My Mother's Tomato Sauce

I'm a horrible Italian, or at least that's what my wife says. She isn't wrong. The reason she says that is because I don't really like pasta with red sauce. If I'm out at an Italian restaurant, I will never order it. I may order something with red sauce like chicken Parmesan but I don't want the pasta. I would much rather have some oil or butter based sauce with a protein. That being said, we eat pasta with red sauce almost once a week in our household. Hypocrite much, Dan?

The reason I'm willing to do this is because of the sauce itself. About once every other month, I make a double batch of my mother's pasta sauce. We have it for dinner that night and then I freeze roughly seven to eight more portions and freeze them. Then all I have to do is take some out, warm it up, and boil some pasta. It's a very quick dinner that's both filling and tastes great. If I want to make add a little substance, we'll have a salad and/or homemade bread.

I've been eating this sauce since I was a kid and it's really one of the only red sauces I like. Most restaurants aren't making their own sauce. It's either jarred or comes in a bucket and then warmed up. I don't mind that so much as part of a sandwich or having a small amount ladled on to a fried chicken breast, but I don't want to eat just that with noodles. Throwing a meatball on top isn't going to cut it either.

What I've done over time is make a few tiny tweaks to a sauce that I love for our personal preferences. I've never added or removed entire ingredients, the tweaks are just reducing or increasing some of the spices a bit. I also finely chop the sausage links instead of leaving them in larger pieces. This creates a meat sauce that spreads the meat out for a bite consistency that we enjoy. Here is the written version of the recipe, but please note it's more of an approximation:

My Mother's Tomato Sauce
Servings: 10
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Start to Finish Time: 4 Hours 20 Minutes

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage links, cut into thirds and pierced a few times with a fork
12 ounces tomato paste
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
28 ounces tomato puree
28 ounces water
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
3 tablespoons dried parsley

Directions
1. Heat oil in a 4 quart (or larger) dutch oven or stock pot over medium high heat.
2. Add sausage and cook for about 10 minutes, turning frequently. You aren't trying to cook the sausage all the way through, just looking to render the some of the fat. Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside. Lower heat to medium.
3. Add garlic to the pan drippings. Add the tomato paste and spread across the bottom of the pan. After about 1 minute, start to push the tomato paste around to pick up all the drippings and absorb the oil.
4. When the tomato paste is about 2 shades darker, add the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, and water. If you bought 28 ounce cans of both, you can fill each halfway and swirl them around to get all of the tomato out. Stir to combine.
5. Sprinkle the remainder of the ingredients across the top of the tomato mixture. Stir to combine.
6. Add the sausages back into the pot.
7. Reduce heat, cover almost all the way (leave about a 1" gap on one side) and simmer for 3 to 5 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so.

Notes
1. You can halve or double this recipe and it'll come out great.
2. If you want a whole piece of meat with your meal, portion the sausage pieces out.
3. If you want more of a meat sauce, take the sausages out about 30 minutes before being done, mince them down, add it all back to the pot, and stir to combine.
4. Personally, I prefer a less sweet sauce so I use 1 teaspoon of sugar for a double batch.

Do you have a tomato sauce recipe that you REALLY love? I'd be willing to try it so please share them in the comments or send me an email.


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