Tomatoes are not something I generally think about during the winter months. Rather, I tend to avoid them altogether, resigned and content to wait upon the ripe and luscious homegrown beauties that won’t appear until late summer. But this has been an unusually warm winter and my taste buds are on edge and already primed for something?#34;anything?#34;with tomatoes in it. So here’s a recipe for a fresh-tasting tomato sauce that’s made with canned tomatoes, no less. It’s quick and easy and perfect for spaghetti. Just the thing to quash the craving.

Technically, you can make a quick tomato sauce from just about any canned tomato product, but of all the different varieties out there, it’s important to use only whole tomatoes that are packed in juice, not puree. Other forms of canned tomatoes?#34;such as puree and paste?#34;are cooked before they get to the can, and crushed or diced tomatoes are treated with calcium chloride, a chemical that most packers use to prevent the tomatoes from becoming mushy.

Whole plum tomatoes, which are meatier, are my first choice, and the best brands list only tomatoes, tomato juice and salt on the label. Here’s a great recipe for a classic Marinara sauce that will amaze you when you follow the correct procedures.

Quick Marinara Sauce

Serves 4

2 28-ounce cans whole plum tomatoes in juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced fine or crushed to a paste
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 teaspoon dried oregano
cup dry red wine
4 anchovy filets, rinsed, patted dry and mashed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil to taste: salt and fresh ground pepper
1-2 teaspoons sugar (if needed to reduce acidity)

n Place the tomatoes in a strainer over a bowl and crush them lightly with your hands.

n Set aside 1 cup of the tomatoes and reserve the juice.

n Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and cook the garlic over medium heat for about 30 seconds.

n Add the onion and cook until soft and barely golden.

n Add the oregano.

n Add all of the crushed tomato except the cup that’s been set aside.

n Turn up the heat and cook, stirring continuously, until all of the liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated. The tomatoes will begin to stick to the bottom of the pan and will start to brown. Be careful not to scorch the tomatoes.

? Add the wine and let it cook to a syrup (about 1 minute).

? Add 2 cups of the reserved tomato juice and lower the heat to medium.

? Add the crushed anchovy and parsley and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens.

? If too thick, add more tomato juice.

? Add the reserved (uncooked) tomato to the saucepan and puree with an immersion blender (or in a food processor) to the desired consistency.

? Add the extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

? Add the sugar (in increments) only if necessary to reduce acidity.

? Serve over your favorite pasta.

Worried about the anchovies? Don’t be. They’re an integral part of the sauce, and you won’t even know they’re in there.

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Frank Chlumsky

Frank Chlumsky, former executive chef of Philander's restaurant in Oak Park, teaches in Chicago at Kendall College's School of Culinary Arts. In his 37-year career, Frank has owned restaurants in Michigan...