Three day weekends are great for a lot of things. Mini-vacations, shopping excursions, house-cleaning. But they are especially great when you have at least one day with absolutely nothing in particular to do. This past weekend, that day happened to be Monday. And I spent it like every good Italian girl should, making pasta sauce from scratch and letting it simmer for hours on end.

My paternal grandmother was from Italy and made the best pasta sauce I have ever had. Years have gone since she passed away and our family slowly and comfortably settled in to sodium-packed jarred sauces. Recently I’ve found myself somewhat disgusted at the fact that I allow myself to eat red sauce out of a jar so regularly, so I’ve been waiting for the perfect moment to settle down and make my own.

I recently found what I think to be my grandmother’s recipe, written in only the way a “family recipe” can be recorded- scribbled down in my mother’s chicken scratch hand writing on a yellowed page out of a pocket note-book. No exact measurements, time frame, nothing. Just this:

2 cans chunk tomatoes
2 cans tomato paste
1 really big can tomato puree
sugar
basil leaves?

It is too simple to be true, but I followed it as best I could. I also combined it with a marinara sauce recipe that I found in my mom’s recipe box, also hand-written, but much neater; most likely given to her by a friend. I did a combination of the two recipes and this is what I came up with:

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1 large can of tomato puree
1 small can tomato paste
handful of sugar
fresh basil leaves (what remained) from herb garden
dried basil
dried oregano
dried thyme
dried marjoram
salt/pepper

First I sauteed the onions and garlic in some olive oil. When they were super soft but not browned, I opened the cans  of tomatoes (still facing some guilt over this…) and dumped them in. I stirred it up good until everything was evenly combined, then took a handful of sugar and sprinkled it on top, mixing it in. I do not doubt that my grandmother actually used sugar (my dad later confirmed this for me),  as she liked everything sweet. Then, I ripped up some fresh basil leaves and threw them in.

Next, following the legible directions on the card, I sprinkled all of the dried herbs (heavy on the basil) on top of the sauce until there was a very fine layer covering it. I stirred it all up, brought it to a boil, then covered and simmered. I popped in a movie and spent the rest of the day relaxing until I was ready to eat my pasta!

The sauce was great. To my dismay, I can’t tell you if it tastes like my grandmother’s sauce. It’s been too long since I’ve tasted it. But the marinara definitely invokes some feeling of comfort and nostalgia, whether it’s my grandmother’s influence, or just the general feeling you get from sauce made with love, not sodium.

The rest of the sauce is now sitting in a freezer bag in my freezer, and I will surely save for a rainy/snowy day in the next few months.

In the meantime, my next goal is to make sauce using actual fresh, whole peeled tomatoes instead of canned, to cut back even more on sodium. Also, I am starting to get into the whole canning movement- so keep your eyes peeled for more on that to come within the next few months. And if you’re lucky, you might be getting your own jar of the Taylor Marinara in a few months!

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