Marinara Sauce
Neopolitan Fishermen
Neopolitan Fishermen

It is said that Marinara sauce was invented by sea cooks to feed 16th century Neapolitan fishermen soon after the Spaniards introduced the tomato to western Europe. There are other theories of origin, but Nick is a direct descendant of those fishermen. The sauce is called “Marinara” after all.

Although modernized a bit, this sauce still tenaciously holds true to its authentic 16th Century roots due to its subtle sea-faring undertone.

A sauce that holds up on its own over a bed of linguine, this “Peasante” style marinara sauce is also a staple ingredient in many of Nick’s signature dishes. Like a solid Gershwin tune to a jazz musician, it lends itself well to endless applications, variations and improvisational inspiration.

Poppa Nick
Poppa Nick Rossi

Nick makes this sauce two to three times a week, depending on the upcoming weekly family menu and entertainment calendar. He doubles the recipe when feeding the traditional family army on any given Sunday or holiday.

As he is an early riser, waking up to the smell of garlic bubbling in a bath of olive oil is a common occurrence for the rest of the Rossi household.

That and the crash-boom-bang of sauce pans and tomato cans!



A single batch will yield approximately 6-7 cups of sauce.

(2) 28 oz. cans of HUNT’S brand whole Italian plum tomatoes, packed in juice*
⅓ cup FILLIPO BERIO “Gold Label” medium grade olive oil*
5 good sized cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and minced
(1) 2oz tin of flat anchovies, packed in oil (don’t use rolled / packed with capers)
2 tablespoons of butter

The Five Secret Additives:

Freshly ground black pepper
Dried Oregano
Powdered Mushroom*
1 concentrated cube of beef boullion
2-3 dried Bay Leaves

1"Da 'Chovie Ball" 2"Squeezin' Da Garlic"3"Squish Da Termaters"4"Stirrin' It All Up Good"

The Steps

  1. Open the tomato cans and set beside the stove top. These are your “brakes”.
  2. Open the anchovie tin, remove the fillets and squeeze them tightly in your hand, divesting them of any of the oil they are packed in. Shake your white knuckled fist toward the bottom of the sink with a snap of the wrist and make sure you get rid of every drop.
  3. Combine olive oil, garlic, and your now tightly hand formed “ball of anchovies” into the sauce pan over a medium to medium low heat.

    Continually “Schmoosh and Break Up” the anchovies against the bottom of the sauce pan with the flat edged wooden spoon.

    The garlic will start to separate and bubble, and the anchovies will break down and combine with the garlic to form a paste. Be careful not to burn the garlic. If you do, throw it out and start over! This is a “by feel” step and the reason why your tomatoes are by the stove top, at the ready.
  4. The second you think the garlic has reached its full release point without burning, toss the two cans of tomatoes in the sauce pan and remove from heat. That will immediately prevent your garlic from burning. and why Poppa calls the tomatoes, “Da brakes”. Give it a quick stir.
  5. According to Nick, here comes the fun part: “Squish” the tomatoes by hand, right in the pot. The more you “Squish”, the smoother the texture of the sauce. If you come across a particularly lumpy core, or an errant piece of tomato skin, remove and discard.
  6. Add your “Five” secret ingredients. There are no strictly defined measurements in this step; over time, repetition, and arm chair assessments and criticism after the fact from the family peanut gallery, this is how you can personalize this sauce according to your own tastes.

    That said, while leaving the surface of the sauce undisturbed, Nick likes to “cover” the surface area with a relatively opaque “lid” of freshly ground black pepper over the center of the circle of sauce, a lesser dusting and slightly transparent “lid” of dried oregano, and then another slightly more opaque “lid” of powdered mushroom before throwing in the bullion cube and the bay leaves and stirring it all up. We call this “By-Eye” construction. He’s a spendthrift with the pepper, a little miserly with the oregano, and hits the happy medium between the two with the powdered mushroom.
  7. Bring the sauce to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a low simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring every once in awhile, scraping the residue left on the sides of the pan as the sauce reduces. If you prefer a more strongly flavored, thicker sauce, extend the cooking time for another 20 minutes or so depending on again, how you feel it.
  8. Right before serving, throw in the butter and stir. Butter will emulsify your sauce, and tie all those flavors together smoothly. You can actually see this happening as you stir and the butter melts.
Marinara Sauce / Frutti Di Mare
Buon Appetito! (This is a delicious variation on the theme: Marinara Sauce/Frutti Di Mare served over spaghetti)

* Note on Ingredients

Ingredients will make or break any dish. Any variation, substitution or outright omission will radically change a preparation.

This modernized version of a marinara sauce hits the sweet spot between accuracy, convenience, and it's the evolved result of over almost 500 years of family history.

Don’t fall prey to traditional “foodie snobbery” of using imported canned “San Marzano” tomatoes and “Extra Virgin” Olive Oils.

Most commercially available canned tomatoes are skinned in arsenic baths, and will lend a bitter undertone to your sauce. Nick only uses “Hunt’s” brand tomatoes packed in their own juice. They are skinned using a steam process, thus delivering a fresher, more pure tomato flavor.

Many extra virgin olive oils are admittedly delicious, but they are just too heavy in flavor; They have a tendency to throw the delicate blend of flavors of this sauce out of balance. Poppa Nick recommends Filippo Berio “Gold” medium grade olive oil when stacking and blending flavor combinations. Extra virgin has its uses on salads, drizzling and dipping bread into, but for delicately constructed and reduced sauces? Not so much.

Mushroom Powder is a pretty obscure addition to any spice rack, but an absolute necessity if attempting to recreate this sauce in your own home. This is the ingredient that separates this sauce and elevates it from the rest of the pack with its darkly earthen, musty tones.

This has been a Rossi proprietary kitchen secret weapon for over fifty seven years. Along with this general recipe, getting Nick and Linda to agree to sign off on revealing it to the general public was no small feat.

We buy it in bulk and distribute the stash among family members. You should too, because as with all you value in life, sharing really is in fact, caring.

Here’s where to get it: