SALSA MARINARA   (Rao's Marinara Sauce)

For approximately 7 cups:

2 28-oz. cans imported Italian plum tomatoes (with basil)*
¼ cup high-quality olive oil
2 ounces fatback or salt pork, optional
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
Salt to taste
6 leaves fresh basil, torn, optional
Pinch dried orégano
Freshly ground pepper to taste

1.  Remove tomatoes from the can, reserving the juice in which they are packed.  Using your hands, crush the tomatoes, gently remove and discard the hard core from the stem end, and remove and discard any skin and tough membrane.  Set aside.

2.  Put oil in a large, nonreactive saucepan over medium-low heat.  If using fatback, cut it into small pieces and add to the pan.  Sauté for about 5 minutes or until all fat has been rendered.  Remove and discard fatback.

3.  Then add onion.  Sauté for 3 minutes or until translucent and just beginning to brown.  Stir in garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or until just softened (see Note).  Stir in tomatoes, reserved juice, and salt.  Raise heat, and bring to a boil.. Immediately reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook for about 1 hour or until flavors have combined and sauce is slightly thickened.  (If you prefer a thicker sauce, cook for an additional 15 minutes.)

4.  Stir in basil, orégano, and pepper, and cook for an additional minute.  Remove from heat and serve.

Note:  Take care when adding garlic to hot oil, ads it will burn and turn bitter very quickly.  If this happens, discard oil and vegetables and start over.  You will have a ruined, inedible marinara sauce if you process with the bitter garlic.

According to Frank Pellegrino, co-owner of Rao’s, “. . .  imported tomatoes that we use come flavored with basil (basilica), but we always add additional fresh basil for its pungent aroma and taste.  . . .[Rao’s uses] imported San Marzano tomatoes.”  He adds:“ The most important step is to clean the tomatoes of all skin and to remove the hard part of the core—this is what makes our sauce so smooth.”

Any questions about making this sauce at home, double click here on Poppy to ask him about it.

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