Marinara! Just a real simple sauce

April 17, 2002|BY KATE COLEMAN

Spring is here.

What's for dinner?

How about something quick and light - pasta and homemade marinara sauce?

Sound good?

If your answer is "yes," read on.

If you don't know what marinara sauce is, read on.

The word marinara comes from the Italian word for sailor - marinaro, says Phil Torre, who created The Italian Chef Web site at


"In Naples it was the sauce they made for the sailors when they returned from the sea," he explains.

The essential ingredients are tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs sauted together quickly. And, there is no meat in the sauce.

Torre, 36, is in the computer field - thus the Web site.

There is an Italian chef, however: Paolo Torre, 73, who came to America from Sicily at age 19. He's Phil Torre's father.

Chef Torre, who learned to cook in his Italian family, worked in restaurants in New York City and owned a restaurant, La Villetta - translation: "the little village" - in Larchmont, N.Y., for 20 years. He still cooks for loyal customers, Phil Torre says.

Some of the Web site's recipes are Chef Paolo's. Others, including those for manicotti, spaghetti with meatballs and cannoli, are from Phil Torre's mother, Frances.

The Italian Chef Web site has been on the Internet since 1999, and gets about 9,000 unique visitors a month, Phil Torre says. His father loves it.

It wasn't easy for Phil Torre to get his father's recipes in writing. "He doesn't like measurement," he says.

The pinning-down process came about by Chef Paolo making the food with his son measuring the handfuls of ingredients his father grabbed. Then Phil prepared the dishes, testing them, making sure the family recipes were right.

Family is part of Chef Frank Ganassa's story also. Ganassa, food service director for Aramark Corp. at Citicorp in Hagerstown, grew up in Montgomery County, Md., in an Italian family where food is an important part of the lifestyle.

Marinara is just a real simple sauce, Ganassa says. He grows his own Italian plum tomatoes, the variety he prefers for the sauce because of their better flavor. This time of year, canned tomatoes are better than the ones you may find in the produce section, he says. Ganassa's marinara is simmered only for a short time.

"It's real clean and real fresh," he says.

Basic Marinara Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, sliced in half

1 35-ounce can imported Italian tomatoes

3 basil leaves, washed, patted dry and chopped

1/2 teaspoon oregano

salt and pepper to taste

Place garlic and olive oil in large sauce pan.

Turn heat to medium and cook until garlic is soft and lightly browned.

Crush the tomatoes and add with their juices.

Fill empty tomato can 1/4 of the way with water and pour in with tomatoes.

Add basil, oregano, salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook until thickened approximately 20 to 30 minutes.

- From

Frank Ganassa's Marinara Sauce

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic

15-18 Italian plum tomatoes in season or one 16-ounce can, coarsely chopped

salt and pepper to taste

5-6 fresh basil leaves, diced, or 1 teaspon dried basil

Warm olive oil in a saut pan. Saut onions until translucent.

Add tomatoes, season with salt and pepper.

Simmer for about 15 minutes, adding basil "right at the end" - the last five minutes if fresh, a little earlier if dried.

- From Frank Ganassa, food service director for Aramark Corp. at Citicorp in Hagerstown

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