Cherry Grape Marinara

Cherry and grape tomatoes cooking into marinara.
Freshly picked cherry and grape tomatoes cook into marinara.

Dear sweet husband and I undertook a small garden this spring. A raised bed went up in place of our glorious volunteer cherry tomato from last year, which prompted my Cherry Red Marinara from last year. We planted a grape tomato in another site to replace the cherry tomato and hoped for the best.

An interesting thing happened. That cherry tomato has the force with it. It grew out from under the raised bed and became a full bush, almost as sizable as last year. The grape tomato also produced … thus was born Cherry Grape Marinara. 

This sauce is comparable to Cherry Red Marinara, but it’s made with different ingredients, so it has a different flavor profile. Neither of these marinaras will compete with my favorite red sauce, a marinara that blends recipes from former in-laws, but it has a harvest feel. This makes it a go-to in our house. I like it well enough to eat like a soup, which is good, because I watch my carbohydrate intake.

It’s a flavorful vegan option for any day of the week if you skip or sub the optional cheese topping. For meat-eaters, make it a Meatless Monday. If you can’t take it without meat, add some Italian sausage. If you are on a low- or no-sodium diet, this recipe can be made sans salt without sacrificing flavor. It’s gluten-free, too … so load up on gluten-free pasta or eat it without. Give it a shot … any day of the week.

One of the things I like about this recipe is that it uses many of the same ingredients as Leek & Spinach Stuffed Bread. You can make a double batch of vegetable filling and seasoning and have two quick and easy recipes on speed dial for the week. You could double up and serve both and have a carb-loaded Italian-inspired dinner with a salad on the side. And it’s totally fine to add more leek and spinach mix if you like, up to about a 1/2 cup, if you want to load more veggies in the sauce.

“I am the tomato of grapes. I am the cherry of tomatoes. I am the red fruit of love that goes best in pasta.”

— Jarod Kintz

Ingredients

1/2 pint cherry and 1/2 pint grape tomatoes  

1/4 C leek and spinach mix (rest can be reserved for Leek & Spinach Stuffed Bread: 1 leek (sliced) 2 minced garlic cloves and 1/2 lb of fresh spinach (or 1/2 C of drained cooked spinach, unsalted)

1 to 1 1/2 TBSP of Seasoning blend (also from Leek & Spinach Stuffed Bread: 2 tsp Italian seasoning, 2 tsp oregano, 2 tsp basil, 1 tsp parsley, 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, and 1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, to taste plus 1 tsp salt, optional)

1-2 tsp brown sugar (dark or light)

Optional toppings: Parmesan or cotija cheese

Prep time: 5-10 minutes if mix and seasonings are made ahead, otherwise 15 Cook time: about 30 minutes (45 if mix not made ahead) 

Yields: about 3 1/2 to 4 cups

Directions

Cover bottom of cooking pan lightly with olive oil. 

Rinse tomatoes and remove tops as needed. 

Heat pan to medium, and add leek and spinach mix and seasoning mix to pan.

Add tomato and sauté until tomatoes begin to burst. Stir frequently to ensure even cooking. 

Add brown sugar and stir in completely. 

Reduce heat to low and cover, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Remove lid and mash tomatoes with a ricer. Stir and simmer for another 10 minutes. 

If desired, blend about 50% smooth using an immersion blender.

Remove from heat and serve.

Cherry Grape Marinara at a glance.
Cherry Grape Marinara at a glance.

Serving Suggestions

Serve over pasta with or without toppings.  Great with a side salad and garlic bread.

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