Modern Hostess: Wine – It’s not just for drinking
Wine is a delicious and sophisticated beverage that has been enjoyed since ancient times. However, you can do a lot more with wine than just drink it (although that experience should never be unappreciated!). Whether it be red or white, I LOVE cooking with wine. It adds an incredibly rich flavour to whatever you add it to, and it gives you an excellent excuse to open a bottle before serving dinner.
One of my favourite things to add wine to is marinara sauce, a classic and versatile Italian tomato-based sauce that’s loaded with veggies. I just love the bold flavour left behind in the sauce once the alcohol is left to evaporate. You can probably use just about any red wine, but remember- if you don’t like the way it tastes in your glass, you probably won’t like the way it tastes in your sauce.
Marinara sauce is really easy to make. My version is adapted from the accumulation of many great recipes that I have come across. The key to making this sauce is ensuring that you taste it occasionally and add flavours all the way through. You start with the aromatics… garlic, onion, carrot and celery, sauteed in olive oil. Using these vegetables together creates a great base that will permeate your sauce. While these veggies are softening, they release their delicious flavour-enhancing juices all over the bottom of the pot… when you add the wine, it picks up all those wonderful little bits and adds another depth of flavour to the finished product. Then come the tomatoes… you can use fresh, but using canned tomatoes actually guarantees full flavour as the tomatoes were packed and sealed at their most ripe moment. Whole tomatoes seem to taste freshest… plus, I like my sauce chunky so I just crush them with the back of a spoon. You could also puree them in a blender or food processor if you want a smoother texture to your sauce, or buy them already crushed. Then, your sauce needs some time… leave it to simmer for about an hour, and all those flavours will combine and leave you with a thick sauce that is pure deliciousness. If you find the sauce tastes a bit acidic, add about a tablespoon of white sugar. If you want a really smooth texture, feel free to puree the sauce, either in a blender or food processor (in small batches), or use an immersion blender.
The next time you’re craving pasta, whip up your own red wine marinara sauce… it’s totally worth it. But I warn you, you may never want the jarred stuff again. Double the recipe and keep it in the freezer- it can last for months (but it’s so good that it probably won’t). Serve with any type of pasta or use as a pizza or lasagna sauce. Enjoy!
-1/3 cup olive oil
-2 onions (or more, if you really like them), chopped finely
-2-3 cloves garlic (or more, if you really like it), chopped finely
-2 carrots, peeled and chopped finely
-2 stalks celery, chopped finely
-1/2 to ¾ cup red wine (depending on taste)
-2 large (32-ounce) cans good quality Italian tomatoes
-2 bay leaves
-Seasonings of your choice, if desired (e.g. pinch of red pepper flakes, dried oregano, rosemary or thyme)
-Salt and pepper, to taste
-1 tbsp white sugar (if desired)
-Heat oil over medium-high heat.
-Add onions and saute until softened, about 8-10 minutes.
-Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about one minute.
-Add carrots and celery and a bit of salt and pepper. Saute until softened, about 8-10 minutes.
-Add wine and increase heat to high. Stir to combine. Heat until liquid has evaporated by half.
-Add tomatoes. If using whole, crush with the back of your stirring spoon. Add bay leaves and seasonings of your choice. Stir to combine.
-Lower heat low/medium-low. Allow sauce to simmer for about an hour, until thickened. Once sauce has reached desired thickness, discard bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.