Julie’s Pasta Sauce

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When you make your own pasta sauce, a simple spaghetti dinner night is transformed into something far more appealing. This sauce is so simple and so tasty: bright, sweet, and with a lovely toasted earthy flavor. I also love that the sauce remains bright red in color.

Usually when I make my own sauce it’s a simple Marinara. I sweat out garlic and onions with some Italian herbs, then, I reduce a little red wine and add peeled, crushed tomatoes with salt and sugar. However, this week when I decided to make spaghetti for dinner, I called my fiancé’s mom Julie, to find out how she makes her amazing sauce. I love Julie’s sauce for many reasons but what really stands out is it’s brightness in flavor. The sauce has a tang similar to the brightness of citrus but without the sourness. I was surprised to find out how incredibly simple it is to make it.

Start by toasting 8 or 9 cloves of garlic, as described in my Toasted Garlic post. After your garlic is toasted, add a large can of peeled, crushed tomatoes (Julie recommends Hunt’s) and a pinch of salt. This sauce does not need to be simmered over time, just warmed. After everything is stirred together it is as good as it will be the next day.

It was funny to think back to when I didn’t know what was in Julie’s sauce, because I would have guessed it was more complex than it is. However, the toasted garlic and the olive oil give it a perfect complexity of flavor. For those of you who are not the biggest garlic fans, I would still try this sauce. The garlic flavor is very present, but it’s not overwhelming.

Toasted Garlic

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I’ve toasted so much garlic, usually in butter for my mashed potatoes, that I am well aware of the dangers of burning it. Here’s my number one tip: don’t walk away from the garlic as it cooks, and stir it almost constantly. To get started for a Marinara sauce, put about 3 healthy tablespoons of a good extra virgin olive oil into a skillet on medium to medium-low heat, depending on the stove. Next, add enough finely chopped garlic to mostly cover the bottom of the skillet. I used about 8 or 9 cloves of garlic, which is good for a large pot of pasta sauce or a family-sized serving of mashed potatoes. I was using kind of a large skillet in this picture, so my garlic didn’t completely cover the bottom. Just be sure to spread your garlic out on the bottom of the skillet, so that it all cooks evenly. The garlic needs to be toasted until it is a light golden brown, as shown in this picture. It’s very easy to burn your garlic, and once it turns a medium to dark brown it becomes bitter and will ruin your meal.

Check back tomorrow for a simple pasta sauce recipe using toasted garlic, it’s one of my favorites!