Sunday, November 29, 2015

Mangia! by Karen Rock

Mangia by Karen Rock

In the afterglow of Thanksgiving, I thought it'd be nice to share a recipe with you for the holidays. As a second generation Italian/American, marinara sauce is a staple. You just can't get through the season without it in my family! At the end of summer, we can our plum tomatoes and then use them to make sauce throughout the year.

Between using it plain with pasta, in baked ziti or eggplant parmigiana dishes, it's a must to make a large batch, freeze it in in user-friendly amounts, and then thaw and use when needed during the holiday season. I have such fond memories of watching my Nonna make this sauce and even fonder memories of our three-hour, six course holiday meals (antipasto, pasta & sauce (or another meatless dish, meat dish with a side dish (vegetable), salad, cheese, nuts & fruit, and desert & coffee) Even the youngest children are expected to sit quietly and listen to the adults, even though they speak Italian- and very quickly at that! However, it taught me a lot about self-control and the value of family. To this day, when others rush through a meal, I always wish those years of my childhood back when the dinner table was the gatherings spot, not the TV, where people spoke to each other rather than texted, where healthy eating was a given, not extra work.

I'm thrilled to share my recipe and wish for you to enjoy quality time together this season :)

Marinara Sauce:
8 Tbsp extra virgin olive Oil (be very picky and chose the best!)
8 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 C chopped yellow onion
8 large garlic cloves (split)
112 oz  crushed tomatoes (four 28 oz cans- canned plum tomatoes from garden is best)
8 Tbsp minced basil (fresh)
2 Tsp sugar (or one carrot, cut up)
4 Tsp salt
1 1/2 Tsp ground pepper

In a heavy sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat until haze forms, then add butter. Add onions and turn heat to low; cook, stirring frequently, until translucent but not brown, about five minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking until soft but not brown, about four minutes. Stir in tomatoes, basil, sugar, salt, and pepper. Increase heat to high. Bring sauce to a boil, stirring constantly, then turn heat down to low. Cook, partially covered, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat, cover pan, and let sauce rest for at least one hour. Removed all garlic cloves and carrot pieces before separating into containers.

As my Nonna Giovanna would say, (here with her sister), mangia!

 Happy Holidays everyone :) What are some of your favorite dishes you serve every holiday?

Award-winning author, Karen Rock, writes sweet romance for Harlequin Heartwarming. Learn about her upcoming releases, giveaways and news at or connect with her at or

Look for more exciting recipes from your favorite sweet romance authors at our Holiday Party at the Sweet Romance Reads Café on Thursday, December 10th.

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  1. What a fun post, Karen. I have to try your recipe. I used to make marinara sauce and freeze it just like you. These days most of my Italian dishes are for company and parties. Loved the photo of your Nonna!!!

    1. Thanks so much, Catherine :) I miss her every day, but cooking her recipes makes me feel like I still have her close. I can almost hear her say, "Wait... wait..." because she loved cooking the most delicious smelling things at an agonizingly slow pace. How we suffered... lol

  2. I, too, am second gen Italian, and it was my Italian grandmother who taught my Mom to cook. I love making their meat sauce, and both my sons make it too. Generation to generation, it is what keeps us connected.

    1. Well said, Ginny :) (Any my grandmother's Americanized name was Ginny/Jenny- depending on who said it....) Isn't is something how even just the smell, filling the kitchen, put you right back to those times spent cooking, talking and laughing together. Thank you so much for stopping by :)

  3. Karen! I can't wait to try your Marinara Sauce! I love the pics and stories about your Nonna. I love all your writing, actually! Here's a recipe - that - while not from the family archives - is still so good. I hope you - and your readers - will like it!

    It's Italian Sausage Soup

    8 servings
    Prep: 25 minutes
    Cook: 1 hour

    • 1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed, if present [You can use turkey or chicken sausage to save calories. It’s still good!]
    • 1 large onion, chopped (1 cup) [I use more than one]
    • 1 medium carrot, chopped (1/2 cup) ) [I use more than one]

    • 1 stalk celery, chopped (1/2 cup) ) [I use more than one]

    • 8 cups chicken broth
    • 1 14-1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes [I use the 28 oz can of petite diced tomatoes]
    • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce ) [You can use your own, or jarred sauce. I use more sauce than that. Maybe the whole 16 oz jar. It can be any cheap kind of jarred tomato sauce. Wegmans has a 99 cent one.]

    • 1 clove garlic, minced ) [I use the jarred garlic, and use way more than that.]

    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed ) [I use less oregano]

    • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed [Rosemary is strong. Be careful.]
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
    • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed ) [I don’t use extra fennel, as there is fennel in the sausage.]

    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1/2 cup dried orzo pasta or finely broken cappellini pasta ) [I use pastina instead of the orzo. ½ a cup, or even a cup]

    • Finely shredded Parmesan cheese (optional) [The cheese is not optional!!]

    1.) In a 4-quart Dutch oven, cook the sausage, onion, carrot, and celery over medium heat until the sausage is no longer pink. Drain well. ) [I cook the vegetables separately for around 10 minutes or so. It takes about 10 minutes for the sausage to cook, as well.]

    2.) Add chicken broth, undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, rosemary, basil, thyme, fennel seeds, and bay leaf. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 1 hour.
    3.) Add pasta and return to boiling. Reduce heat and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes more. Remove and discard bay leaf. Serve with parmesan cheese, if you like. Makes 8 servings. ) [I cook the soup for one hour. Then it only takes around 6 or 7 minutes for the pasta to cook.]

    I hope you’ll enjoy it! As you can tell, I added in my own direction in red. It needed a little tweaking! This recipe is from Midwest Living Magazine. I found it years ago and it’s become a big favorite. Get some good, crusty Italian bread to go with this. SO good!

    Love to all!
    Happy reading! And eating!

    1. It didn't copy in red! Clearly!

    2. That is an amazing recipe, Rose!! Thank you thank you for sharing it :-) It sounds out of this world delicious and since I'm hosting Christmas dinner this year, it is officially on the menu!! <3

  4. Thanks for sharing your recipe, Karen. It sounds delicious.
    It would be nice if more families sat down for a meal each night sans the TV..or the iPhone.
    Cute picture in the Santa hat!

    1. Thanks, Jill :) I'm definitely working the Mrs. Claus look- lol. And I agree about sit down dinners. It's such nice family time to eat and talk face to face :)