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On two-hour special marinara sauce, hazelnut chocolate, acai sorbet, & merlot.

One onion, 5 cloves of garlic, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of chili flakes, 1 tablespoon of dried oregano, 28oz crushed tomatoes, 28oz of whole peeled tomatoes, 1/4 cup dry white wine, 2 tablespoons of butter (or equivalent if you’re vegan like we are), 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1/2 bunch of basil, salt and pepper.  These humble ingredients, along with about 2 hours, are all you’ll need to make Daphne Oz’s “Staten Island Special” marinara sauce (recipe found in her lovely book Relish).  I set to making the sauce in the late afternoon to have ready for my spaghetti-loving husband soon after he arrived home from work.  I had been dreaming of our romantic dinner together all day.  While at the grocery store looking to pick up an extra package of pasta, I instead returned home with a bar of Green & Black’s hazelnut & currant organic chocolate & some merlot.  I also picked up a pear for my daughter to snack on later (smallest shopping trip ever!).  When I cook I often think about books that I’ve read, such as Like Water for Chocolate, Aphrodite, and The Path of Practice: A Woman’s Guide to Healing with Food, Breath, and Sound.  All of these books (one fiction and, interestingly, two nonfiction) touch upon the idea upon that our emotions can infuse the food that we prepare.  For this reason, I always try to cook in the best of moods.  However, if I’m not already feeling well, cooking usually gets me where I want to be pretty quickly.  Somehow it is both grounding & elevating, & as such really exercises my spirit.  Anyway, I say all of this to share with you where I was in my heart yesterday.  I set upon chopping onions and garlic, allowing delight to grow within me, secretly hoping that somehow, magically, my husband would taste the love that went into the sauce.  OK, a little white wine didn’t hurt, either (just kidding, the alcohol is supposed to cook off!).  The two hours that it took for the sauce to simmer and marry flavors, I got to spend playing with my daughter without worrying about prepping or, worse, burning anything.  Just a quick stir every now and then was enough for Daphne’s yummy sauce.  Then came time to cook the pasta.  OK, let me say that we are usually health nuts within this house, but we have a real weakness for certain foods, pasta being one of them!  Every now and then we go wheat free for a while, but as you can see by all of my recent bread baking, that has not been the case lately.  Daphne states that you could use whatever kind of pasta you like best, and mentions that they have some really tasty gluten free options out there (I happen to like quinoa/corn blend or straight on rice).  Last night, I chose some organic 100% semolina flour spaghetti to add to our well salted boiling water.  My husband has this method that he likes to use when draining pasta.  He empties out about a third of the water, then adds cool water in, and then drains it.  The pasta came out just right.  I ladled some noodles into our wide glass bowls and spooned a generous amount of marinara on top.  Piper busily stuffed her mouth with spaghetti (I love to watch her little hands) and my husband and I enjoyed sipping glasses of the leftover white wine with our meal.  Nothing could have made the sauce any better than it already was.  Somehow the simple ingredients transformed in the pot (channeling Michael Pollan here) & produced a sauce rich in flavor & velvety in texture.

Later, we indulged on dessert in bed.  Here, my husband surprised me!  He had brought some acai berry sorbet home from the shop.  He filled little bowls with a scoop & placed a hunk of chocolate next to each.  I have always loved the clean texture of sorbet.  It was perfect paired with the full-bodied chocolate that was flecked with crunchy hazelnuts and sweet little currants.  We enjoyed our dessert with a small glass each of merlot.  We don’t drink too often in our house, & the usual wine that we buy has a screw-top lid, rather than a cork.  Uncorking this particular bottle was a true feat for us, and quite hilarious.  The warmth of the wine going down & the cool of the sorbet after was playful & balanced, just right.  Nothing more to say from here on, I fell asleep happily right then and there in my husband’s arms, mellow and full from such a beautiful day & night.  I brushed my teeth extra well in the morning.

Have a great, inspired day!

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9 thoughts on “On two-hour special marinara sauce, hazelnut chocolate, acai sorbet, & merlot.

  1. Seriously, you need to try again with Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. It’s magical realism to the max, all about one girl’s discovery that she can taste emotions in what people cook (so she eats processed foods to avoid being touched by someone else’s emotions – brilliant, right?).

    Now that I’veprodded you about that book, haha, let me just say that the sauce sounds great. I’m not a big spagetti fan, probably because I grew up eating it all the time since my family is part Italian. So I got sick of it, haha. But I love the simple olive oil and pepper flakes combo with the noodles. I. Am. Addicted. So I guess it was the sauce, rather than spagetti, that I got tired of.

    Ooooh, the nice cream sounds so good! I have a weakness for anything hazelnut. There’s hazelnut ice cream in France at Epcot that is mind-blowing. It’s like you’re eating creamy, pure hazelnuty with each bite (rather than getting bits of nuts. Kind of like nutella without the chocolate, I suppose).

    Sounds like you and your husband had a wonderful romantic dinner 🙂

    1. Thanks, Kim!! I will try the book again soon! I’m finishing up Under the Tuscan Sun, & after that I was going to read two other books but perhaps I will shift the order a bit. Love the spaghetti with garlic and chili flakes, too — especially for leftovers! Sometimes I like to put pickled peppers in there for a sour note, I saw Mario Batali do it once on The Chew.

      1. You had me at pickles. I think slicing up, literally, pickles and tossing them in would taste really good. The sweet pickles. It’s almost 10:00am and I’m already hungry. Gaaah.

        Yay, I’m glad you’re going to read Bender’s book again! It’s bittersweet, but I really loved it 🙂

  2. The sauce sounded delightful! I’m still a fan of your olive oil and red pepper flakes on pasta now! You write beautifully! I look forward to reading about all of your adventures, thoughts and discoveries!

  3. Lauren, I’m delighted to read your words again. They are so comforting, like a warm hug. I want to wrap myself in them!

    Kim stole my book rec. (Kidding, kidding.) I thought of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake as well, though I’ve never read it. I remember how even in college, Lauren, you had such a passion and respect for food. I love that you have a family to share it with. Only recently have I begun to see the merit in cooking, myself, especially cooking with others. Last week I helped prepare gnocchi from scratch with a new friend. The process proved more memorable, more “filling,” than the result!

    Your meal sounds delicious. And bedtime sorbet with chocolate — I can think of no better end.

    1. Amy,
      Thanks for your comments. Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. I really appreciate your kind words & am glad that you found someone to cook with!

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