The Sauce - (also known as spaghetti sauce)

I grew up eating spaghetti for dinner, but now I'm married to a 1/4 Italian boy whose Italian heritage is pretty high up in things of importance. We don't eat much spaghetti because spaghetti is a type of pasta and we're more partial to fettuccine and mostaccioli in this house. Thus, we have "pasta and sauce" for dinner... or if you're my kids "pasta and noodles". Confused yet?

It's about to get more confusing.

So in this land of spaghetti-less spaghetti we have The Sauce. It is even spoken with capital letters...always, and with great respect. The Sauce, is the healer of broken hearts, mender of bad days, and soother of souls. I'm not sure if the recipe started on the Mattuzzio side or the Gianco side, but one of those esteem-able Nonas started cooking her meat sauce in the oven instead of on the stove, and life for their descendents changed forever.

This is how I learned to make it...I think. It sort of morphs into different versions depending on who you ask. One Uncle puts tri tip in his, another cooks it all day long, Nona herself puts various things in it depending on the mood, but the basics are always the same.

1. There are always meatballs and they are never made from a mix or bought frozen.
2. You cook it in the oven in a roasting pan.
3. You cook it at a low heat for a "fairly" long time.

This is The Sauce I had to learn to make when I married into the family, and this is The Sauce I make whenever my husband is extra tired or discouraged. He'd prefer I make it every day, but I'm afraid I'm not Italian enough to enjoy it that often.

Step 1.
Put a lb or so of Italian sausage in a roaster like this and put it in the oven for awhile (I put it on broil because I make meatballs fast)
Step 2:
The meatballs. The ratio is 1 lb of meat to 1 egg and 1 onion. So something like this:

1 lb ground beef/veal
1 egg
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves
bread crumbs
salt and pepper

Toss handful of bread crumbs over meat, throw some salt and pepper in and let it sit. Puree onion and garlic in food processor (add some basil if you feel like it), crack an egg in. You don't want chunks, so think egg garlic smoothie (yummy). Pour the blended egg mixture into your bowl of meat. Mix well...I mean well. It's an important step, and I'm not even sure why exactly, except that they taste so much better if you mix it past the point you think you can't possibly mix it any better. Add some more bread crumbs till consistency holds a ball shape. Form into meatballs and put in the roaster along with the sausage that you've now taken out of the oven.
Jim's mom also throws in some pork ribs if they're around. These cost a dollar or two and add a ton of flavor. Conversely you could throw in a chicken wing or thigh, or any other piece of meat that strikes your fancy (this is like anti-vegetarian food).

Step 3.
Gently pour a little water in your pan of meat, and put it back into the oven on broil. Give it about 15 min and it should look something like this.

See all that flavorful broth in between the meatballs? That is going to give your sauce some stellar flavor.

Step 4.
Tomato sauce. This is the hardest part for me because our tomato sauce options here on the west coast suck. Truly. Most of the ones we have are super acidic and very tart, ideally you want something smooth and tomatoey tasting (yeah, that's not a word). If you can find Gia Russa, it's is what you're supposed to use, but the closest thing I have found out here is this.

You use the big #10 can for this recipe. Or you can use three or four 28 oz cans.
The original recipe also calls for a small can of tomato paste, but I never put it in because of my aforementioned problems with tomato products out here. Also rinse out your can with a half can of water (approx), this is important because it will let you know when the sauce is done.

Step 4.
Add some torn basil leaves if you have some, or dried if you don't. Another trick is to throw in the leftover rinds from your Parmesan cheese. Some fresh ground pepper and a pinch of salt and it's ready to go in the oven.

Step 5.
Cook at 300 for 3-4 hours stirring it whenever you walk by or think about it (don't you just love how specific Italian recipes are). You know it's done when it reaches the right consistency. When you start out it should be very watery and definitely not anything resembling what you get in a jar. You know it's done when it's thick and bubbly, and you can see the level has gone down in the pan. Jim likes his really thick, I like mine a bit thinner. There is no right or wrong here.

Step 6.
Serve over your favorite pasta (quinoa spirals in this picture), grate some fresh cheese over it and enjoy.

Wow. To die for. I should warn you though...unless you are a true blooded descendent from my husband's family, you probably won't ever think it's as good as they do. It is literally nectar of the gods for them.

I still think it's pretty tasty though.

1 lb Italian Sausage
1 lb ground beef/veal
1 egg
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves
bread crumbs
salt and pepper
2 28oz cans tomato sauce
1 6oz can tomato paste

Brown sausage in oven or stove top. Toss handful of bread crumbs over meat, add desired amount of salt and pepper. Puree onion and garlic, add egg. Pour over meat. Mix well, add bread crumbs till consistency holds ball shape. Form into meatballs and put in a roaster. Add sausage. Cook in oven at 300 degrees for approx 30 min or until meatballs are lightly browned. Cut sausage into one inch chunks. Pour in cans of tomato sauce and paste, plus one full can of water. Throw in some basil and a chicken thigh if they're on hand. Add a little salt and pepper. Cook in oven stirring every 15-20 min for 3 hours or until sauce reaches desired consistency. Serve over favorite pasta.
4 sprinkles of fairy dust:

I've only had it once and it was pretty ridiculously good.

I'm going to have to try this again. I did it once and didn't really do it right but it was still very good. I love that it cooks in a slow oven. That is interesting about adding the parmesan cheese rinds. Marco's grandmother added hers to the pasta water.

Mmmm, I am going to have to try this. I have always said that I must really be Italian, as I love authentic Italian food! I could eat bowlfuls of sauce like this and I don't even need the pasta!

Thanks for sending me the link. Yum! I can't wait to make some.