Go Do Spaghetti Sauce

[Editor’s Note: Ironically, I was writing this when Eric called his mom to interview her about her handed-down Sugo (The Whole Recipe – Sugo). These sauces are different, but not so much; and both are worth cooking and worth eating… maybe the best two sauces you’ve made.]

I have a “Go To” sauce for spaghetti, been cooking it for years. I got it from Nancy Harmon Jenkins book, The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook. (That’s “diet” as in “cusine, the diet of the Mediterranean culture,” not “diet: to lose weight.”)

“Mita Antolini, my Tuscan neighbor, uses this sauce to dress pasta or gnocchi di patate, little potato dumplings, that she makes for Sunday lunch.” [See full recipe at the end.]
— Nancy Harmon Jenkins

Uncharacteristically, I never transcribed this recipe into my computer files. After I made it a few times from the book, I knew it and just cooked it. Anyway, this is how I cooked it last Friday — I call it “go do” because I just go and do it, varying it a bit each time.

celery and spring onions

I rough chopped a few spring onions and tossed them into my mini-food processor — the Breville “Control Grip.”
I chopped some celery from the top of a head, leaves and all and threw that in.

Normally, I would put in a carrot, but I had two small pasilla chilis I got at the farmers market. This will make the sauce a bit “Southwestern”-Italian for a change of pace. [NOTE] (These are actually the dark green poblano chilis, often called pasilla chilis in the US.).

the Breville Control Grip: chopper/processor, motor and immersion blender

So, I fine chopped those in the mini-processor and got them going in olive oil in my skillet over a very low flame. These will need to cook for a while – at least 15 minutes – until beyond soft. Ideally, the vegetables will disappear into the sauce.

Added some white wine and cooked that down to nearly dry.

Sliced two Niman Ranch Spicy Italian Sausages in half lengthwise, cleared a space in the center of the skillet and added a little olive oil, fried those, cut side down, until browned.

Tomatoes: Normally, I use a can of San Marzano tomatoes, but I have these pickled tomatoes that I canned last fall. Why not process those — basil and peppercorns and garlic and all — in the mini-processor, since I have it out.

Added the tomato sauce and some dried Italian Seasoning, and slowly cooked that down, seasoning with salt and pepper. That sauce is good.

the sugo cooks

The Pasta
When I don’t make pasta or buy fresh pasta, I like thin spaghetti, its very comforting to me. Scanning the Barilla shelf in the supermarket, I saw Spaghetti Rigati. Hmmm. Its thin, has ridges to hold sauce, and I’ve never tried it… three good reasons to buy. For just me and Carol, I use a third of a pound of pasta for a meal. I cooked that, tossed it with the sauce, and served.

That’s darned good. Yum. (Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing about it.) I served it with tomato and cucumber salad with fresh mozzarella balls, dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette, and Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant red wine. Yum. Continue reading

The Whole Recipe — Sugo

Sugo alla South Roanoke Apartment Villages Pool

Every family has a few recipes that are ALWAYS served. For us one of those is a spaghetti sauce that was handed down to my mother almost directly from a buonafide Italian grandmother. It was referenced in a very early Eats article on different kinds of tomato sauces, which even has a comment that echos a very important part of this sauce: you add the tomato paste to the onions and garlic in oil and “fry” the paste a bit to caramelize some of the concentrated sugars before adding the wet tomato sauce and plum tomatoes to simmer.

With this communal nature of recipes in mind I thought it would be interesting to learn more about this “handing down” of food knowledge because the process of teaching cooking has always (and continues to be) one of master-and-apprentice. This model is codified in the culinary world where every serious chef has worked their way up from dishwasher to prep to line, but that’s just a reflection of how humans have always learned to cook: watching someone with more skill, and listening to them explain why they are doing it. Since I knew a bit, but not the whole story, about how this family favorite was acquired, I decided to capture the Whole Recipe for anyone who is interested in it, not just the ingredients and preparation.

As you can see in the photo at the top, I made a batch of this over the weekend — a bit for dinner and mostly to freeze for many easy future dinners. I was inspired to make it because I had defrosted our kitchen freezer and found some frozen spare ribs hiding in the drifts of ice in the back, and I was sure they were dried out, but would still be able to flavor a long cooked dish, and pork-on-the-bone is a critical component of this dish, in my opinion. The great thing about using spare ribs in this sauce is that by hour four or five the meat falls off the bone and pretty much melts into the sauce — you don’t really see chunks of meat in your sauce (unless you add it to the end as Carol recommends) — which I’ve learned is one of the characteristics of a classic Italian sugo. Continue reading