a handful of ingredients, and it’s versatile - I use it as a pizza sauce, pasta sauce, eggplant Parmesan and the list goes on.   The best part is it only takes 30 minutes or less to make.  The most important thing about this recipe is to use certified canned San Marzano tomatoes from Italy.  If you’re on the lookout, it’s pretty easy to spot these beauties at your local grocery store which should carry a few certified brands.  If you have access to an Italian grocery store, even better because they carry a variety of brands and price points.


San Marzano tomatoes are grown just south of Naples in volcanic soil courtesy of Mount Vesuvius.  They have a distinct flavor that is hard to find anywhere else – the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness.  When I made a pizza with canned sauce (Oh...My...God!) my kids complained that their mama’s homemade pizza didn’t taste right.  They were used to the glory that is San Marzano tomatoes, so of course I can’t take shortcuts ever again…

The original recipe calls for 7 cloves of sliced garlic.  While I do enjoy garlic, I think that’s a bit much.  I use about 3 cloves sliced and then remove them when the sauce is done but that’s just my personal preference.  I love that you use your clean hands to crush the tomatoes and when you add them to the olive oil and sizzling garlic it looks like velvet. 


1 28 oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes, D.O.P certified if possible
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 large fresh basil sprig, or ¼ teaspoon of dried oregano

1.)    Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and crush with your hands. Pour 1 cup water into can and slosh it around to get tomato juices. Reserve.

2.)   In a large skillet (do not use a deep pot) over medium heat, heat the oil. When it is hot, add garlic.

3.)   As soon as garlic is sizzling (do not let it brown), add the tomatoes, then the reserved tomato water. Add red pepper flakes, oregano (if using) and salt. Stir.

4.)   Place basil sprig, including stem, on the surface. Let it wilt, then submerge in sauce. Simmer sauce until thickened and oil on surface is a deep orange, about 15 minutes. (If using oregano, taste sauce after 10 minutes of simmering, adding more salt and oregano as needed.) Discard basil.


"The Greatest Wealth is Health" - Roman Poet Virgil

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Over Thanksgiving, I went to Italy for the first time.  This is something I’ve wanted to do for so long I was thrilled beyond belief to do so.  Now, all I want to do is plan our next trip to Italy.  In fact, I want all my vacations for the rest of my life to be in Italy.

It was better than I could have imagined.  We planned only a couple of guided tours in Rome, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, and left the rest of the time for us to wander about on our own in the beautiful city that truly is Eternal.  In Florence we visited five museums in two days, but still had time to explore the amazing street life in this magnificent Renaissance city.

Oh, and the food.  Obviously, it was something I was really looking forward to.  I’ve been cooking most of my life and when I entertain, the only thing I can really cook is Italian.  Over the years I’ve made home-made gnocchi and ravioli but upon returning from Italy we dug out the pasta maker and made fettuccine a few times just to bring us back to vacation mode.  One of the things that had a huge impact on me was the fresh marinara sauce.  Made with just a handful of ingredients and cooked for only 30 – 45 minutes.  It tastes so fresh.  Of course you need to use quality ingredients for this to happen, but once you do, it will be your go to sauce and you’ll never look back.  I will share this recipe in a separate post.  Here I want to show some of my favorite foods from our trip because it really is all about the food, right?

This was one of my favorite pastas.  It's called cacio e pepe (cheese & pepper) and is a mainstay in Roman restaurants.  So simple but delicious.  It doesn't usually have the basil on top, but I added it since my son didn't want it on his pizza.   I had this at Il Passetto in Rome.

Prosciutteria Coronari - wine bar in Rome

Next on my list of favorites was this homemade pasta with pomodoro fresco - fresh tomato sauce. I had it in a restaurant in Florence near the Duomo.  It tastes as good as it looks.  So fresh.

While in Florence, we stumbled upon Mercato Centrale - an Italian food court with a cheese monger, craft beer, wine, salumi, pizza, gelato, fresh-made pasta and chocolate.  I think this is where we had the best pizza the entire trip which is the reason there is no photo.  We were too busy eating it.  We did have Florentine steak here.  

My absolute favorite meal was on Thanksgiving day.  We arrived mid-afternoon in Riomaggiore which is the first of 5 small villages in the Italian Riviera called Cinque Terre.   Not only was it a beautiful sunny day, the views from our apartment and restaurant below were breathtaking.  The best food we had was here at Dau Cila Ristorante.  Fresh-made pasta with pesto, anchovies and fish caught just steps away and the best wine made right in Riomaggiore from a small vineyard.

The gelato was pretty consistent throughout Italy.  Our favorite was Vivoli in Florence, but Rome has some great ones too.  My favorite was the mocha mousse from Vivoli in Florence.

Mocha Mousse on the far right...heavenly.

a beautiful site along side the gelato

me and my boys eating gelato in Rome
Fruit & Vegetable stand in Florence

My son Joey's rum-soaked chocolate cake
pretty cake at the Uffizi Gallery


Espresso in Rome

wine bar in Florence

This is only a fraction of the photos I have.  If you've ever wanted to go to Italy, don't delay.  You will wonder why you waited so long.