How to make a vegan 3-ingredient marinara sauce
I don’t know if it’s an Italian thing from the east coast, a Calabrian thing, or what, but my her boyfriend’s italian family is not in butter as cooking fat. They are an olive oil family, a fact I learned when I made the man a spaghetti dinner with Marcella Hazan’s three-ingredient tomato sauce with butter and onion.
He didn’t like it because he could “taste the butter” which, to me, is a really wild reason not to like something. But, even though I don’t agree with his no-butter-in-the-marinara-Sauce position on a philosophical level, I use olive oil if I plan to give it to her, because I’m nice, and I believe my loved ones when they say they don’t like something. (He can really taste butter if I try to squeeze him in there – his palate has gotten pretty good since he quit smoking.)
In any event. I was worried that the absence of butter would doom me to an absence of wealth, but you can achieve surprising levels of luxury with olive oil—you just need to use enough.
I thought I would use a “good” amount of olive oil, until I made eggplant parma on Saturday night, using this awesome recipe from Food52. The recipe is perfect, I haven’t changed a thing. Although I am used to futz and riffing, I decided to trust the process with this one, and I was greatly rewarded. The eggplant was creamy without being soggy, the cheese was melt-in-the-middle and beautifully toasted on top, but the simple three-ingredient sauce threatened to steal the show. He is so Well.
The sauce seems too simple to be remarkable. It’s just olive oil, garlic, and two cans of peeled tomatoes. It’s still amazing. The recipe calls for “enough olive oil to cover the pan,” which ends up being a surprisingly kind of olive oil. This oil is then infused with three sliced garlic cloves – I used two more cloves because mine were small – and simmered with two cans of peeled “San Marzano” tomatoes. (I bought the inexpensive grocery brand.) Let it all reduce to half and you have a perfect, no-frills marinara.
The generous amount of fat and aggressively reduced tomatoes give the sauce a ton of depth and character. This is my new favorite sauce. (I like it even more than Hazan sauce.) It’s sweet and tangy, and finished tasting – you really don’t need to add anything else. (You can, sure. I won’t be in your kitchen to stop you, but I urge you to try it as it is written before you put your own twist on it.) To do so, you will need:
- Olive oil
- 3 to 5 cloves of garlic depending on the size of your cloves
- 2 28-ounce cans of peeled tomatoes
- About 3 big pinches of salt.
Put a pot on medium heat and add enough olive oil to completely cover the bottom of the pot. Add the garlic and cook until it sizzles and is fragrant, but do not Brown. Add the two cans of tomatoes and a few pinches of salt, then crush and chop the tomatoes with a wooden spoon or kitchen scissors. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring and scraping the bottom occasionally until the sauce reduces by half, crushing the large chunks of tomato as they appear. Serve with spaghetti, layer in a lasagna, or use the sauce to make a great eggplant parm.