ONE SUNDAY IN 1968, MY GRANDFATHER CUT OUT A RECIPE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES FOR MARINARA SAUCE…
For the next 40 years, a variation of this recipe would come to be known as Sid’s Marinara. He prepared it proudly and regularly for his wife and sons, and as the months and years ticked by, it would eventually be the dish he made for his eight grandchildren.
Typically prepared early on in the day, the sauce would bubble in a large Asta skillet pan (that kitschy oral enamel cookware with brass handles) for what seemed like hours, but was likely for about an hour on low heat and then an additional hour or two off the burner. About 10 years ago, my grandpa captured the recipe on his type- writer, laminated just a few copies, and sent them to family members around the country. At the top of the page reads, “Marinara a la Sid,” and the recipe includes his own handwritten annotations and scribbles.
MARINARA A LA SID
1/2 cup olive oil (Sid erred on the oilier side and sometimes added as much as 1-2 cups, but I find this to be too greasy)
1/2 yellow onion, chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled plum tomatoes (reserve the juice of one can)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 dried bay leaf
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Coat a deep skillet or Dutch oven with olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and adjust temperature if the onions are starting to brown. The garlic should not be over high heat for too long, less than a minute. Add both cans of tomatoes (they must be whole plum for the right sauce consistency) with the juice of only one of the cans. Reserve the juice of the second can in the fridge for another sauce, or to augment the leftover marinara sauce the following night. Using a potato masher, gently crush each plum tomato until they are nearly combined, but still retain some pieces. You will want to do this before the tomatoes heat through. Add the spices and a generous pinch or two of salt and pepper. Stir to combine and bring to a soft boil, and then lower the heat to low and cover. Let the sauce simmer on very low for 30 minutes. Taste and salt if needed (you will likely need a few more pinches of salt and at least a couple more grinds of pepper). The sauce should be fragrant, sweet and nutty, with a trace of spice. Remove from the heat and let sit uncovered. The sauce will thicken on its own, especially overnight in the fridge.