Growing up, Sunday mornings always brought the smell of my Sicilian mom’s tomato sauce which she started bright and early because we would eat our big Sunday meal at noon. She started out by frying salt pork until it rendered its fat, and then she would fry Italian sausage and country style ribs in it, followed by onions. Sometimes she would add bracciole, a very thin beef cutlet rolled up with her Italian bread crumbs and tied with string. Next would come the tomato puree with salt, pepper, and fresh basil, followed by meatballs which she had fried separately in olive oil. Once all the meat was in, it would simmer throughout the morning until the pork, in particular, would just fall off the bone.
My mom’s sauce is fabulous but a bit more time-consuming than the simple marinara sauce I make these days. My sauce is getting down to Italian basics—olive oil, onions, garlic, tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. You can cook up a batch after you get home from work in about 30 minutes. Why anyone would prefer to just open a jar of bottled sauce when you can have something this delicious, this fast is beyond me. If you aren’t averse to cutting and chopping an onion and some garlic and sautéing them, you’ll have a tasty meal in short order. While the sauce is simmering and the pasta is cooking, make a salad; and your family will have a wonderful home-cooked meal.
When my daughters were in high school, they were on the swim team which had a tradition of feeding all the swimmers and coaches, including their opponents, after a home meet. In order to feed the crowd of close to 100, we parents would sign up to contribute Italian pasta, desserts, and beverages. I was new to all this, but I immediately signed up to cook and bring 3 lbs. of pasta which was one of the assignments. After asking one of the more seasoned moms if I should make lasagna or baked ziti (wanted it to be special), she told me that the pasta should be uniform—just ziti, penne, or mostaccioli and that I should just buy 3 jars of bottled sauce to pour over it because that’s what all the other parents did. I smiled, thanked her, and thought, “A jar of Ragú? Not in this lifetime.”
On the day of the meet, I made a huge batch of sauce and cooked up 3 lbs. of mostaccioli. I figured at least my two daughters and several of their friends could enjoy it rather than the other pasta with bottled sauce. I lovingly layered it in a large pan with freshly grated Romano cheese and brought it to the meet where one of the dads who was manning the food table took it from me. As I watched, he turned and dumped my offering into a huge vat of other pasta and returned my pan to me! While I stood there in stunned disbelief, he started stirring it all in with a paddle not much smaller than a rowing oar. Aack!!
You probably won’t be surprised when I tell you that I signed up for desserts after that.
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 5 to 6 large cloves garlic, minced
- 28-oz. can tomato puree
- Approx. 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 to 1 tsp. dried basil (see Notes below for substituting fresh basil for dried)
- 1 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1/2 lb. hamburger, optional
Fry onion in olive oil over medium heat in 3-qt. sauce pan for approximately 8 to 10 minutes. When onion has softened and is starting to turn brown, add garlic and sauté for 30 to 60 seconds until garlic turns light golden. Immediately add can of tomato puree and water, stirring to blend. Add basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a bubble and turn heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes. If sauce is too thick, add a little more water to desired consistency.
If you want to make a meat sauce, in a separate frying pan, brown a half pound of hamburger, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Drain fat and add hamburger to sauce.
If you double the sauce, do not double the salt. When I double the sauce, I usually add 2 tsp. salt, and it’s plenty. As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea not to double the salt when doubling most recipes.
Source: A frantastic original
Substituting Dry Herbs for Fresh and Fresh for Dry
Q – How much fresh herbs or spices should be used in place of dried and vice-versa?
A – In general, you can substitute one teaspoon of dried herbs for one tablespoon of fresh herbs and vice-versa (which is a one-to-three ratio, by the way). But let taste be your guide. Packaged dried herbs start out with a stronger taste than fresh herbs, but lose their pungency as they age. So if you’ve recently purchased the container, you might want to use a light hand, or add a bit more if the herb is older. When possible, use fresh ingredients to gain the most flavor.