A new decade; best marinara sauce ever!

Serve over spaghetti squash with just a soupcon of Parmesan and more than a soupcon of good red wine, maybe some green grapes. Happy end of summer!

Thank goodness I got up at dawn last Saturday or I wouldn’t have known I’ve moved into “a new decade.” That’s the expression at this 8 a.m. Weight Watchers meeting for dropping into a new set of numbers. In my case, that’s going below 200 pounds for the first time in four years.

The last time I visited this neighborhood was for a nanosecond before my 50th high school reunion. This time, the plan is to make it my last time starting over at Weight Watchers and the Y. I’ve got rid of 27.6 pounds (so far) in 21 weeks, and I’ve felt neither starved nor deprived.

Anxious, yes. The drug I’m dumping is sugar, and sugar’s a powerful monkey on anyone’s back. The default behavior I’m dumping is eating — also powerful. But it can be done if you work one day at a time, greet every day as a new day and don’t deprive yourself of a smidgen of what you’re craving (in company — I can’t do smidgens alone).

Currently, I’m using car travel as an assist. Drink this quart of water in the time it takes me to drive home from work; do not eat anything in that time. It can be done. I’ve actually driven past some gas stations where I always — once upon a chubby time — broke up my commute with a Fudgicle.

I’m still having conversations with myself about the available comestibles, and I probably always will. “You don’t need that.” “This would refuel you with no (Weight Watchers) points.” “Just don’t do it.” “Go to bed!”

Why you shouldn’t lose more than one to one and a half pounds per week is that it takes time to build new habits. Time to get the sugar out of your system and to enjoy feeling strong. Time to be able to visualize all those healthy fruits and vegetables going right to work as soon as you swallow them.

This marinara recipe is healthy and the best I’ve ever made. I find most either too sweet or too acidic, and almost all are too runny to stick to your pasta.

This is a mashup of a Giada de Laurentiis recipe and a very old recipe of Jane Brody’s. Plus, when I thinned it with 1/2 cup good Merlot, I remembered standing in my friend Chapin’s Charlotte kitchen decades ago, dumping most of a bottle of red wine into spaghetti sauce for a party.

Perfect marinara sauce

A tablespoon or so of good olive oil

2 small onions, chopped

2 to 6 fat garlic cloves, minced

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 big carrots, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper (plus more to taste)

4 pounds fresh tomatoes (maybe a little extra to compensate for stem ends and bruises)

2 bay leaves

1 rounded teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon sugar

6-ounce can tomato paste

Fistful fresh basil leaves, slivered

Fistful fresh parsley, minced

1/2 cup good-quality red wine

Remove skins and bad spots from tomatoes, using your favorite method (I pour boiling water over, let them sit for about 30 seconds). Over a colander, which is, in turn, propped over a bowl, use your fingers to remove tomato cores and seeds, break the tomatoes into pieces and release the juices. Saute onion, garlic, carrot and celery in oil. Add tomatoes and bay leaves. Strain tomato juice in that bowl and add it as well. Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for 1 hour. Stir in tomato paste until smoothly mixed into sauce; add oregano, basil, parsley and wine. Taste and add more salt and pepper as necessary. Makes enough marinara to sauce 4 bowls of bowl, zucchini or other squash noodles.

Only 3 Weight Watchers points in 1/2 cup of this yummy marinara.







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