Saturday, October 24, 2009

Spaghetti Sauce 101

So, this is blatant copying. Well the format at least, the recipe is a family favorite. Pioneer Woman does it all the time, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. I wanted to share our family recipe for spaghetti sauce, or as some of those from Italian decent would call "gravy." The recipe comes from my step-grandmother, Nana Vita. She was a lovely old woman. Ok, perhaps she was a little crotchety. Alright, a lot crotchety, but the woman could could. Nana Vita would make this sauce all the time when we visited her house. As she was nearing the end of her life, my mom politely asked for the recipe, and Nana Vita would constantly rebuff my mom. Then my mom went to a little less polite and said, "If you don't teach me how to make this soon, you're going to die and your son will never eat his favorite meal again!" Way to make nice with the old lady mom. The tactic, however crass, worked and my mom was taught the secret recipe. She then passed the recipe to me. The key, I have learned over the years, is to be patient, and let this sauce cook, forever. I learned this during one batch I made one evening, and fell asleep while it was cooking. I woke up the next day to the house smelling amazing, and the sauce tasting the best I had ever made. If you want to eat it at night, you have to start first thing in the morning. I suggest even making it one morning, letting it cook all day, cool, refrigerate, and then warm it up again the next day. Then it is pretty close to amazing!

Enough blabber, let's get to the cooking!!

First, the ingredients.

Onion, garlic, olive oil, one large can of crushed tomatoes, one small can of tomato past, one small can of tomato sauce (my cans are bigger as I am making a double batch here), fresh basil, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley flakes, one package Italian sausage, and about 1 1/2lbs of ground beef. Not pictured are eggs, salt, pepper, oregano and sugar.

Dice the onion

Peel, then mince the garlic. For a single batch I use 3-4 cloves for the sauce and 3-4 cloves for the meatballs.

Saute onions and garlic in a good amount of olive oil (few tbls)

Them because Vita did it this way, as a heaping 1/3cup of sugar, salt, pepper and oregano to the can of crushed tomatoes (remember, I'm making a double batch).

After the onions and garlic are soft, add the crushed tomatoes with its extras, plus the paste and sauce to the pan. Then fill up the can from the crushed tomatoes with water, and put that in as well. Add about 7-8 basil leaves and bring sauce to a simmer.
Now it is time to get the meat ready. For the meatballs, to the ground beef add two eggs, the minced garlic, about a tbls or more of parsley flakes, 3/4c bread crumbs, 3/4c Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

Mix with your hands until all the ingredients are distributed evenly, but don't overwork you meat as that will make the meatballs tough.

Sometimes I add a little water to my meatballs to make them nice and moist. By the end they should look like this.

While I am mixing the meatballs, I have generally already started browning the sausage in a generous amount of olive oil. I usually make a test meatball and fry it up, just to make sure my seasonings are good and everything tastes good.

Once the sausages are done browning on all sides, add then to the sauce.
Roll your ground beef mixture into the meatball size of your choice, I go kind of medium-sized.

The brown your meatballs in the same pan as the sausage.

Then add them to the pan.

When you are done, the pan is gonna be filled to the top. Don't worry, this will change. As it cooks down, you'll lose a couple inches, and that's what you want.

While you are cooking, you're going to notice some grease/fat accumulating on the top of the sauce.

Go ahead and skim that off with a spoon. In general I save the tomato sauce can for this skimming and often fill it up with excess grease.

Like, I said, this sauce needs to cook ALL DAY, for you to get the best results. See how it has cooked way down, concentrating the goodness of the sauce.

Boil yourself up a pound of pasta, my fave is is cavatappi, a curly pasta with a tube in the middle and ridges on the outside, because it holds lots of sauce! Today we only had rigatoni, which works just fine. It was actually more than fine - it was amazing!

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