Monday, October 11, 2010

Food=Memory:Spaghetti Sauce

This sauce came into my family via my Grandma Eda. She worked for an organization in NYC that helped new immigrants. According to my mother she was given this recipe from an Italian lady, either a colleague or a new immigrant. My guess is the former, because this style of sauce--lots of tomatoes and ground beef--is much more Italian American than pure Italian.

In any case, this was a frequent dish on Saturdays when I was growing up, and my brother and I always looked forward to it. Later, it was one of the first dishes that I cooked on my own as a teenager.

When I got to college, I managed to make this occasionally for friends even when we lived in the dorms. It doesn't take much equipment and it can easily stretch to feed any sized crowd. And I've been cooking it ever since, both because I love it and because it is so quick and easy to put together even on a weeknight.

SC loves this dish. Now I need to teach HER to cook it before she goes off  to college in a few years.
I don't knowif she'll ever cook it on her own, but I hope that she will, and think of it, as I do--as the taste of home.   

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce 
This is the basic recipe as I learned it from my mother. I vary it endlessly depending on what sort of tomato products I have in the house. I'm not giving portions for the seasonings, because it's really something you need to do to taste.

2 yellow onions
1 green pepper (you can use other colors too)
1 pound of ground beef

1 large (28 oz) can of whole tomatoes
2 6 oz cans of tomato paste

Place the ground beef in a frying pan and brown it on all sides. Put it in a large pot or dutch oven.
Wipe most of the fat from the pan.

Slice the onions into rings and the peppers into strips and cook them in the frying pan until the onions turn translucent and the peppers begin to soften. Add them to the ground beef.
Add the whole tomatoes, both cans of tomato paste and 12 oz of water--fill each paste can with water and use it to remove any excess paste as you add the water to the sauce.
Simmer for at least 1 hour. (Cover partially or use a splatter shield)
Add a small amount of oregano and some minced garlic to the sauce. Stir and taste. Add more as needed.
The Man likes to add a little sugar to the sauce to help offset the tomato acidity. I never did this in the past, and use less than he does when I'm the one seasoning the sauce. 

Serve over your favorite spaghetti or pasta. We like high fiber spaghetti like Ronzoni makes, or rotini with this.

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