serves: makes about 1 quart
The difference between marinara sauce and tomato sauce is this: Marinara is a quick sauce, seasoned only with garlic, pepper, and, if you like, basil or oregano. The pieces of tomato are left chunky, and the texture of the finished sauce is fairly loose. Tomato sauce, on the other hand, is a more complex affair, starting with puréed tomatoes and seasoned with onion, carrot, celery, and bay leaf, and left to simmer until thickened and rich in flavor. Make this sauce with fresh tomatoes only when the juiciest, most flavorful ripe tomatoes are available. (Increase the amount of olive oil a little if you make the sauce with fresh tomatoes.) Otherwise, canned plum tomatoes make a delicious marinara sauce.
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled
1 35-ounce can peeled Italian plum tomatoes, seeded and lightly crushed, with their liquid
10 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a 2 to 3-quart nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Whack the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife, toss them into the oil, and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
Carefully slide the tomatoes and their liquid into the oil. Bring to a boil, and season lightly with salt and peperoncino. Lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer, and cook, breaking up the tomatoes with a whisk or spoon, until the sauce is chunky and thick, about 20 minutes. Stir in the basil about 5 minutes before the sauce is finished. Taste the sauce, and season with salt and pepper if necessary.