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Take a trip with me to my Nonni's kitchen to make our San Marzano Plum Tomato Marinara Sauce. Just like Nonni, we begin with the finest organic San Marzano plum tomatoes, picked fresh that morning. This sauce is a labor of love, whether thrown together at the end of a long day or left to simmer all day to capture the essence of garlic, savory sausage, and fresh basil.

Nonni's kitchen was a place for hard work and delicious outcomes. She would shoo out anyone who wasn't aligned with those goals. She would rise early to pluck tomatoes and basil from her garden then get to work transforming those ingredients into something more than their sum. I can still recall the intoxicating aroma that would fill her home as the sauce bubbled away on the stove.

Nonni was more than a cook; she was a guardian of culinary and botanical wisdom. She taught me the virtues of patience and careful observation, values that transcend the kitchen and the garden. Her love for fresh, local ingredients was infectious.

Whenever I make this sauce, the scents of garlic, sausage, tomato, and basil transport me back to Nonni's kitchen, where I learned to appreciate the beauty of making food from scratch. For Nonni and now for me, sharing food is how we express connection and community. It's how I transform the people around me from acquaintances into family.

Preparing this recipe is like a journey back in time, a tribute to the sense of community, love, and joy that Nonni infused into every meal. I can almost hear her stern voice as she chased my dad and Poppi out of the kitchen when they inevitably tried to sneak a taste before it was done.

Nonni's legacy lives on through my love of cooking and sharing the knowledge and skills of growing and cooking food from scratch. I hope making this sauce brings you the same feelings of warmth and connection that it brings me. I know that Nonni would be proud of us for paying attention to what we eat and spending the time and effort it takes to make truly great food.

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Yields1 Serving
Prep Time10 minsCook Time30 minsTotal Time40 mins

Ingredients

 1.50 lbs Oak Spring Farm San Marzano tomatoes (or you can use canned tomatoes, but we highly recommend using whole San Marzano plum tomatoes)
 ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
 4 Shady Spring Farm Italian Sausage (optional)
 1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
 7 cloves Oak Spring Farm garlic, peeled and slivered or minced
 ½ cup red wine (optional)
 1 sprig fresh oregano (or 1/4 tsp dried) (optional)
 1 large sprig Oak Spring Farm basil
 1 tsp kosher salt

Directions

(Optional) Removing Tomato Skins
1

This step is optional, but in my opinion it does improve the texture and flavor of the final sauce when using fresh tomatoes. If you are using whole canned tomatoes this has already been done, so skip to the next section.

Set a large pot of water to boil. In the meantime, trim the tough part of the tomato that connects to the stem and cut a shallow "X" on the bottom of each tomato. When the water is boiling, blanch the tomatoes in groups of 4 or 5 for 30 - 60 seconds. Use a spider, slotted spoon or mesh strainer to carefully remove the tomatoes out to a large bowl of cold or ice water, then out to a large plate or tray. Once you have blanched the whole batch, the skins should slide off easily. Discard the skins.

Make the Sauce
2

In a large bowl, crush the tomatoes using your hands. If using canned tomatoes, pour a cup of water into the can to collect all the juices and reserve.

3

Select a large, straight walled skillet. We prefer this kind of wide low pan as its larger surface area helps us to reduce the sauce more quickly to concentrate all of the delicious tomato flavor. Place the pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil.

4

(Optional) If you are using sausage, add the sausage to the pan and brown it on all sides. I like to keep my sausage in the casing, but you can also remove it from the casing for a more bolognese style. Once it is nicely browned, remove it from the pan and set aside. Leave it whole or cut it into pieces, your preference.

5

Add the red pepper flakes and the garlic to the hot oil.

6

As soon as the garlic is sizzling (do not let it brown as this will create bitter flavors in the sauce), add the tomatoes and a total of 1 cup of liquid. This could be just water, or half-water half-wine, or you could use veggie or meat stock (this is where you would use the reserved water from the canned tomatoes). If using dried oregano, add it now. Add 1 tsp salt. If you are using sausage, add it back to the sauce now.

7

Simmer the sauce, uncovered, until it starts to thicken. You can do this faster, over a medium-high heat and stir frequently to prevent it from burning if you are short on time or you can put it over the lowest of heat and let it simmer all day. The flavors in the sauce will become more integrated and sweeter the longer you cook it. My Nonni would start her sauce in the morning for dinner letting it gently bubble away all day, filling the house with the mouthwatering smell. Unfortunately, we don't always have that kind of time on our hands, but luckily 15-30 minutes is more than enough time to make a delicious sauce.

8

About 10 minutes before you are going to take your sauce off the heat, place your whole sprigs of fresh herbs onto the top of the sauce. Let them wilt and then push them down into the sauce. When you are done cooking the sauce, remove the sprigs and discard them.

Optional Finishing Steps and Advice
9

The sauce will have a rustic texture at this point. If you want a smoother sauce, place a fine wire strainer over a bowl, add your sauce a bit at a time and use a spatula to press it through the strainer. The strainer will catch tomato seeds and pressing the sauce through the strainer will make it nice and silky (this is a good option if you have picky kids of any age 😉 or if you are using your sauce to make pizzas, where it's useful to have a sauce that spreads smoothly)

10

If this is going over a pasta, here's how I recommend combining them.

Cook the pasta to al dente or just before, reserve a 1/4 cup of the salty and starchy pasta water, then drain the pasta.

Move your finished sauce to another container and adding some olive oil to the skillet over a medium-high heat. Add your pasta, tossing it in the oil and then add sauce to the skillet and toss using tongs for a minute. Use the reserved pasta water to control the thickness of the sauce. This step makes a huge difference to the final outcome, causing the sauce to really coat and stick to the pasta. Serve immediately with fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese.

DifficultyBeginner

Ingredients

 1.50 lbs Oak Spring Farm San Marzano tomatoes (or you can use canned tomatoes, but we highly recommend using whole San Marzano plum tomatoes)
 ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
 4 Shady Spring Farm Italian Sausage (optional)
 1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
 7 cloves Oak Spring Farm garlic, peeled and slivered or minced
 ½ cup red wine (optional)
 1 sprig fresh oregano (or 1/4 tsp dried) (optional)
 1 large sprig Oak Spring Farm basil
 1 tsp kosher salt

Directions

(Optional) Removing Tomato Skins
1

This step is optional, but in my opinion it does improve the texture and flavor of the final sauce when using fresh tomatoes. If you are using whole canned tomatoes this has already been done, so skip to the next section.

Set a large pot of water to boil. In the meantime, trim the tough part of the tomato that connects to the stem and cut a shallow "X" on the bottom of each tomato. When the water is boiling, blanch the tomatoes in groups of 4 or 5 for 30 - 60 seconds. Use a spider, slotted spoon or mesh strainer to carefully remove the tomatoes out to a large bowl of cold or ice water, then out to a large plate or tray. Once you have blanched the whole batch, the skins should slide off easily. Discard the skins.

Make the Sauce
2

In a large bowl, crush the tomatoes using your hands. If using canned tomatoes, pour a cup of water into the can to collect all the juices and reserve.

3

Select a large, straight walled skillet. We prefer this kind of wide low pan as its larger surface area helps us to reduce the sauce more quickly to concentrate all of the delicious tomato flavor. Place the pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil.

4

(Optional) If you are using sausage, add the sausage to the pan and brown it on all sides. I like to keep my sausage in the casing, but you can also remove it from the casing for a more bolognese style. Once it is nicely browned, remove it from the pan and set aside. Leave it whole or cut it into pieces, your preference.

5

Add the red pepper flakes and the garlic to the hot oil.

6

As soon as the garlic is sizzling (do not let it brown as this will create bitter flavors in the sauce), add the tomatoes and a total of 1 cup of liquid. This could be just water, or half-water half-wine, or you could use veggie or meat stock (this is where you would use the reserved water from the canned tomatoes). If using dried oregano, add it now. Add 1 tsp salt. If you are using sausage, add it back to the sauce now.

7

Simmer the sauce, uncovered, until it starts to thicken. You can do this faster, over a medium-high heat and stir frequently to prevent it from burning if you are short on time or you can put it over the lowest of heat and let it simmer all day. The flavors in the sauce will become more integrated and sweeter the longer you cook it. My Nonni would start her sauce in the morning for dinner letting it gently bubble away all day, filling the house with the mouthwatering smell. Unfortunately, we don't always have that kind of time on our hands, but luckily 15-30 minutes is more than enough time to make a delicious sauce.

8

About 10 minutes before you are going to take your sauce off the heat, place your whole sprigs of fresh herbs onto the top of the sauce. Let them wilt and then push them down into the sauce. When you are done cooking the sauce, remove the sprigs and discard them.

Optional Finishing Steps and Advice
9

The sauce will have a rustic texture at this point. If you want a smoother sauce, place a fine wire strainer over a bowl, add your sauce a bit at a time and use a spatula to press it through the strainer. The strainer will catch tomato seeds and pressing the sauce through the strainer will make it nice and silky (this is a good option if you have picky kids of any age 😉 or if you are using your sauce to make pizzas, where it's useful to have a sauce that spreads smoothly)

10

If this is going over a pasta, here's how I recommend combining them.

Cook the pasta to al dente or just before, reserve a 1/4 cup of the salty and starchy pasta water, then drain the pasta.

Move your finished sauce to another container and adding some olive oil to the skillet over a medium-high heat. Add your pasta, tossing it in the oil and then add sauce to the skillet and toss using tongs for a minute. Use the reserved pasta water to control the thickness of the sauce. This step makes a huge difference to the final outcome, causing the sauce to really coat and stick to the pasta. Serve immediately with fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese.

Nonni’s Plum Tomato Marinara Sauce