I know, you had a double take on that title. Let’s face it, to get the good stuff you have to have the right connections. Whether it’s Aunt Nellie’s sauce or my little Sicilian mother-in-law Grace’s gravy, the right marinara can make or break a dish. Not only does the right sauce enhance just about anything it’s paired with, it has health benefits as well.
Let’s start with those beautiful red globes ... tomatoes are chock-full of a vital antioxidants called lycopenes. This amazing antioxidant helps to fight cancerous cell formation as well as other health complications and diseases. The body doesn’t produce lycopene naturally and looks for sources such as tomatoes to make this powerful antioxidant.
We move on to garlic. Consuming this powerful little root vegetable not only helps lower cholesterol levels due to the antioxidant properties of allicin but it also regulates blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Now for oregano. The strong antioxidant present in oregano is rosmarinic acid which supports the immune system health. Oregano also contains beta-caryophyllene (E-BCP) which inhibits inflammation.
The next piece of our marinara puzzle is the humble onion. This nutrient-dense food isn’t only low in calories but high in beneficial nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Bay leaf, oregano, thyme, parsley and extra virgin olive oil round out the antioxidant and immune system potpourri.
Put all of these wonderful ingredients together and you get a perfectly legal, antioxidant, immune boosting, blood pressure lowering culinary delight! So I will say it again ... legalize marinara!
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon finely chopped curly or flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Put tomatoes and their liquid into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Set aside.
Heat oil in a four-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, bay leaf, and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes along with the oregano and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly and its flavors come together, about 20 minutes. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper. Serve over pasta, chicken or just about anything else.
Cynthia Ferris-Bennett, a Nevada native and owner of the Sierra Chef Culinary Center in Gardnerville, manages the Sierra Chef Farmers Market at Lampe Park and is the event manager for East Fork Ranch. SIERRA CHEF: Expressing the Language of LIFE Through Food, Home and Garden, www.SierraChef.com.