I had posted previously about doing a compare and contrast between a jar of Rao’s Marinara Sauce and making a recipe that purported to be a copy of Rao’s that I found on the internet. The recipe is one that Frank Pellegrino of the cookbook Rao’s Cookbook: Over 100 Years of Italian Home Cooking reproduced on Martha Stewart’s show. I made the recipe on Martha’s link but cut the recipe in half and sauteed the onions and garlic in the fat remaining from approximately 2 ounces of rendered salt pork. I ended up adding maybe a tablespoon of sugar, which I mention in the comparison below.
I used approximately 1 ounce of each sauce–a one 1 oz sample straight from the jar of Rao’s and one 1 oz sample of the recipe off of Martha’s site– at room temperature in individual serving cups (shhh… Taz and Bushe, very hush hush on where these serving cups come from), tested straight with no additional garnishment, pasta or bread.
The jar of Rao’s Marinara lists these ingredients: Imported Italian Tomatoes, Imported Italian olive oil, fresh onions, fresh basil, fresh garlic, black pepper, salt, oregano. Note there is no mention of meat at all. Yet, in comparison, the Rao’s is less acidic and somehow meatier. I had to add a small amount of sugar to try to ease off the acidity a bit (I used Cento brand whole San Marzano tomatoes packed with basil). Despite my using the fat from salt pork the saute the onion and garlic, and despite that the ingredient list on the jar does not list any meat, somehow the jar seems to taste of mellow meat. My marinara is pretty darn good following this recipe, but the jar, I have to admit is still better. It is mellower, a little richer, smoother. Worth the average price of $8-$10? No, but if you can find it on special I would probably get it.
Again, the marinara recipe I will list below is the best I have made, just don’t put it side to side with a jar of Rao’s and it is more than satisfactory. But while discussing the recipe with a Whole Foods manager, he said that he drops a whole, thick cut (2 inch) bone-in pork chop into the marinara while it is simmering. This adds some wonderful porky meatiness to the sauce and you can serve the chop with something else or add the cooked meat to the sauce when it is completed. This sounded like the answer to adding the meatiness lacking in the recipe, but…what pushed this into another level was a discussion I had with Ricky, who said that his mother used to add ribs as well as Italian sausage and/or meatballs to the marinara sauce as it simmers. Oh, my!
Oh, but wait…there’s more! What really pushed the discussion into “Oh, mah gah!” territory was when he told me that his mom would drop in some ricotta balls to simmer, too. What? Ricotta balls? Pray tell, what are the ricotta balls of which you speak? I did an internet search and came up with a recipe. Yeah, so an already darn tasty marinara sauce recipe, add a big old pork chop or ribs, some Italian sausage and/or meatballs and then simmer in some delicious delicate balls of tender ricotta. I know, right? Can you stand it?
2 (28 ounce) cans imported Italian plum tomatoes with basil (preferably those labeled San Marzano )
1/4 cup fine-quality olive oil
2 ounces fatback or salt pork, optional
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
Salt and pepper (to taste)
6 leaves fresh basil, torn, optional
Pinch dried oregano
Remove tomatoes from the can, reserving the juice in which they are packed. Using your hands, crush the tomatoes, gently remove and discard the hard core from the stem end, and remove and discard any skin and tough membrane. Set aside.
Put oil in a large, nonreactive saucepan over medium-low heat. If using fatback, cut it into small pieces and add to the pan. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until all fat has been rendered. Remove and discard fatback.
Then add onion. Sauté for 3 minutes or until translucent and just beginning to brown. Stir in garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or until just softened. Stir in tomatoes, reserved juice, and salt. Raise heat, and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook for about 1 hour or until flavors have combined and sauce is slightly thickened. (If you prefer a thicker sauce, cook for an additional 15 minutes).
Stir in basil, oregano, and pepper, and cook for an additional minute. Remove from heat and serve.
RICOTTA BALLS AND MARINARA SAUCE
1 lb. or 15 oz. container ricotta
3/4 c. grated romano cheese
1/4 c. Italian bread crumbs
1 qt. marinara sauce
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate several hours. Heat Marinara Sauce in 10 inch Dutch oven or wide pot. When simmering, form 9 balls from ricotta mixture and drop gently into sauce. After 10 minutes, turn balls with spoon. Cook 10 more minutes.