When all else fails, go for dressing up a jarred marinara. Good for leftovers too - I had the cup pictured here the next day as a snack.
On our first rainy night on Fire Island we didn't feel like schlepping to the Pines to buy some decent food. So I went to the less-than-adequate market in Cherry Grove to see what I could find. The clerk must have thought I was casing the joint because I wandered the shelves for about 20 minutes trying to find something acceptable. And something that didn't cost too much - the season on Fire Island is very short and all the stores jack up the prices to the point of absurdity.
Stir fry the peppers, tomatoes and garlic first to release their flavors
I happened upon a jar of sliced mixed peppers. It was only $2.19. And, what's this? A jar of Rao's marinara for about $7 bucks? A great idea was born. Fresh lemons, garlic, cherry tomatoes and a box of pasta were also on hand and reasonably priced. Now I had a plan.
Fresh lemons add tang
I did the shopping early in the day and starting cooking as soon as I got back to the hotel room. We rented a one bedroom suite and the kitchen was much bigger than mine in Manhattan. It's best if you can let your marinara stand for several hours before serving. I started by stir frying the hot peppers in the pan to release their flavors. Next I added chopped cherry tomatoes and the garlic. I squeezed fresh lemon juice on the mixture and tossed the lemon in as well. Next came the bottled Rao's and salt and pepper to taste. I simmered for a while on low and eventually shut off the heat, covered the pan with foil and let it rest on the (turned off) stove until we were ready for dinner. I had used Tabasco sauce in other marinaras but will go the hot pepper route in the future. It came out really well - and felt more special than just heating up a bottle of prepared marinara.
1 bottle marinara or two cans crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1/8 - 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 - 1/2 cup bottled hot peppers to taste
4 cloves chopped garlic
1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes (chop in half lenghthwise)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Pour the olive oil in a pre-heated pan. I like to use a skillet because the sauce cooks evenly.
Add the peppers and stir fry.
Next add the tomatoes.
Add the garlic a few minutes before adding the marinara.
Cut the lemon in half, squeeze the juice on the mixture, and put the lemon in skin down.
When the mixture has cooked a good five minutes or so add the marinara.
Turn up the heat and cook until it starts to bubble, stirring as you go.
Turn off the heat and cover with foil. Let stand - the longer the better; at least a few hours.
When you're ready to serve, re-heat the marinara sauce. I made a large supply and left enough in the pan for two servings and put the rest aside.
After you cook the pasta add it to the marinara for that serving and mix.
Top with parmesan or Parmigiano-Regiano - whichever you prefer.