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On the spaghetti trail....

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by JR, Feb 22, 2007.

  1. JR

    JR Active Member

    My family is of English/Irish/Scottish descent but making a good homemade pasta tomato sauce is one of those seemingly simple but ultimately challenging cooking tasks--like the perfect roast chicken.

    A third generation Italian-American tries fo track down the recipe for her mother's sauce.


    To understand why I made my sauce the way I did, I needed to start closer to home, with my mother. She has been making spaghetti sauce for almost 60 years, from a recipe she learned from her mother, who had been making it with American ingredients since the early 1900s.


    Getting a recipe out of my mother is like trying to get a 4-year-old to explain what happened at day care. She’s not one of those annoying and cagey matrons of the kitchen who build their power by dangling the promise of a secret ingredient that will never be revealed. She just cooks by hand, so she’s never really able to articulate every step.

    Great story and included in a sidebar are recipes for the sauce and meatballs.
  2. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Really, the ingredients are going to be very similar in any recipe. I like making this in August with the most sun-warmed fresh tomatoes. I make a lot of it and freeze it.

    A couple things I do that seem to make a difference.

    1.) I let simmer for at least five hours.

    2.) Roasted pork neck bones seem to work best.

    3.) Some people use wine. I use an Italian fruit condiment of cooked grape must, which is the unfermented stuff of which balsamic vinegar is made:

  3. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Oh yeah. Be sure to carmelize the onions and peppers.
  4. JR

    JR Active Member


    When I used to make my own sauce, I'd always include carrots and celery as part of the base.

    I used to grow three types of tomatoes including roma (plum). They make the best sauce because they have the most pulp.

    A good basic recipe is in that old 80's standby The Silver Palate Cookbook.

    Some people add a bit of milk to their sauce to counteract the acidity of the tomatoes.

    I like the roasted pork neck bones.
  5. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Yes, I do this sometimes at the end if the sauce is too acidic. However, if you carmelize the onions and peppers, the natural sugars the process brings out usually will mellow the tomatoes. Of course it varies from batch to batch because each load of tomatoes will be different, even from the same farm, depending on how much sun they got and at which point of ripeness they were picked. Thus one must tinker toward the end.
  6. JR

    JR Active Member

    Like I said, it's like roasting a chicken.

    It seems like a simple task --which it is--but you're always playing with techniques for the PERFECT roast chicken.
  7. Flying Headbutt

    Flying Headbutt Moderator Staff Member

    A homemade sauce is the one thing I've never been very good at making. Do you let the tomato seeds stay in?

    Likewise when I sometimes give out recipes, people always ask how much of this and that goes into it and a lot of times I just say however much looks good, since I don't keep track of how much of this and that I use on some things. My mom's homemade chocolate chip cookie recipe and other recipes is a lot of the same way. Sure as hell turns out good that way though.
  8. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I do. I don't peel the tomatoes, either. But then I cook the sauce a lot longer than most people do and that stuff tends to dissolve.

    Out of season, I use Redpack unpeeled crushed tomatoes.
  9. JR

    JR Active Member

    I take out the seeds but don't usually peel the tomatoes because I'll put the sauce through a food processor at the end--not to puree it but just to breakd down the carrots and celery slightly.
  10. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    My mother, who is Irish but learned from my father's Italian mother, would put all this stuff in a pot and I remember they would use neck bones and it would seemingly take forever to make. We always got excited when spaghetti was for supper, but it took so much work that we would be lucky if my mother would make it twice a month - this was in the 60s and you probably didn't have stuff where you could preserve the sauce as easily.
  11. tommyp

    tommyp Member

    Sorry...as a second generation American-Italian, the carrots and celery have no place in any type of pasta sauce.

    And let's kill this right off the bat: it's sauce, not gravy!

    Gravy is for roast beef.
  12. spaceman

    spaceman Active Member

    "Heh, come over here, kid, learn something. You never know, you might have to cook for 20 guys someday. You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn't stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh…? And a little bit o' wine. An' a little bit o' sugar, and that's my trick."
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