Friday, November 11, 2011

my mama's sauce

so let's talk about childhood memories for a second. childhood memories and the most wonderful mama the world has ever known. my dad was always the chef of the family, and what a chef he is! i have him to thank for my adventurous palate and love of all things edible (thank him or curse him, some days i'm not sure which). i never ate the things normal kids ate like macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets. i mean, i am sure i DID eat those things, but my real food memories are of the sweet and sour pork my dad used to whip up for us in our tiny apartment kitchen with the mustard yellow burlap walls and wood panneling. he had a mini deep fryer before it was cool and a wok and he would whip up this incredible, authentic, dinner comepletely from scratch that i can still taste if i close my eyes and dream about it.

no doubt about it, my dad was, and still is, an outstanding cook. he knows it, i know it, everyone knows it, and the fact that he lives 3000 miles away and i can't have his roast beef and yorkshire puddings or his apple pie every day is bullshit.

so my dad has a real talent in the kitchen, that much we've established, but my mama?? she had a few tricks up her sleeve herself, and this sauce, above any other food memories i have from when i was little, evokes so much sense memory for me that sometimes when i make it (usually after i have consumed the rest of the bottle of wine for which the recipe calls) i find myself standing at the stove with tears in my eyes. god i miss her. i miss her every minute of my every day. the first time i whipped out the yellowed notbook page where she had written this recipe, complete with her signature curly haired happy face at the end, i silently begged her to help me make it right, so afraid that it wouldn't come out the same and that i would never, ever have this sauce again.

well, my mama, as usual, came through. she watched over my shoulder every step of the way and held my hand when i poured in the wine knowing that i wouldn't know how much she meant when she wrote "LOTS OF RED WINE" unless she showed me. and by the way, when she said "lots", she wasn't messing around.

when i make it now, i don't need to beg for her help anymore, but i can always, always feel her there with me, and i know in my heart that she is sitting right there in my kitchen at the table, watching me make her sauce, having a glass of wine herself and feeling the love.

i've made this sauce for so many people i love and i have shared the recipe with the people i love who live too far away for me to make it for them and there isn't a single person who hasn't told me this wasn't the BEST sauce they have ever had. try it and let me know what you think...and if you're afraid you might not make it just right, don't worry, my mama will help you if you just ask.

My Mama's Sauce
***first things first, open the wine and pour yourself a big, fat glass of it, take a swig and carry on***
  • 4-5 strips of bacon, chopped
  • 4 links of spicy or sweet italian sausage (i use a combo of both), removed from their casings
  • 1 lb. ground beef (lean is fine)
  • 1 lb. ground pork (sometimes i just buy the meatloaf mix and dump it all in)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • about 3 large carrots, grated
  • 4-5 big cloves of garlic, chopped or minced
  • 1 packet of onion soup mix (i use lipton)
  • 1 can of white clam sauce (trust me)
  • 1 28 oz can of whole, peeled tomatoes (crush the tomatoes with your hands)
  • 1 medium can of tomato puree
  • 2 small cans of tomato paste
  • 1 TBS dried oregano
  • 1TBS dreid basil (or you can use fresh, but i always use dried for this)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • "LOTS OF RED WINE" (buy a liter. you know, the one that is the size of 2 bottles? i like barefoot cabernet)
  • lots of sliced mushrooms (**see note)
brown up your bacon in a really big stock pot (i tried to use my dutch oven and ran out of room. don't be like me).
once the bacon is cooked, remove it from tthe pot and set it on paper towels. do not remove the bacon drippings from the pot.
next, brown up the rest of your meats, one type at a time, draining the fat after each type of meat and transferring to paper towels. i usually just put a bunch of paper towels in the bottom of a huge bowl and dump the meats in there on top of each other once i brown them.

once you are finished browning the meats, remove all but about 1 TBS of the drippings and add the onions and carrots to the pot to cook and soften for about 3 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

right now, your house smells AMAZING.

add the meat back to the pot followed by your whole tomatoes (crushed), puree and paste and give it a good stir. then, add the packet of onion soup mix and the can of white clam sauce. next, add your spices and your sugar, turn the heat down and let the sauce simmer for about a half an hour.

now here is the fun part, after the half hour is up, take that liter of cabernet you've been sipping from (because honestly, you cannot make this sauce without drinking red wine. it's actually impossible.) and pour a whole bunch of it into your sauce. there is no exact amount other than "lots" but i have found that approximately a 750ml bottle's worth usually works best. 750ml is the size of a regular bottle of wine, btw, which i am sure you already knew, so pretty much, pour a bottle of wine in there, or half of the big one i told you to buy in the first place cuz face it, you already drank half of it anyway, and if you didn't? why are we friends?).

now stir it all up, pop the lid on and continue to let it simmer for at least an hour or two or three.....about a half hour before you are ready to eat, turn off the heat and lay at least a carton (i use two cuz i love em) of sliced mushrooms on top of the sauce, then put the lid back on. the mushrooms cook just enough from the heat of the sauce and ** no, you cannot be all "ew! i don't like mushrooms! can i leave them out??? gross!" because....well...because my mama said so. and if you DO leave the mushrooms out, i do not want to hear about it. in fact, if you don't like mushrooms, make something else. i am sad that you will miss out on this, but they really are very important. and amazing.

whenever you're ready, cook up your noodles (spaghetti, linguini and fettucini work best), top them with a TON of sauce and some grated parm if you're feeling crazy and then, go forth and make your own family memories.

p.s. it freezes awesome too! is there nothing this sauce can't do? yum!


Anonymous said...

I've actually been thinking about making this for a few weeks now. I'm so glad you posted it so I have somewhere to always come back and make sure I'm doing it correctly.
Now I just need a weekend I'm not on-call so I can enjoy the other half of the bottle!

Lauren said...

Rach I'm totally going to make this! I don't have any of my moms recipes. :(