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Cleo’s Marinara

March 30, 2009
Cleo's Marinara tossed with spaghetti, shrimp and artichokes

Cleo's Marinara tossed with spaghetti, shrimp and artichokes

Cleo is not a member of my family, but at times, I could swear she is.  Truthfully, the closest I ever got to even meeting her is by whipping up a batch of her delicious marinara.  Minor details aside, I do consider this a family recipe thanks to two wonderful people – my Aunt Bee and Uncle Dick.

onion-editCleo was a friend of my aunt and uncle’s that was born and raised in Greece.  True to her heritage, this sauce is definitively Greek with its strong nods to oregano and paprika.  I can’t pinpoint the first time I had this sauce as a child, but undoubtedly, my aunt and uncle were manning the stove.  Now, it regularly occupies a burner on mine.

stir-editAnd while I never knew Cleo this recipe always evokes fond memories of the man that did, my late Uncle Dick.  His child-like and giddy love for excellent food was infectious to all those around him.  He and my Aunt Bee always arrived for visits with their suitcases jammed with food and special ingredients.  According to my aunt, one such visit included boarding a plane with a custom pork loin wrapped in prosciutto and veal – straight from the butcher and packed in dry ice.  He was determined to re-create his recent revelation with Roast Veal and Pork in Cream Sauce for my parents and was not about to let the inferior mountain grocers of Princeton, WV stand in his way.

I can’t imagine the looks he must have elicited at security – but I can most definitely relate to his motives.  Needless to say he fit in immediately with my family and coupled with my equally food-obsessed aunt, the two were quite the pair.


Cleo’s Marinara

This recipe is perfect for a quick weeknight dinner and is definitely better than any out-of-the-jar sauce you may be tempted to buy.  I have made a couple changes throughout the years including substituting fresh herbs in place of dry when I can.  But if you find yourself with none on hand, the dry still work just fine.

1/2-3/4 cup onion, chopped

2 large cloves of  garlic, minced

2 TB olive oil

2, 32 oz cans of diced tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)

2 tsp dried basil

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp red pepper

1/4 cup red wine

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, saute the onions over medium high heat until translucent – about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add all the remaining ingredients, including the wine, and stir to combine.  Let the sauce simmer, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes.

Toss finished sauce with any pasta, protein or vegetable of your choice.  I find it that spiciness pairs well with seafood.

*Note: My mom always left the sauce as is with this chunky consistency.  However, Zach has a texture issue with canned tomatoes, so I give the sauce a quick buzz with the immersion blender to smooth out the large tomato pieces just a bit.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Meg permalink
    March 30, 2009 10:27 pm

    I am going to love this! Cleo’s sauce is next on my list of things to make when I have time. This looks great so far! The story telling makes it much more interesting.

    P.S. Love the plate the snickerdoodles are on!

  2. March 31, 2009 1:15 am

    Mmmmmm…Great idear martha! Nice job on the instructional eats and the blog–very tempting and snazzy. Maybe this will help Rita with her two left spoons. 😉

  3. Aunt Bee permalink
    March 31, 2009 10:21 am

    My dear Mar, I am touched an honored to be included in your blog. And I know Dick and Cleo would feel the same way. Thank you for keeping alive the memories of loved ones, and for sharing these delicious recipes. In order to complete the saga of Cleo’s Marinara, I am awaiting your mother’s posting of her Christmas gift fiasco.

    Your gift with words brings me to tears, and the photography is stunning!

  4. Eric permalink
    April 1, 2009 12:59 pm

    Great idea! I love the blog site and the combination of family + food = Awesome. I will definately be poking around this site for some cooking tips and ideas, since I am now an aspiring weekend chef or whenever time permits.

  5. April 6, 2009 1:20 pm

    This is a great idea to share stories, receipes etc.. it’s better than sliced bread

  6. Ash permalink
    April 7, 2009 5:28 pm

    Kudos to you sister, the one of us that enjoys writing and also happens to be good at it. I anxiously await the debut of my Firey Chicken Soup.

  7. Maris permalink
    April 18, 2009 10:39 pm

    This sounds absolutely fantastic! And healthy too – what a bonus! I like marinara sauce on my pasta, but I kind of defeat the health purposes by heaping on the parmesan and ricotta!

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