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Italian marinara sauce is one of the first things that I learned how to cook when I was a kid.  My mother made homemade sauce regularly and used it to prepare a wide array of dishes.  The recipe is simple and does not call for any fancy techniques other than patience.  As I have mentioned in many posts, my friend Kathy has taught me quite a bit about Cuban cooking in the past few years, and introduced me to a sofrito-based tomato sauce that is common in that cuisine.  I recently decided to experiment a little and created some Italian – Cuban fusion dishes to see if I could get the best out of both worlds.

The sofrito sauce starts with finely minced (I use a food processor) green bell pepper, onion and garlic.  This is the holy trinity of Cuban cuisine.  This medley is sauteed in olive oil until softened.

Foundation of Sofrito

Next, add a can of tomato sauce and some white wine.  Let this simmer until the flavors blend together.  One of the Cuban dishes I love to make, Picadillo, combines the sauce with ground beef, raisins and olives.  Picadillo is served over rice and has a wonderful blend of savory, sweet and salty flavors.

For my fusion experiment, I decided to make an eggplant marinara using the sofrito marinara sauce.  I baked the eggplant rounds for a bit to remove some of the excess water, and then layered them with the sauce, added a small amount of mozzarella cheese and baked it for 45 minutes.  It was wonderful, and while the effect of the different sauce was subtle, it was a great flavor combination.

Something amazing happens to the sofrito marinara when it goes into a pressure cooker.  Kathy taught me to make Cuban fricassee using chicken thighs and because of the pressurized cooking environment, the dish cooks in only 12 minutes.  She often adds potato and butternut squash, however, I just used chicken this time.  The cooked vegetables in the sauce completely liquify under the pressure and the chicken adds a layer of flavor that makes this one of the most delicious red sauces I have ever had.  There are so many flavors going on.  I seriously could drink the stuff out of a glass.

Chicken Fricassee, Cuban Eggplant Marinara, White Beans, Rice and Avocado Salad

This experience showed me that fusing different cooking techniques and recipes can lead to come wonderful and unique dishes.  The next day I made scallops and used some of the leftover sofrito marinara to season the white wine and lemon sauce and it was great.

I paired with meal with an Italian wine that I giddily found in my local wine shop after having it at a restaurant in San Francisco.  This wonderful wine was rich and sensual with a great nose.  A blend of Corvina, Veronese, Rondinella and Sangiovese, this wine offers blackberry and cassis flavors and a smooth, even finish.

Allegrini Palazzo della Torre 2008

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