A Marinara Sauce to Lighten a Heavy Mind

Marinara Sauce for a Heavy Mind

I sent my 10-year old off for Outdoor School this morning in the pouring down rain and deafening hail with a few tears and a little bundle of cookies. His apprehension was breaking my heart. My ever-so-cool and sporty guy is always very reserved about showing his true feelings. I could tell he was a little concerned about the whole trip since he appeared downstairs at 6:30 am, dressed with his coat on and a most concentrated and serious look painted on his face. Do you think he could sense, even in his sleep, that I had awoken at 4:30 am to the sound of rain pounding on my roof and spent the next hour and a half visualizing him sitting around a campfire, shivering like a wet dog, because he refused to put on the rain coat that we’d packed? This is what we mothers do to torture ourselves. And I know he was up at 6:30 am since I had finally hauled my bleary-eyed self out of bed at 6:00 am to make the aforementioned cookies I had promised to pack in his sack lunch. Why would I promise that? I don’t even like to bake!

Day 137

When I used to drop his older sister off at preschool, as soon as it was time for me to leave she would melodramatically burst into tears as if she would never see me again. The first few times this scene pulled at my heartstrings but quickly, it became just too over-dramatic. I would find myself fighting back the urge to call out, “Oh, for crying out loud. Pull yourself together, girl and get in there. I’m outta here.” With the 10-year old, he was always more subtle. When I would turn to go, he would look at me with those deep, crystal clear brown eyes and say quietly, but with all the seriousness a 4-year old could muster, “So, are you leaving me here now?”

I know I’ve said this before and yes, I stole this line from my dear friend, Mara, but it bears repeating, “I should have been born Catholic I have so much guilt.”

Buds and Blossoms

When I feel overwhelmed by maternal guilt, I can barely focus. Everything I had planned that day tends to go by the wayside as I let myself be consumed by thoughts of the forlorn child I left behind. Even knowing full well that he has most likely moved on and doesn’t even remember his own mother’s face let alone that he has reduced her day to guilt ridden amblings. Between squalls, downpours and hailstorms, I set out to check for damage in my yard…the first of many amblings. Branches and leaves littered the lawn. The beds that had been “weed free” thanks to a Mother’s Day gift from my chickens and my sweetie were once again bearing a 5 o’clock green shadow. And then, out of the corner of my eye, my chive plants caught my eye. They were filling in again. There were even tiny little buds at their tips. And there, behind them, the first little blossoms on my climbing rose bush. So pink. So tiny. And further on, my herb boxes were starting to fill out. The oregano was almost spilling over the side. It was at that moment, trying to decide what I could make for dinner that would use up some oregano, when I put my worries about my sweet boy out of my mind and focused on something else.


While humming about to Summertime (wishful thinking) and stirring my marinara sauce, the phone rang. I picked it up and heard my out-of-breath boy say, “Hi Mom. How are you doing?” (Do you see how I’ve trained him to always, always ask me how I am before saying anything else? I mean, what could be more important than finding out how your mother is doing?) “I’m good. How are you doing? Are you having fun?” And then in a tone of pure, genuine joy he says to me all at once, “Oh, Mom, it’s so fun. We just had dinner and we got to make our own hamburgers and we had rice crispy treats and Lay’s. And we get to have cabin time and we named our cabin. And now we get to do singing and have a campfire. It’s so fun. And the weather’s been perfect. Cold but clear. I can even see blue sky now. It’s so much fun, Mom.” As he’s speaking to me I find myself trying to swallow the lump in my throat so relieved I am that he’s having a fabulous time. Do you see what motherhood does to us? One minute we’re crying with them because they’re sad. The next minute we’re crying because they’re happy. I know that somewhere along the way I’d been warned that the process of letting them go wouldn’t be easy.

I’m so grateful that my guy spends his school days under the caring attention of an extraordinarily gifted educator. One who also happens to be my friend. And one who, in her infinite wisdom, knew I needed that phone call.

A Marinara Sauce to Lighten a Heavy Mind
Adapted from Marinara Sauce, Pasta and Co. By Request

I’ve been making this marinara sauce for years. The recipe comes from Seattle’s original take-out foodshop, Pasta and Co. I really haven’t made any changes to it other than using fresh herbs when I have them and sometimes I’ll cut the wine in half and use chicken broth for the other half. Just cuz. This is a perfect sauce to make on a weeknight. It’s super quick and you can use it so many ways. This particular night I served it over spinach raviolis but you could put it over straight pasta or saute up some chicken and spoon the sauce over that. Truth be told, my kids weren’t thrilled with the ravioli choice but they scooped up the sauce and ate it like soup….it’s that good. Also, one last note, this sauce should have a bright, almost tangy flavor. It’s not meant to taste like a slow cooked one but feel free to add a pinch of sugar if it’s a little too tangy. PS: This sauce freezes beautifully so feel free to double it and stick some away. I rarely do but maybe you’re more organized than me.

3 tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp dried basil or 1 1/2 tbsp fresh
3/4 tsp dried oregano or 1 1/2 tbsp fresh
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups dry white wine (or 1 cup white wine and 1 cup chicken broth)
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes (sometimes I use diced if that’s what I have on hand)
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
optional: 1/2 tsp sugar

In a large, heavy saucepan, over medium heat, saute basil, oregano, red pepper flakes and garlic in olive oil for 1 to 2 minutes. Be careful not to brown the garlic.

Add wine (and chicken broth, if using) and simmer for 10-12 minutes until all the alcohol has evaporated.

Add tomatoes. Cover partially. Simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Taste the sauce. Add salt to taste. Decide if you need to add a bit of sugar to mellow the acidity of the tomatoes and round out the sauce. If you do add the sugar, stir it in and simmer 1 to 2 minutes longer.


Yield: 4 cups

PS: If you’re looking for the cookie recipe, click here.

All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010


  1. Courtney Cook Hopp says:

    Ahh . . . sweet boy. I can just see it, and I would be right there with you.

  2. Melinda says:

    That was the sweetest story. I am all welled up. You have such a wonderful way with the written word as well as the beautiful photography you add to your entries. You are helping me realize to enjoy every simple, ordinary moment we have with our children. The time flies by so quickly. Thank you!

  3. Sis…I know you'd be right there with me since we have the same genetic issue of heavy maternal guilt.

    Melinda, Thank you so much for your kind comment. I'm so glad you've enjoyed my posts. And yes, the time does fly by….."sigh"