Nothing can beat the field-fresh tomato, of course, as the true base for what Italian homies call "red gravy." But I gave up some time ago, and capitulated to the super-market jar of marinara, especially after my gardening days were past. A so-called vine-ripened tomato from Food-Lion? ... fugetaboutit. It's even risky to rely on a local "farmer's-market" product, unless it looks a little scruffy, and has a tell-tale ring of yellow around the stem. A giveaway-sign of being homegrown. Hard to find though, and--even if you're lucky--it still takes some skill in preparation and a lot of time on the stove to cook/reduce fresh tomatoes to the proper consistency for a good red sauce. That peeve out of the way:
- 1 jar high-quality marinara sauce like 4Brothers Tomato-Basil
- 1 3-oz tin anchovy fillets in olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped white onion
- 6 cloves garlic
- 12 Kalamata (or assorted) olives, halved
- 1 tsp dried Italian herbs
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- Extra-virgin olive oil to cover
Directions: Reserve store-bought marinara. Put all other ingredients in 8-in sauce pan (don't drain anchovies) . COVER with olive oil. Bring to a boil. Turn heat way down. Simmer for 6-1o minutes, using fork to make sure anchovies are crushed and assimilated. Add to over-the-counter red stuff. Stir. Repeat. Serve over pasta of choice.
Remember: this just ain't gonna work without the anchovies. They give the sauce its rich earthy flavor and body that can't be duplicated otherwise. If you've got some deluded, hardcore--"eeeewww"--anchovy-phobes at the table (maybe even yourself), don't tell them, and nobody will know the difference. Enjoy their compliments, and the apres diner pleasure of the following:
--That was really good. What's your secret?
--Do you like anchovies?
--You just ate some.
Bonus tip: an inch or two of anchovy paste from the tube and whisked into your Vinaigrette will make a salad incandescent. But don't tell.