Spicy marinara sauce is a lovely thing to have on hand for last-minute, stress-free entertaining during the holidays. Delicious hot or cold, it can quickly be turned into a light snack or hearty meal.
While marinara sauce is traditionally a topping for pasta, it works equally well as a dip or spread. Serve alongside bowls of crackers, sliced carrots, celery, or kohlrabi, or bread fingers cut from a good, hearty bread such as multi-grain sourdough. You want something that will stand up to the sauce and not leave you fishing in the marinara bowls for broken bits of bread or vegetable.
Spicy marinara sauce also goes well with cheese. Slice a nice sharp cheese into sturdy sticks or cube it and provide toothpicks for dipping each cube into the sauce. Or go a bit more fancy and serve the sauce with Parmesan crisps or fried cheese batons: Dip cheddar or mozzarella sticks in beaten egg then bread crumbs, and fry until golden brown and crispy. Or slice up sticks of halloumi, pressing all sides into dehydrated garlic or sesame seeds, and fry until the coating is toasted and the cheese is warm.
Marinara sauce is easy to make. Simply fry up a selection of vegetables, such as garlic, onion, carrot, and celery, in olive oil until soft and lightly browned. Stir in canned, diced tomatoes, add a bay leaf, and simmer over low heat until the sauce is nice and thick. You can also get creative with additions such as rich olives or salty capers. Spice things up with fresh or dried chilies, or experiment with spices such as cinnamon or coriander to give your marinara sauce a personal twist.
You can cook up a serving in less than an hour, but marinara sauce also freezes well, so make up a large batch or two, freeze in serving size containers, and take one out to thaw the night before your event. Freezing can leave the marinara a bit runny, so simply reheat and simmer a bit to get it back to the thick deliciousness you love.
Serve it cold or gently warmed.
Spicy Marinara Sauce
- 2 cans whole San Marzano tomatoes, diced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 1 red chili, seeded and chopped
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained (optional)
- salt and pepper, to taste
Pour olive oil into medium saucepan and add onion, chili, garlic, celery, and carrot. Sauté until soft and lightly browned.
Add tomatoes, bay leaf, capers, salt, and pepper, and simmer over low heat until sauce thickens, about 30-40 minutes.
Remove from heat, remove and discard bay leaf, taste and season accordingly.
Chill in refrigerator until ready to use.
All photos courtesy of the author.