Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hitting the sauce

Okay, I admit right up front that this sauce is nothing like my husband’s grandmother’s sauce.

Hers cooked all day, sometimes overnight, and tasted like, well, an elderly little Italian woman had been working on it all day and overnight. When Matthew wants sauce like that, he makes it himself and doesn’t let me touch it. When he’s in a less snobby frame of mind, he lets me make sauce myself.

I aspire to Nana’s sauce, but I know I’ll never really get there. In the meantime, this one makes a good pizza, a great dip for breadsticks and a nice complement to heavy pastas like rigatoni and rotini. It is worth the effort if you have the time. It’s also chunkier and a little more sophisticated than a plain smooth tomato sauce or a commercial pizza sauce. Give it a go after your kids have gotten accustomed to something a little higher in tone.

Nana's Sauce

2 T. olive oil
¼ c. chopped onion
¼ c. chopped celery
¼ c. chopped carrot
1 clove garlic, minced
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
½ c. beef broth
½ c. red wine
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried basil
Salt and pepper
1 T. grated parmesan

In a heavy, non-aluminum saucepan, heat oil. Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook until softened and onions are translucent. Add tomatoes with liquid. Cook until liquid is reduced by half. Add tomato paste and stir to combine thoroughly. Add broth, wine and one tomato-paste can of warm water. Stir in sugar, seasonings and cheese. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until sauce is thick and almost ketchup-like in consistency. For pizza sauce, it has to be thick. To use for pasta, add more water, broth or wine, whichever appeals to you most.


Bolognese - Add 1 lb. ground sirloin or Italian sausage after cooking vegetables and before adding tomatoes. Brown thoroughly and drain excess grease before proceeding. Lace with a drizzle of cream before serving.

Puttanesca - Add ½ c. sliced black olives and 1 T. anchovy paste with tomatoes.

Arrabbiata - Add 1 hot banana pepper, sliced in rings, with tomatoes. Add 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes with seasonings. Increase sugar to 2 tablespoons.

Extra Extra!

Looking for a Few Good Women? – Many people know that pasta puttanesca is named for the puttas, or prostitutes, who first assembled it from the odds and ends in their cupboards when they had time between customers. Most people don’t know that it has a second name, Pasta a la Buono Donna, or Good Woman’s Pasta, so as not to impugn the honor of the average Italian housewife who whipped it up, too.

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