Marinara, that simplest of pasta sauces (no more than tomato, garlic, olive oil and a whisper of both hot pepper and basil), has become less a sauce than a shoehorn. Or, better, a “jarhorn.”
Store-bought marinara: To an Italian, the words are an utter contradiction in terms. It’s a New World invention — and a way to jar the ghosts of certain styles of sauce: vodka-style, farmer’s market, classico, spicy, chunky or home-
Homemade. In a sell-by dated jar. Right.
The best marinara sauce — the true marinara sauce — is made in a skillet right before it’s eaten. Takes 20 minutes tops. It’s bright red (not kettle-cooked red) and smells of the perfumes of pomodoro, little else.
With summer’s tomato crop a-ripening, you can make marinara from scratch, too, even though the traditional good-quality canned whole tomatoes are just fine. Five cups of peeled ripe, fresh tomatoes (about 4 large or 12 plum), chunked or large diced, and their run-off juice, equals the slightly less than 4 cups in a 28-ounce container of canned whole tomatoes. Just cook them down slightly before heading into the rest of the recipe.