Recipes – № 84

Minimalist Marinara

Simplify your summer sauce

This sauce is for the height of summer when it's hot outside and tomatoes are bursting with flavor. You feel like a fresher, lighter sugo for your pasta and don't those tomatoes taste pretty close to perfect already? Besides, you don't want to be chopping anything in your stuffy kitchen that you don't absolutely have to. So put away the carrots, garlic, red wine and anchovies and simplify your sauce. Ripe tomatoes, onions, salt and olive oil are all you need.

Serve this minimalist marinara on your pasta sprinkled with some fresh basil and topped with a scoop of ricotta or a chunk of buffalo mozzarella (Parmesan or Pecorino would take away from the lightness). It's my family's favorite summer pairing with homemade gnocchi - my older daughter Lina starts jumping up and down when it's announced for dinner and my wife Kim almost does too. 

This sauce freezes well and is a great way to stow away the harvest when you're drowning in tomatoes. Use 6 oz per person for a primi or 9 oz per person for a main course (the recipe makes about 36 oz by weight).

Serves 4 to 6

2¾ lbs ripe medium or large tomatoes

1½ medium onions (about 9 or 10 oz)

3 Tbsp olive oil

Fine sea salt to taste 

For serving:

5 oz fresh sheep's, cow's or goat's milk ricotta or mozzarella di buffala 

½ cup fresh basil leaves

Olive oil for drizzling plates


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Core and score the tomatoes (i.e. cut out the stem ends and slice small shallow Xs on the undersides). Drop the tomatoes in the boiling water and remove after 1 minute. Let cool a little.

Peel and chop the onions. Warm a medium saucepan over medium heat, add 3 Tbsp of olive oil and saute the onions until they're soft and translucent but not beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Meanwhile, peel the tomatoes using your fingers and dice them about ¾-inch thick. Add to the cooked onions with some salt, bring to a boil and simmmer for 45 over low heat. Taste for salt and add as needed.

Serve with pasta or gnocchi and top each plate with either a scoop of ricotta sprinkled with some salt or a chunk of buffalo mozzarella, a generous drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of chiffonaded basil leaves (or whole bush basil leaves).

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