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There’s a lot of love that goes into this sauce.  A lot.  You can’t help it –  ooey, gooey, mushy, soupy love just oozes out of you as you make this, even if you find cooking the most abominable chore.  And suddenly, you become an Italian grandma, a Nonna.  Just call me Nonna.

Once you try this sauce, you may not be able to revert back to the immediate, convenient sugar-laden jarred stuff – just warning you.

A friend of mine was telling me how they had spaghetti after years and forgot how good it was.  Spaghetti IS good and you should do yourself a favor and treat yourself to a bowl of REAL piping hot pasta, cooked al dente and immediately served with this homemade marinara.

Sometimes you have to remind yourself how good things taste, for nostalgia’s sake.  You have to remember.  It’s not nutritious, but occasionally you should reach back into your past.  Forego the mediocre cupcake that’s sitting in the breakroom and reach for something you actually like.

Here’s my embarassing list of things I usually dismiss for the lack of nutrition, but they still have my heart.  Most of these are products of the 80’s and completely overprocessed and not necessarily “real food”:

  • Cinnamon Toast Crunch
  • Oreos
  • Chocolate Fudge Snack Pack Pudding
  • Nestle Drumstick Ice Cream Cones
  • Fried Mozzarella Sticks
  • Eggo Waffle topped with Peanut Butter and Jelly
  • Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
  • Chocolate Milk
  • Cheetos
  • Banana Splits
  • Fig Newtons
  • Nerds
  • Tang


Now Spaghetti doesn’t seem so bad, right?  What are some of your favorite foods?

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Homemade Roasted Garlic Marinara Sauce

I’ve made this recipe the long way (2 lbs of tomatoes, etc) but I also attempted a few shortcuts and it didn’t seem to affect the taste at all.  So why do it the hard way???  The roasted garlic and the fennel seeds make this recipe a winner.  My mom always adds fennel seeds to tomato bases (soups, sauces for pizza, etc) and I’ve been copying her ever since.  Don’t omit the fennel – that would be a mistake!


2 bulbs garlic

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 large onion, diced (white or yellow)

5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

3-4 shallots, finely diced

1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes

1 tsp crushed red pepper

1 Tbsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly toasted

salt to taste – start with 1 teaspoon

ground black pepper



1.  Using a sharp knife, trim off about 1/4″ thick section off of the top of the garlic bulbs (the pointy end), making sure most of the cloves are exposed.   Gently drizzle a thin stream of olive oil over the exposed garlic cloves (about 1 teaspoon for each bulb…bulb, not clove!) Roast them on a baking sheet or tray at 350 for 30 mins in toaster oven or conventional oven.  I try to use my toaster oven for small jobs like this one!

2.  After they are roasted, cloves should be soft and slightly charred on top perhaps.  Remove the cloves from their shell.  You can try to gently squeeze them from the base to release them but that doesn’t work well for me.  It can be a bit of a messy job, but it’s worth it!   Now mash these cloves into a paste and set aside.  If it helps, run them through a small food processor, but scrape the work bowl down well to collect everything.

3.  Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a medium or large pot over medium high heat.  Add diced onions, minced garlic, and finely diced shallots and saute until onions are translucent.  Add the remaining ingredients and finally add the mashed garlic cloves and mix well.  Cook for a few minutes longer until the tomatoes are heated through, stirring occasionally.  Then lower heat to LOW, cover and cook for 10-15 mins.  Check on it every 5 mins, making sure the bottom is not burning.  Remove from heat and let it sit for about 20 mins.  The flavors from the fennel and roasted garlic will become more prominent over time.

*shortcut tip:  some grocery stores sell roasted garlic in bulk at the olive bar.  The flavor won’t be as wonderful as fresh roasted garlic, but it’s a reasonable shortcut for this recipe.

Serving suggestions:

  • Ladle over tortellini, spaghetti, or spaghetti squash
  • Layer it in Lasagna or a baked pasta dish
  • As a dipping sauce with breaded /toasted ravioli for a quick appetizer
  • Ladle over grilled polenta
  • Use for homemade pizza night
  • Add it as a tomato base for a heartwarming soup or stew