Garden Marinara Sauce with Italian Sausage

I love fall, because my garden is setting many heirloom tomatoes — the perfect time to make a pot of made-from-scratch Italian marinara sauce. This recipe also calls for grilled or pan-fried Italian sausage served over pasta. The marinara is based, in part, on a recipe from a friend who is first generation Italian – his family hails from an area just outside of Rome.

Easier than you thought, eh?  Enjoy.


2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. rendered bacon fat
8 cups pureed garden tomatoes (blanched and peeled)
2 cloves garlic – peeled and minced
1 medium spanish onion – fine chopped
1 stalk celery with leaves – minced
1 sweet bell red pepper, diced
1 carrot – peeled and grated
1 tsp. salt, to taste
Pinch of sugar
12 dried chiltepin peppers, to taste, crushed in a mortar
1 tsp. dry ground Turkish oregano
1 tsp. dry ground basil
1 tbs. dry ground parsley flakes
2 dry bay leaves

5 mild Italian sausage links, grilled or pan-fried and cut into chunks at a bias
Your choice of pasta noodles, cooked al-dente


Using a 3-quart heavy non-reactive enameled cast-iron pot, add the olive oil and rendered bacon fat. Heat on medium and then add the onion, garlic and celery, stirring for about 20 minutes until translucent.

Blanch and peel the garden tomatoes and pulse in a food processor until smooth. (To blanch tomatoes, wash and add to a pot of boiling water for thirty seconds, then plunge into ice-cold water. The skins will peel off.)  Core, process and add to the pot and increase the heat until a low simmer is achieved. Add the carrot, bell pepper and dry spices. Simmer on very low heat, partially covered for about six hours, until most of the water is rendered out, stirring occasionally. While the sauce is cooking, grill or fry the Italian sausage and then cut into chunks and add to the pot, during the last two hours of cooking. Stir every half-hour.

Serve over your choice of pasta, cooked al-dente.

Makes about 2.75 quarts. Serves 4-6

Note: to cut the acidity of tomatoes, sugar is added. Shredded carrot is also used. Taste and adjust to your preference accordingly. A touch of dry red wine may be added, but is not necessary.


Classic Italian Meatballs

This is my version of a classic Italian meatball recipe. The key is to use equal parts of ground beef and pork sausage, which imparts a really great, rich flavor.
If you have a fresh herb garden with the ingredients shown below, you’re in luck. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with using storebought “fresh” or dry spices.

Use the cayenne pepper to make them as spicy as you like, and combine with your choice of pasta sauce. May I suggest my homemade Italian garden marinara?
Or click here for my alternate marinara recipe. Enjoy!


1 pound lean ground chuck
1 pound mild ground Italian Sausage
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 tbs. Worchestershire sauce
1/4 stick salted butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs

6 fresh basil leaves, minced
1/4 cup loose, fresh oregano leaves, minced
Handful of fresh celery leaves, minced
1/4 cup loose, fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, minced
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 tbs. beef base powder
2 tsp. garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1 tsp. salt, to taste
2 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper flakes to taste



In a large mixing bowl, add the ground beef and Italian sausage. Add the rest of the ingredients and fold together using your hands until mixed well.

Working in batches, form into 1″ to 1.5″ diameter meatballs and fry in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat until nicely browned. Remove and transfer the meatballs to a heavy, covered stock pot, kept warm in the oven at 180-F.

Prepare your choice of red sauce and add the meatballs during the last two hours of cooking.
Stir occasionally using care so you don’t break them.

Makes about 30 meatballs.

Bruschetta – a Classic Italian Recipe

Garden Bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and basil.

This is a classic Italian recipe that’s simple to make. It comes from the city of Naples, Italy by way of a very dear friend. It is very old. You might suspect it originated in Roman times, but you’d be wrong. Tomatoes and the art of preparing them didn’t appear in Italy until the early 1500’s.  They were brought back from the new world by the Spanish explorer Cortez, and his merry band of thugs who conquered the great civilizations of the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans. Their gift to the indigenous people of Central and South America? Disease, mass murder and the total annihilation of their culture.

But that’s another history lesson.

Tomatoes have been grown in the Americas for many thousands of years. So enjoy this multicultural dish with – shall we say – ulterior origins.

Don’t skimp on the quality of the tomatoes or balsamic vinegar. It is what makes this dish authentic.


2-3 ripe garden tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped into 1/4″ chunks
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and minced fine
5 fresh basil leaves, fine chopped
Drizzle of XV olive oil
Drizzle of red wine vinegar
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar
Salt and fresh ground coarse black pepper to taste

1 baguette Italian or French bread
XV olive oil
1/4 cup hard parmesan cheese – freshly grated

Fresh cottage cheese


Core and seed the tomatoes. Chop and place in serving bowl. Do not allow to stand in liquid. Drain if necessary. Romas have a low water content and are excellent for this purpose.

Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the remaining ingredients, mix and let stand or cover and refrigerate for one hour. (I prefer less vinegar and olive oil, allowing the flavor of the tomatoes to come through. )

Prepare a heavy cast-iron Panini pan with cooking spray and heat to medium high on your stovetop.

Cut ten slices of bread 1/2″ thick at a bias and brush one side with olive oil. Place the slices (working in batches) in the Panini pan and weight down with another heavy pan. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until one side is golden brown with toasted ridge marks on the surface. Remove and place in covered serving dish.

Have your guests serve the tomato mixture on individual bread slices. Top with the fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Serve with cottage cheese on the side.

Serves 4.

Italian Bruschetta | Culinary Compost Recipes

Marinated Italian Grilled Chicken Breasts

This is such an easy way to elevate plain-old chicken. The marinade infuses the meat and makes it super-juicy, even on the grill. Pair with garlic pasta, sliced on a salad or with grilled focaccia bread and provolone cheese.


4 skinned, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup Italian dressing
1/2 cup XV olive oil
3 tbs. balsamic vinegar
3 large cloves garlic, crushed, then minced
Cayenne pepper flakes to taste
Fresh-ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp Italian oregano, ground in a mortar

1/4 cup fresh-grated hard parmesan cheese


Thaw the chicken, if frozen. Place in a zip-lock storage bag. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl and pour over the chicken. Coat well and seal the bag tightly. Refrigerate for at least four hours, but best overnight.

Heat an outdoor charcoal grill with enough coals for a medium-hot fire. When the coals turn white, level them and put the chicken on the grate over direct heat. Baste with the marinade. Cook until slightly charred on one side, then flip over. Cook until juices run clear but do not over cook.

Remove from the grill, slice into 1/2″ strips and sprinkle with the grated parmesan while still hot. Serve with your choice of pasta or side dish.

Serves 4-6

Tuscan Dipping Oil

This zingy, garlic and parmesan-infused dipping oil is awesome on fresh Italian bread or as a side with bruschetta. It must be refrigerated after use, but will keep for several weeks.
Just let it warm up to room temperature before serving.


1/4 cup fresh-grated hard Parmesan cheese (fine)
1/2 cup XV olive oil
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar
1 crushed dried chili pepper, or 1/2 tsp. dried chili flakes, to taste
2 cloves crushed garlic, finely minced
Dash of fresh-ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried Italian oregano


Combine the dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl and add the Parmesan cheese. Mix well with a wire whisk or two forks. Slowly add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and mix.

Let stand at least 1 hour for the flavors to incorporate. Even better when stored overnight and then allowed to warm up on the table before serving.

Serve on a shallow plate with fresh, crusty Italian or French bread sliced thinly at a bias.

Serves 4.

Pasta with Garlic Sauce

If you love garlic you will love this authentic Italian recipe. It goes well with a number of main dishes including swordfish or shrimp scampi.


Angel hair pasta
1/4 – 1/2 cup XV olive oil
4-6 fresh garlic cloves, peeled and fine chopped
1/4 – 1/2 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, washed and minced
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt to taste
1/2 cup hard Parmesan cheese, grated


Boil the noodles al dente according to package directions and time them so that they are done with the sauce.

Sauce: Combine the olive oil and fine-chopped garlic, saute until garlic just starts to turn a golden color. Add 3/4 of the parsley, salt and red pepper.

Toss immediately with the noodles. Top with remaining parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Prep time: 1/2 hour
Cook time: 7 minutes
Serves: 4

Chicken Marsala

Authentic Italian Chicken Marsala | Culinary Compost Recipes
Oh how I love this recipe! I was first introduced to it in Milwaukee years ago at Millie’s Spaghetti Factory, which has since closed. I’ve kicked myself ever since for not making it sooner.

This is a best-of combination of four different versions that I’ve tested. Note that it does not have heavy whipping cream — it’s honestly not needed. If your sauce gets too thick, simply add a little more chicken stock.


1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp. dried oregano

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, split laterally and pounded flat with a meat mallet
4 tbs. olive oil
1/2 – 3/4 cup Marsala wine (I use dry Florio or Pellegrino)
1 8 oz. package fresh Cremini mushrooms, washed, stemmed and sliced
4-5 large cloves garlic – peeled and finely minced
1 medium shallot – peeled and finely sliced
1 cup chicken stock
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 stick butter
3 tbs. reserved flour for the sauce
2 tsp. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh-grated hard Parmesan cheese for garnish
Fettuccini or angel hair pasta, cooked al dente


Place the first four dry ingredients in a shaker bag and mix well. Coat the chicken evenly in the flour mixture and place each breast in a heavy cast-iron pan with the olive oil.

Brown the chicken pieces on medium-high, until no longer pink, turning once, and transfer to a covered warming dish.

Reduce the heat on the skillet and form a roux by adding the butter and flour. Stir constantly to avoid scorching. Add a bit of olive oil, the garlic and shallot, and continue to stir for about ten minutes.
Add the wine, chicken stock and lemon juice. Reduce liquid by half and add the mushrooms. Continue to simmer until the mushrooms are tender.

Add the chicken and stir until heated through. (You may slice it in 1-inch pieces as an option.) Serve immediately over your choice of pasta. Top with fresh Italian parsley and fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4.

Authentic Italian Chicken Marsala | Culinary Compost Recipes