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Garden Vegetable Marinara Sauce

Garden Vegetable Marinara Sauce

By definition, a marinara sauce contains tomatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs; from there, the variations are endless—but no matter what goes in, the result should be more than the sum of its parts. A relatively brief simmer—a hallmark of marinara—gave way to a deeply flavorful sauce.

Makes about 6 cups; enough for 1 pound pasta

2 (28‐ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
¼  cup extra‐virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
¼ ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano or ½ teaspoon dried
⅓ cup dry red wine
Salt and pepper
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced ¼ inch thick
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1. Drain tomatoes in fine-mesh strainer set over bowl. Using hands, open tomatoes and remove seeds and cores. Let tomatoes drain for 5 minutes. (You should have about 2½ cups juice; if not, add water as needed to equal 2½ cups.) Measure out and reserve ¾ cup tomatoes separately.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and carrot and cook until softened and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, garlic, and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in remaining tomatoes and increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring often, until liquid has evaporated and tomatoes begin to brown and stick to skillet, 10 to 12 minutes.

3. Stir in wine and cook until thick and syrupy, about 1 minute. Stir in tomato juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Transfer sauce to food processor, add reserved tomatoes, and pulse until slightly chunky, about 4 pulses.

5. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add zucchini and cook, without stirring, until well browned, about 2 minutes. Stir and continue to cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Return sauce to skillet and bring to brief simmer. Stir in basil and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

How to Use It: Baked Rigatoni with Garden Vegetable Marinara Sauce

For a baked pasta dish packed with flavor, we turned to our rustic Garden Vegetable Marinara Sauce, which could stand up to being cooked twice (simmered on its own, then baked with pasta) while still delivering enough flavor and texture to elevate simple rigatoni. Stirring some of the pasta cooking water into the sauce provided insurance against dryness. Tasters found that ricotta dolloped on top of the casserole turned dry and unappealing in the oven; nestling the cheese into the pasta protected it and promised creamy pockets. Topping the casserole with shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan gave the rigatoni a nicely browned crust. Do not use nonfat ricotta or fat-free mozzarella here. 

Serves 4 to 6

You can use any short tubular pasta in place of the rigatoni.

1 pound rigatoni
Salt and pepper
1 recipe Garden Vegetable Marinara Sauce (see above), warm
8 ounces (1 cup) whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (1 cup)
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (½ cup)
3 tablespoons shredded fresh basil

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve ½ cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot. Add sauce and reserved cooking water and toss to combine.

2. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 13 by 9‐inch baking dish. Combine ricotta, oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in bowl. In separate bowl, combine mozzarella and Parmesan.

3. Transfer half of pasta mixture to prepared dish and spread into even layer. Dollop with large spoonfuls of ricotta mixture, then top with remaining pasta mixture. Sprinkle with mozzarella mixture. 4 Cover dish tightly with greased aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until cheese is spotty brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Let casserole cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and serve.

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