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Ruth Brancaccio’s made-from-scratch pasta marinara recipe

David Brancaccio Aug 9, 2023
Heard on:
David Brancaccio's mother, Ruth Brancaccio. She was a junior high English teacher and college theater director. Courtesy David Brancaccio

Ruth Brancaccio’s made-from-scratch pasta marinara recipe

David Brancaccio Aug 9, 2023
Heard on:
David Brancaccio's mother, Ruth Brancaccio. She was a junior high English teacher and college theater director. Courtesy David Brancaccio

Campbell Soup Co. announced this week that it’s acquiring Sovos Brands, maker of Rao’s tomato sauce, in a deal valued at $2.7 billion. The sauce has a bit of a cult following, and jars sometimes go for $10 a pop.

For those who are hungry for the real deal, “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio shared how his mother made southern Italian pasta marinara from scratch. Ruth Brancaccio, a junior high English teacher and college theater director, regarded cooking this quick, easy and cheap recipe as a basic life skill, like learning to do the dishes or to write an expository essay.

RUTH BRANCACCIO’S PASTA MARINARA

Start to finish: 20 minutes

  • Use any shape pasta your heart desires. Linguini or thin spaghetti is typical, but if you want to go fusilli-wild, knock yourself out.
  • 2 large or 4 medium cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ cup of washed, fresh Italian parsley
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil. It doesn’t have to be extra virgin.
  • 3/4 teaspoon of salt. It doesn’t have to be sea salt or Himalayan or reddish. Salt.
  • One 28-ounce can of peeled Italian plum tomatoes. It doesn’t have to be San Marzano and, really, it’s peeled not crushed or puree.
  • Optional: grated parmesan

In a large pot, heat pasta water at high heat. Add half a teaspoon of salt to the water. Do not add oil to the pasta water.

Chop the garlic and parsley. Using a food processor is not a crime.

Open the can of tomatoes and have them ready. Do this before you need to.

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan or large frying pan on a medium heat. Add the garlic and the parsley and stir with a wooden spoon.

Watch the garlic like a hawk. Do not turn your eyes away or multitask. Do not get distracted by a great story playing on public radio. This is the most important part of the recipe: Do not overcook the garlic in the oil.

At the first moment you start to see the garlic begin to turn slightly beige, carefully pour in the can of tomatoes and stir. Carefully pop the plum tomatoes with a fork or potato masher but don’t splash yourself or your kitchen decor.

Cook on medium to low heat for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.

About 5 minutes into the cooking of the marinara, pour the pasta into the pot of boiling water, stir until pasta is slightly soft and separated, and cook according to the directions on the label. Don’t overcook.

Drain the pasta water carefully.

Add the pasta to the sauce, and divide onto plates. Some people top with grated parmesan.

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