Monday, July 4, 2016

Mom's short-cut spaghetti sauce

In my youth, mom's spaghetti sauce was made with home-grown giant, pear-shaped, heirloom tomatoes that she canned, and basil my dad grew, as well.  Her sauce would start by browning pork neck bones (which everyone loved to chew on after they came out), hamburger, which would simmer all day, along with a full bulb of chopped garlic.  She always made big batches, and froze some.

In her later years, when she no longer had the homegrown tomatoes, and canning was more work than she could handle, she tried various brands of tomato sauces, and settled on Classico's Tomato Basil.  She insisted, it was the closest to her home-canned.  She also traded in the pork neck-bones for Rinaldi brand Italian Sausage with Fennel, found locally.   We never knew how much flavor the fennel added until we used plain Italian sausage and felt something was missing.

Spaghetti sauces are as varied as there are people on earth who make it.  Some are sweet sauces, some not sweet.  Some kick it up with hot spices, while others prefer various herbs.

Here is the recipe as mom made it in her later years, and which I followed suit with, since I don't have all day to simmer those neck bones.

Ingredients for about 4-5 quarts of complete sauce.  

Mom always made a hearty meat sauce that used one pound of beef per jar of sauce added, and she always used a full package of links (usually 5) to that pot. But, I myself have had to reduce fat, and meat, because of high cholesterol and uric acid, and it comes out fine.  So, I'll often make this with 1.5 to 2 pounds of hamburger, to 3 jars, and even just two links of sausage.

  • 2 Tbsp of olive oil (the kind for sautéing and baking)
  • Rinaldi Italian Sausage with Fennel (3-5 links)
  • 2-3 pounds of hamburger (choose leanest you can afford since there is fat in the sausage)
  • 3 jars of Classico Traditional Tomato Basil
  • One large cooking onion, chopped
  • One full bulb of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp of dried basil, or a good handful of fresh, minced. 
  • 1.5 Tbsp of dried parsley, or small handful of fresh, minced.
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp of black pepper

When I don't have Italian Sausage with Fennel, I crush a heaping Tbsp of fennel seeds and toss in the pot when the hamburger is browning.

No salt is shown in the list, but can be added.  Mom never added salt to the pot because the canned tomatoes have plenty of salt, as does the parmesan cheese, and sausage.

Making the sauce 

  1. Use an over-sized pot (at least 5 quarts). On medium heat, brown the sausage in the olive oil.  This doesn't need to cook thru, but just brown enough to flavor it, and the pot.  Remove from the pot, and onto a plate, mindful, the pork is still raw along with any juices.
  2. Add the hamburger to the pot, and as it is browning, chop the onion and add it.  Mom used to let all the juices dry out and wait for the pot to get brown so she could de-glaze that flavor with the tomatoes when added, but sometimes there is insufficient time.  It's best if most of the liquid has evaporated for when the chopped garlic is added.  
  3. Move the beef from out of the center and drop in the chopped garlic, adding a little olive oil if dry.  DO NOT BURN THE GARLIC, or the sauce is ruined.  The garlic only needs to saute for about two minutes, constantly stirring. This turns it from bitter to sweet. Sometimes, I saute it in a separate small pan and add to the pot. 
  4. Begin adding the 3 jars of sauce.  As each bottle is opened and dumped in, added water to about 1/4 jar full, and shake with the lid to get all the sauce out, and into the pot.  This helps the sauce simmer, by not being too thick. 
  5. Keep at medium until it comes to a slow bubble and reduce to simmer.  Stir with a spatula or other flat utensil to release flavor from bottom of pot. This will need to be done every 10 minutes or so, while the sauce
  6. Add sausage back in whole, and let it cook by simmering. It will release flavor. 
  7. Add in sugar, basil, parsley, pepper. 
  8. Simmer for at least 45 minutes, stirring with flat utensil at least every 10 minutes so it doesn't stick to the pot, but longer will draw more flavor.  Gently fold in the parmesan cheese in the final 15 minutes.  
Sauce is done.  Shut it off, and let it cool on the stove for about an hour, stirring occasionally.  I often do not freeze any until the next day, when it has thickened in the fridge and won't cause steam inside of freezer containers. 

Some images of a past pot of sauce.  In this case, I sautéed a whole bulb of garlic, chopped, in another pan, then added to the hamburger mixture.  Want to know how to peel a whole bulb of garlic in 10 seconds? Watch this short video.

This one was made with no Italian Sausage, so one pound of beef and one pound of ground pork, with sautéed garlic being folded in.  I did not brown the meat for very long so I put the garlic in early.  Scorched garlic will give sauce a really bitter taste.   

Sugar, parmesan cheese, and parsley, waiting to go in.

This is a hearty handful of fresh basil, which is best chopped finely. Grocery stores often have it in the fresh produce section in just the right amount. 

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