March 06, 2011

Bill's Pasta Sauce

I like to make sauce.

Sometime well before we've used the last container from the freezer (sometimes used to add lusty earthiness to a soup or sometimes heated and served over the available pasta) I'm planning and talking about making sauce. We always make a big pot. I go from "I" to "we" because A helps me make the sauce - always has. Her help has moved from looking over my shoulder to crushing the whole tomatoes, chopping the parsley, preparing the bell pepper, etc. She pretty much leaves me alone at the stove now just doing the little chores to help facilitate the coming feast. She's a fine helper (and much appreciated). I learned to make sauce watching her make it. And then later, watching her Mom E make sauce. But I make it a little different - not much, but enough different that it is usually very clearly apparent that it is a Bill's Pasta Sauce.

A learned to make sauce when she was growing up in Trenton. In the earlier years it was her Dad who made the sauce. Later, it was E making the sauce that must have served as her guide. A makes a great, delicious sauce. She used to make sauces that included chicken breasts or rolled steak flank, of Italian sausage or meatballs or a combination of two or more. They were good. No one on our green earth makes sauce and meatballs like A and/or E, in combination, could make sauce and meatballs. At least no one up to the time that we quit eating red meat - we have a couple of sons who carry on the homemade meatball tradition and their families seem to thrive on it. But I no longer use meat in my sauce.

I made sauce yesterday. Here's what I had on hand and what I did with it:

102 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes, crushed (either by hand or sparingly in blender)
virgin olive oil (to saute onions and mushrooms - add tbsp when adding tomatoes)
1 lg. yellow onion, chopped
1/4 piece medium/large bell pepper, chopped
2 8 0z. packages of sliced mushrooms, broken into pieces by hand
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. kosher salt, added immediately after mushrooms to facilitate juice release
1/3 medium carrot (small end) finely chopped
1 bouillon cube (I used "not-beef" vegan cube made by Edward & Sons)
1 bunch parsley (I use scissors and finely cut the bunch into the pot stems and all)
fresh thyme leaves (I use enough leaves to cover palm of my hand)
fresh oregano leaves (good fistful straight from the herb garden)
fresh ground black pepper (generous tbsp)
crushed red pepper flakes to taste (I usually put only a little and then add more at the table)
1/2 tsp paprika (first time I've used this - not sure why I did - but it works okay)

Saute the chopped onions, bell pepper and chopped carrots gently so as not to brown. Continue cooking onion is translucent but not starting to candy. Add broken mushroom pieces along with kosher salt stirring as needed to allow mushrooms some contact with bottom of pot. Keep heat low (or medium low) to allow mushrooms to slowly release their brothy juices. Once the mushrooms have released a generous amount of juice, add the crushed tomatoes (if using a blender to crush tomatoes, make sure that a good portion of the tomatoes are only lightly blended so that there are actual tomato chunks in the sauce. We do not want a tomato puree at all!

Bring the sauce to a light simmer, turn heat down to maintain simmer (but not boiling). Add bouillon cube, parsley, thyme and oregano (in no particular order). Add freshly ground pepper and a little more olive oil (and, if you insist, additional salt, but you really shouldn't need additional salt). You can also add the crushed red pepper flakes and paprika (if you use them).

Gently simmer about 45 minutes to an hour. The key here is "gently" - please do not boil the sauce.

Now you just need your favorite pasta, a chunk of hard Italian cheese and a cheese grinder.


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