Marinara sauce (Recipe: salt cod and potato cannelloni Alfredo)
So long, Newman's Own. (Not that I'd ever say that to the real live be-still-my-heart Paul Newman.)
Thanks to a reader who lives nearby in northern Rhode Island, my pantry once again holds a couple of jars of my favorite storebought marinara sauce.
For a few months earlier this summer, the Mayor's Own Marinara Sauce -- a fixture in my pantry because it's versatile, delicious, and completely vegetarian -- could not be found on a supermarket shelf anywhere. Those of you who are from Rhode Island will know that Vincent "Buddy" Cianci, the former mayor of Providence, until recently could be found -- in a New Jersey prison. Now Buddy's back in town, the sauce is back on the shelves, and Providence schools are benefiting from the proceeds. (Thanks, Jane, for scouting all the local groceries and emailing to let me know which market had restocked!)
Marinara sauce is a meatless tomato-based sauce seasoned with, depending on how your grandmother made it, some or all of the following: onions, garlic, green bell pepper, carrots, oregano and basil. Because I didn't have an Italian grandmother, I turned to WiseGeek to learn more:
Marinara sauce originated with sailors in Naples in the 16th century, after the Spaniards introduced the tomato to their neighboring countries. The word marinara is derived from marinaro, which is Italian for “of the sea.” Because of this, many people mistakenly believe marinara sauce includes some type of fish or seafood. However, marinara sauce loosely translates as “the sauce of the sailors,” because it was a meatless sauce extensively used on sailing ships before modern refrigeration techniques were invented. The lack of meat and the sheer simplicity of making tasty marinara sauce were particularly appealing to the cooks on board sailing ships, because the high acid content of the tomatoes and the absence of any type of meat fat resulted in a sauce which would not easily spoil.
There might be 1001 uses for marinara sauce from a jar; this particular brand is the key ingredient in my sort-of famous Buddy Lasagna. Convenience is the best reason to keep storebought marinara in your pantry. I almost always have homemade sauce in my freezer (right next to the "emergency" pizza), but I almost always forget to defrost it ahead of time.
Do you keep a jar of marinara stashed in your pantry? (You do, don't you?) What's your favorite brand?
Salt cod and potato cannelloni Alfredo
Celeste Dorage, who used to own Anchovies in Boston, shared her grandmother's recipe with me years ago. You can use store-bought sheets of fresh or dried pasta (parcook it until the pasta is just flexible), but it’s easy to make your own. You'll need to soak the salt cod (also called baccala or baccalao) overnight, so plan ahead. Serves 8 as a pasta course, 4 as a main course.
1 lb salt cod
1 lb all-purpose unbleached flour + extra for kneading
4 egg yolks
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp chives, finely minced
1 lb russet potatoes (red or white), peeled, diced, boiled, drained
1 whole egg
1 qt heavy cream
1 Tbsp fresh sage, rubbed and torn into small pieces
3/4 cup asiago cheese, grated
1/2 cup marinara sauce
Soak the salt cod in cold water in the refrigerator for 24 hours, changing the water 3 times. Drain well.
To make the pasta: In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, add flour, 1 egg yolk and 1 tsp salt. Process with just enough water to pull the dough together (1 or 2 Tbsp). Add chives, and pulse 3-4 times to incorporate in the dough. Finish the dough on the countertop, kneading in enough flour so the dough doesn’t stick to your hands. Roll through a pasta machine following the instructions that come with your machine, or roll as thin as possible with a rolling pin, into 2 pieces, each 2 feet long. Cut the pasta into 16 pieces, approximately 4 inches square, and set aside to dry while you make the filling.
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, mash together the salt cod, potatoes and 1 whole egg. Season with pepper. Place a heaping tablespoon of cod mixture on one end of each piece of pasta, and roll, pinching in the ends as you go, to make the cannelloni. Place cannelloni in a lightly oiled pan, seam side down, and bake 25 minutes.
In the meantime, make the sauce: In a sauce pan whisk together cream and 3 egg yolks. Reduce by one-third over high heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in sage, and continue cooking until the sauce is reduced by half (should take 10-12 minutes in total). When the cannelloni comes out of the oven, toss asiago cheese and marinara sauce into the cream sauce, and stir to combine. Pour immediately over the cannelloni, and serve hot.