Thursday, March 10, 2016

Mangia! Mangia! Who wants dinner?

I have a foodie friend and neighbor. He is part owner in a few restaurants. He is building another restaurant a few miles from where we live. One of the things his company publishes are cookbooks, and he often gives me a variety of cookbooks which he has had published.  Every year he hosts a neighborhood shindig where we get together and have a homemade pizza fest cooking delightful custom made pizzas in his outdoor wood fired oven. He is a lover of Italian food and likes it when I tell stories of my Italian heritage. He's been asking me for my recipe for tomato sauce. Call it whatever you want...spaghetti sauce, pasta sauce, Italian sauce, gravy, tomato manna from the Gods, etc. No matter what you call it, to me and my family we call it delicious comfort food. To any self respecting Italian or person of Italian heritage it is how you show love for your family, (both immediate and extended) --by cooking delicious food for them.

outdoor brick oven

     So, thanks to this enterprising and one of a kind neighbor, I have written down the recipe that I learned by heart from my Mother and my Nonna Lucia Fastiggi. And...just to set the record strait according to Lucy you're eating macaroni, not pasta, and you put gravy over it not sauce!! (Also...she always carried a pocketbook, say pocabook, not a purse.) Like any died in the wool person from New York or New Jersey she and Grandpa happily retired to Florida, with a few thousand other Easterners and lived happily ever after till the good Lord called them home.

     The one thing I have added to the recipe is the use of my home canned, home grown, pesticide free garden tomatoes instead of using store bought canned tomatoes (but feel free to use that if you do not have a garden). I always plant about a dozen Roma and other assorted types of tomato plants in my vegetable garden. It is an annual ritual at the end of summer to bottle all the delicious tomatoes that we have been blessed with. I use a water bath and add salt and lemon juice to each quart bottled. Nothing beats our home grown tomatoes. You can even make this sauce with fresh tomatoes but you must peel/skin all the tomatoes first, then make the sauce, which would make the process take up most of the day (but your taste buds will thank you later). 
Roma tomatoes

Please top your spaghetti with real actual Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese. Don't ever let me catch you sprinkling on that disgusting stuff that comes in a green can that is labeled cheese. Go to a deli or the deli section of the grocery store and get real grated/shredded cheese (yes even Wal-Mart carries it in the deli). Even better, go to a place like Costo and buy a delicious hunk of cheese and grate it yourself. I'm telling you a delicious chunk of cheese like that does not last more than a week in my house. Guess I've raised some good little Italian offspring around here. 
Real parmesan cheese!

 Grandma Lucy's Spaghetti Sauce

2 quarts of whole or quartered canned tomatoes (or use 2, approx. 16 oz., cans whole tomatoes)
1 tsp salt
3 peppercorns
2 small cans tomato paste
1 chopped onion
4-6 cloves garlic (crushed or diced)
1 tsp Oregano
2-4 bay leaves (remove before serving sauce)
1 tablespoon sugar
Basil, and Italian Seasoning to taste
6-8 qt large dutch oven/saucepan
Italian sausage, meatballs, or braciole (Italian pork roll- pounded/flattened pork chop stuffed with herbs and garlic cloves and tied with string...put it in the pot to cook with the sauce.)

**Make this sauce when you have 2-3 hours to spare because it is best when simmered slowly over an extended period of time.

**If you like chunky tomato sauce leave the tomatoes whole, if you want a smoother texture crush the whole tomatoes in a blender before using.

**If you are using meats, brown in saucepan with the onions and garlic first, then add to the saucepot. Brown meats (if using) and onions and garlic in saucepan. Add a little good olive oil while browning. (Really good olive oil can be found by mail order at Redstone Olive or The Olive Press, if you live in place without a lot of Italian influence and delis like me.)

** For variety you can add chopped green pepper, if your family likes it, or diced porcini mushrooms to the sauce. Occasionally I even add some herbs de provence to the pot.

Into dutch oven add everything listed in the recipe and simmer for at least 2 hours. Serve with any kind of cooked pasta you like. Top with grated cheese. Also can be used to make baked ziti, lasagne, stuffed shells, manicotti, etc. Make sure you have some garlic bread to sop up all the sauce that is left after you eat your spaghetti! 

Mangia! Mangia!

"Life is a combination of magic and pasta." - Federico Fellini

"Everything you see I owe to pasta." - Sophia Loren

Speranza mi da vita - Hope gives me life


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