I have always loved spaghetti sauce, but grew up in an Irish home where we only had the American version. I still liked it, but nothing (to me), compares to good sauce/gravy. It's the ultimate comfort food for me. It is easy to freeze and it's so easy to make, I can nearly do it blindfolded by now. And believe me, there are wonderful recipes out there for really great sauce. Hazan's, Giada's, Lydia. Who needs more?
But this one is all mine and I am going to do a pictorial so that even a very beginner can learn. Yes, it's that easy.
So, if anyone asks me what makes a winning gravy? My answer is the meat. Yes, that's right, the meat. It gives a wonderful depth of flavor to the Sunday Sauce. And I am not talking about meatballs. I am talking about the meat you simmer the tomatoes in. So lets get started.
The Tomatoes are pretty important too, but most canned tomatoes are really good now, so I think your are safe with most top brands. Just get crushed. I use Pastene Kitchen Ready. Two cans of it and one small can of tomato paste in my gravy. Just take the lids off and you will be ready to start. By the way, I interchange the word Sauce/Gravy all the time. Just so you know....
Open two cans of Crushed Tomatoes, I use Pastene Kitchen Ready.
Now, chop 3 cloves of garlic, open 1 small can of tomato paste and pour 1/2 cup of red wine. I only had white wine, but we'll pretend it's red...
Next, the star of the show, the meat. I buy and freeze cheaper cuts of beef and pork for my gravy. I really like to use pigs feet, but today I didn't have any. So I used a piece of pork from the rib section, which was on sale. And a couple of hot Italian sausage. In a Dutch Oven, heat 3 Tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Put your meat to brown about 3 minutes per side. After they are browned, remove your pan from the heat. Add your garlic and cook it for 2 minutes, while it's off the heat. Burnt garlic ruins the gravy. So when your are adding the garlic, have your pot off of the heat. The garlic will still cook, from the heat of your pan.
Now go ahead and turn your heat on medium low and put your pan on the burner once again. It's safe, if you didn't burn the garlic. Another step that I was taught and I do think it makes a difference is to "fry the paste". Which mean you are going to cook the paste when you add it for at least a minute. You will just have to trust me on this one, it comes from someone who knows, right from Italy almost 100 years ago.
Now, you are going to add the wine and remember to add the red wine, not the white wine like I did. Be sure to stir the sauce frequently at this stage. Add 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Stir again.
Next you are going to add your two cans of Pastene, or whatever kind of crushed tomatoes you are using. They are the large cans, not the medium and not the small. After you empty the cans into the pot, you are going to fill each can about 1/4 the way up with cold water. Take a wooden spoon and swish the water in each can and empty the cans into the sauce, (This way, you will get all of the sauce from the cans with no waste). Bring it to a simmer, stiring every minute or so. You don't want to burn the bottom of your sauce, which I have done by walking away too soon from the stove. You can walk away from the stove, just not now. And toss in a couple of bay leaves and stir again.
Now, you are almost ready to let this sauce sit on the stove and cook itself, but not quite yet. You need to add a couple of more things. Add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes. I am not promoting any company, I just couldn't turn my hand quick enough. I am not too good at taking a picture with one hand and placing my products with the other hand at the same time. I do buy other spice brands as well, just to make it fair. Spices are expensive, so be sure to check out your local ethnic stores to get spices more reasonably priced.
After you bring this to a simmer, TURN down the heat to low. Using a good pan also helps the sauce not to stick to the bottom of the pan, while you walk away from the stove for 2 or 3 hours to allow this to cook. Now, place the lid on top of the pan just like this. And then you can walk away and let it simmer. Make sure you come back and stir it every 1/2 hr. just to be sure that nothing is sticking.
Okay, here is the finished sauce, I mean gravy... ugh, I don't know what I mean. Can you see the shine? Can you see that it's done? It just has the tiniest amount of shimmer on the top. Can you see the tiny bubbles, yes it's done. Now you can taste and adjust the sauce. I usually add a tad more salt and pepper. At this point, you cook your pasta and serve. And don't forget to add a handful of grated parmesan cheese on the top of each pasta place. Whatever amount you have leftover, freezes really well. I use heavy duty freezer bags, laid down flat to freeze mine.
I hope you enjoy making your own sauce now. You can tweak it to make it your own. Go ahead, it's fine. Everyone likes thier own little favorites. More red pepper flakes? Anchovies? After a few times of making sauce, it becomes your own anyway. Mangia ~