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My Spaghetti Marinara

My Spaghetti Marinara
Photo taken by me.

My first cook book was the Commonsense Cookery Book which was the high school text for the compulsory cooking classes all girls had to endure back in the dark ages when I went to school. I remember the first cooking class I had as a 13 year old in which we made savory mince. It was a glutinous inedible mess. Those classes were unspeakably dreadful, as were the  compulsory sewing classes.

The delight I take in cooking probably comes, as it does with most foodies, from watching a grandmother or mother bake, helping out at the appropriate times, and licking the bowl as part of the process. What has always staggered me is that my school’s compulsory cooking classes didn’t turn me off cooking for life. It certainly did with sewing. To this day I refuse to even sew on a button.

I threw away the Commonsense Cookery Book decades ago as a hated reminder of those awful days.  It was a foolish thing to do as this cookbook was a treasure trove of old- fashioned quintessentially English recipes. I know of at least three or four recipes that I want to try. They were, of course, contained in that book. It means I’m going to have to explore Berkelow’s or Glebe Books in an attempt to track down a second hand version. The extraordinary thing is it’s still in print.

The second cookbook in my life was the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook. I gave it to His Nibs as a wedding present much to his amusement as well as that of our friends. He become a reasonably good short order cook, and used to make an apricot souffle which was delicious. Some 40 years later the same tattered and food stained copy of the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook complete with imperial  measurements and notes in the margin, is dragged from the shelf for occasional use.

This Marinara Sauce originated in the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook, but like most recipes I use there are quite a few amendments and additions made over the decades. But like all Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook recipes I’ve ever tried, it is fail safe.


  1. 200 grams green prawns
  2. 100 grams baby octopus
  3.  100 grams of scallops
  4. 100 grams smoked mussels (you can buy these in a container usually swimming in marinade, rinse them thoroughly before using them.  You need to get rid of the marinade flavour as it can be very vinegary,  but these smoked mussels are to die for).
  5.  100 grams of fish (your choice). I use flake. It is strong, doesn’t disintegrate during the cooking process, and takes on the flavours of the other seafood.
  6. 30 grams butter
  7.  Red Onion, chopped finely
  8. 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  9.  1 can crushed tomatoes
  10. 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  11. 1 cup stock
  12. 1 dessert spoon sugar
  13. tablespoons parsley, chopped
  14. 1 tablespoon  basil, chopped
  15. 1 dessert spoon mint, chopped
  16.  400 grams spaghetti ( I have to confess when I made this the other night I used an entire packet of spaghetti, all 750 grams, and there was plenty of sauce. There were five adults who had had a very long day, and we were all slightly peckish).


  1. Chop up all the seafood ingredients into small bite size bits with the exception of the mussels and the scallops.
  2. Melt the butter and add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft.
  3. Add the can of crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and stock. Bring to the boil then simmer until the sauce has been reduced and started to thicken. This should take about 10-15 minutes. Add the sugar (it tempers the acidity of the tomatoes).
  4. Add your seafood, starting with the chopped octopus, a minute later add chopped fish and prawns, then finally add the scallops and mussels. All up it will take 3 minutes or so. Turn off the heat and add the herbs stirring them through the sauce, leaving some extra parsley as pretty garnish.
  5.  Pasta should be cooked in accordance with the instructions on the packet, or if fresh from shops such as the Pasta House in Leichhardt, you will find that it takes only 3 minutes of so to cook. Drain the pasta. Serve the sauce over the pasta.
  6. Add parsley garnish.

I know that it is not de rigueur to add cheese to a marinara dish, but there is always some ground Parmesan cheese on my table for those who like to add it into the mix. We also have lovely local crusty bread to go with it.

On the matter of wine His Nibs says to have a chilled Rose if you’re having this dish in the summer.  In the winter he tends to choose a pinot noir.

This photo was the finished dish before all five of us fell on it. There wasn’t so much as a strand of spaghetti left. I know. Oink! Oink!

Enjoy. We did.

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