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Marinara sauce (Recipe: salt cod and potato cannelloni Alfredo)


Bye-bye, Bertolli.

Adieu, Ragu.

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.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Buddy Lasagna
My own meat sauce

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oh I'm so envy now... wish I could get decent sauce at store. People here have a very different taste...

I love that, it sounds like something out of a film (or the Sopranos, what with prison an´all). I couldn´t sleep without several jars of tomato sauce in the house. Tomate frito, but it´s quite similar, really, just onions, oil, tomatoes and sugar.

How funny! Having dinner with the mayor, so to speak :D
Marinara sauce used to be a staple in my pantry until recently (I did not have brand loyalty...waffled between Prego and Ragu and others), but now, I just keep whole canned tomatoes and make my own sauce. Never did grow to like any of the store-bought ones.

I haven't seen this brad. I do buy Muir Glen bottled sauce sometimes, but only when I run out of the sauce from the freezer! If I see this brand I'll try it for sure.

Ragu - chunky garden...I love it but I'm sure it's because it has a lot of sugar in it!

What a cute little lable the marinara sauce has too. Looks great.

hahaha...buddy on your blog! it's great sauce and i'm also glad it's easier to find now. just made veal spitzatta with some of the (former) mayor's own over the weekend...

Gattina, I'd be happy to send you some of this sauce! (send me an email)

Lobster, it's not every city that can claim it's mayor spent 4-1/2 years in prison... now he's going to host a radio talk show. His sauce is my absolutely favorite -- because it's not too sweet. I'd be happy to send you a jar, too.

Nupur, I started using this when I had an unexpected visit from some vegetarians and needed to whip up a quick dinner. I ran to the grocery store and when I began to read the labels on the marinara sauces, I realized how many were made with beef broth or chicken broth. This one is not -- in fact, it tastes very similar to my own homemade sauce. I still make my own, of course -- but, as I said, I often forget to defrost it!

Kalyn, I think this is just sold quite locally. I'd be happy to send a jar out your way.

Kate, that's why I love Buddy's sauce -- it's not sweet. (and neither is he, I guess!)

Kelly, the label is a bit out-of-date now; apparently Buddy gave up the toupee in prison, so maybe the labels will have to change, too.

Shawn, glad this post has brought out at least one Rhode Islander! I'm ashamed to admit it, but yes, our favorite felon makes a mean marinara!

That's a really interesting post. I recently bought a jar of tomato sauce for one of the express recipes, and it was good! Usually use one of Giada's recipes!!

I just done a simple pasta using marinara sauce last week! When can I ever get this bottle of marinara sauce ?

This marinara sauce must be very good since you said good bye to Paul. ;-) And your friend's grandma's cannelloni recipe sounds fantastic - thanks for sharing. I like salted cod in Portuguese style dishes, so I'm sure that I will enjoy this.

Kelly-Jane, I used to be such a snob about some of these products, but when I find a good product in the market, I'm happy to add it to my pantry. I'll never stop making my own sauce, tough.

Tigerfish, I'll be happy to send you one!

Nora, I have to admit I was so disappointed in Paul's sauce when I tried it in my Buddy Lasagna recipe. Too thick, or too sweet, maybe. I like salt cod, too, and I don't cook with it often enough.

What a great idea your Mayor has. I wonder what my Mayor could do. ;-)


I love a sauce with a story behind it! And the salt cod is a bonus - it's wonderful.

One of the best bottled sauces I ever tried is "Ruefood" Marinara -- from Rue de L'Espoir Restaurant in Providence. The empty jar is in my freezer, storing coffee. Do you know what happened to them? I'll look for Buddy's sauce on the next visit -- I love food with a story, especially if it's tasty!

Paz, your mayor is a media mogul! Our (ex)mayor was a power broker of a different sort, which is how he ended up in New Jersey. But I love his sauce.

TW, Buddy was a controversial figure in Providence politics for many years, so there are stories galore! That's why I tried the sauce in the first place. I didn't expect to like it, and I didn't expect it to make my family's favorite lasagna -- but I do, and it does.

Susan, I know the Rue quite well -- it's still in business, though I've never seen their bottled sauce! I will definitely have to check it out. When you're headed to Providence, I'll scout around and let you know where "Buddy sauce", as we call it, is in stock.

hahahah how funny, i wonder what his daughter Nancy Ann thinks of all this! ba da bump bump!

love salt cod, the recipe looks delicious as usual :)

Now you've done it...we ALL want to try some. You may have to start a mail order business...LOLOL

I'm all for a good Marinara sauce and what an interesting background story! And thanks for what sounds like a yummy cannelloni alfredo recipe!

Aria, I can only imagine... she keeps a low profile.

Trish, I'm happy to send some to any reader who sends me an email and asks for it!

Veron, in Rhode Island, as I'm learning after seven years here, there is always a background story....

I had to chuckle when I saw Buddy's face on that jar, Lydia. He is truly indefatigable, isn't he?

Susan, Buddy is definitely back! He's the cover boy on the October issue of RI Monthly, sans toupee but with all of his bravado. Will be interesting to see what he does next.

Thanks for the tutorial on marinara, I just thought it was a chi-chi way to say tomato sauce! And the Buddy story is very funny, from in the can to on the can. As for the sauce in the pantry, I go for Paul's Spinach Florentine...

Callipygia, so clever -- "from in the can to on the can" -- wonder if they can use that in their marketing campaign?!

I have never done this but I've been meaning to make my own tomato sauce! It is pretty essential to have some good quality marinara already made lying around though. I would have to agree.

Hillary, making marinara is one of the fundamental skills for any cook. Once you learn how to make a good sauce, you'll always prefer your own to one in a jar. And yet.... you might still keep a jar or two in the pantry....

Although I do make my own sauce, there never is enough. Always good to have a few store bought jars in the pantry, too. I lived in Providence during the "Buddy" years - he is a character....I must take a trip to RI to get his sauce.

Diane, I think Buddy will be with us forever! You'll be surprised at how good his sauce is -- light, clean, very adaptable -- maybe like Buddy himself?

A friend is making a "Rhode Island" package for a visitor from California. This is a must add to the package. I found a website where I can order The Mayor's Own Marinara Sauce" but I am afraid we won't get it in time for the visit. Would you kindly let me know where I might purchase a jar of the Sauce in person?

Paul, Stop & Shop supermarkets carry it, as does the Only in Rhode Island store on Thayer St. (East Side) -- in fact, I'm guessing that all of the Only in RI stores have it. Shaw's supermarkets often have it, too, but Stop & Shop is a definite. Hope this helps!

I live in Boston and am looking to buy some "Mayor's Own Marinara Sauce" as a Christmas present. I see in a posted comment that someone had a link to buy the sauce; can that link be provided? Also I've looked in the Boston Shaws and S&S but they do not carry it. Thanks.

Kathy, I'm sure this sauce is a RI item only -- your local markets might be able to get it on request, but if you email to me, I will be happy to bring some to Boston as I'm there nearly every week.

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