I've always always preferred white sauce to red sauce. Probably because red sauce usually has a bit of a tang or sourness to me, and white sauce is creamy and delicious. I do really like rose sauces though, which mix the two together for the best of both sauces. (Maybe I could add a touch of healthy buttermilk to the red sauce to give it a bit of creaminess, instead of heavy cream.) Anyway, I was recently reading in an Everyday Food magazine about how cooked tomatoes are especially good for you (I love them raw, but cooked in any way not so much). Cooked tomatoes have the antioxidant lycopene, which helps to protect against cancers among other things. Apparently you can also get this health benefit through ketchup (though I don't really recommend it being your primary source)!
I thought about how white sauces from a jar compared to homemade ones taste. They're really not even comparable actually. So I figured that the same might be true for red sauces. I tried out Giada de Laurentiis's basic marinara sauce, with a few slight modifications. The sauce tasted fine (and better with the addition of Parmesan and pine nuts), but I definitely don't love it yet. I think the key for me to enjoying red sauces is to put lots of other finely chopped vegetables in the sauce. Next time I'm going to try roasting the vegetables before adding them to the sauce, and perhaps adding lots of garlic. I also need to figure out which herb mix I like best - this time I used thyme, basil, oregano and rosemary.
Knowing that red sauce is healthy for me (and certainly a lot healthier than a white sauce) actually helps me to enjoy red sauces more. In that sense it's all in my head but in a good way. I will try making red sauce again (in smaller batches) to see if I can find something I truly love. I will keep using Giada's recipe as my guide, modifying things as I figure out what tastes best to me.
(Adapted from Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentiis)
Makes about 2 quarts (8 cups);
1 quart will serve 4 over pasta as a first course
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Sauté until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste. (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.)
General note: I added thyme, basil, oregano and rosemary. Can't remember how much of each. Fresh herbs would be amazing I'm sure, but I used dried.