Did you know that spaghetti sauce did not originate in Italy — of course, neither did the noodle. Tomato sauces come from Spain and the noodle from China. In truth, a chef to a Spanish king first published a tomato sauce with noodles as a recipe in 1692 and the first Italian cookbook to include the recipe was L'Apicio Moderno, by Roman chef Francesco Leonardi, in 1790. In fact, the tomato, although an important part of Italian cooking, is left out of many sauce recipes for pasta. The Italians are inventive and live from the land, for the most part. Many recipes, in their authentic forms, contain little or no tomato.
So let’s talk sauce.
In America we like our spaghetti and meatballs. Generally speaking, we call this meat sauce. Now a meat sauce in Italy is bolognese, which means “meat sauce." This sauce is rich, thick and hearty and if made correctly contains several kinds of ground or minced meat and very little tomato. The tomato is more a binder for the recipe; the meat is the star of the show. Marinara is a very basic Italian sauce. It consists of tomatoes, garlic, onions and herbs. Marinara is fantastic over noodles; however, our sauce for this week does not meet the requirements to be called a marinara. Now, pomodoro, which means “golden apple” literally, is a sauce with tomatoes as a base. The reason for the name is that first tomatoes in Italy were a little bit yellow in color, making them resemble their local apples. The recipe this week is a sauce whose base is tomato. Pomodoro is close and so pomodoro (Mood Food style) is the star of our show.
Now this recipe is far from traditional. Italians eat both spaghetti with tomato sauces and they eat meatballs; however, they are not served together. The plate of noodles, tomato sauce in one form or another, and meatballs is all-American (although out of courtesy for the tourists it is now on many Italian menus). I am OK with that. I love the leeway of American cooking. We are a melting pot and a mish-mash of everything and everyone we have ever experienced. As a result, we have excellent food.
This recipe is big so I am not going to babble on. I do want to say that this smooth sauce and almost creamy meatballs and sausage is a big winner. Smooth sauces hide the veggies, so your kids will clean their plates. Homemade meatballs and well-prepared sausages can be served with the pasta or frozen and saved for subs, sausage and peppers or a quick penne with a pan sauce later on. Let’s cook and just for kicks I’m throwing in a little Italian vocabulary lesson with which you can impress the family at dinner.
Batteria da cucina (Pots and pans or cooking equipment list)
Very large heavy bottom sauce pan (as you will see mine could be bigger)
large bowl for meat
Medium, deep sauce pan
Large skillet (with a lid unless you like grease everywhere)
Per la polpetta (for the meatballs)
1 c breadcrumbs, unseasoned
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
2 tblsp basil
1 tblsp oregano
1 tsp parsley
2 cloves (2 tsp) minced garlic
½ tsp each salt and pepper
½ cup of vegie mixture (onions, peppers and mushrooms for the sauce)
8 sausage links (I usually use half hot and half sweet but use whatever you like best)
Per la salsa (for the sauce)
5 cans of tomato sauce (you can use fresh tomatoes but you will have to skin them, de-seed them and cook them for a full day ... buy the cans)
1 can of tomato puree
1 medium can of tomato paste
2 large onions
1 large green pepper
1 ½ c mushrooms, sliced
5 tblsp basil
2 tblsp oregano
1 tblsp salt
1 tblsp pepper
1 bulb garlic, arrosto (roasted)
½ c sugar or pureed carrots (for a little dolce, sweetness)
combinare insieme (put together)
Begin by roasting (arrosto) the garlic. Cut the top off of a bulb of garlic, exposing the garlic flesh. Wrap in aluminum foil and pop in a 375 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Set aside.
Take the onions, mushrooms and green pepper and put them in the food processor. Spin them until they are liquefied. Take one half-cup out for the meatballs and set the rest aside.
In the food processor, put the breadcrumbs first, then the ground pork and ground beef. Give it a spin to just combine. Add the seasonings, veggie mixture and the eggs and mix thoroughly. It should look like a paste (see photo) and when you roll the meatballs they will be a little sticky (you want this). The food processor gives the meatballs an almost creamy texture, and the sticky meat lets you know you’ve done it right. Add a little olive oil to your skillet, just to keep the meatballs from sticking to the pan and fry them until they get a good crust on the outside. Set aside on a plate to let them absorb their juices. No need to wash the pan.
Fill the medium-sized sauce pan about halfway with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the sausages. Poaching the sausage gives them a smoother texture. Once they are firm place them in the pan that cooked the meatballs and brown the sausage. Set them aside as well and let's get started on the sauce.
The sauce is really the easy part. Combine in the large sauce pan the tomato sauce, puree and paste. Heat slightly and add the veggies. Let warm on the stove on medium/low heat for about a half an hour, then add the veggie mixture. Stir well and add the seasonings. Take the bulb of roasted garlic and squeeze from the root end, which will expel the garlic. Do this over a cutting board or a plate. Once the garlic is out, smash it with the back of a spoon, making it into a paste. Add to the sauce. Add in the meatballs and sausages and go on about your day. The sauce should cook on very low heat for several hours (at lest 1 ½). Only stir the sauce when you notice it start to bubble a little in the middle; this will keep it from scorching.
After cooking is finished it is ready to serve. Now, if you want to make this ahead of time it is good in the fridge for about five days before you need to freeze it. If you are planning on freezing it right away, which I do all the time, let it cool in the fridge overnight first. Otherwise, you may end up with ice crystals on the top of the sauce from the steam.
This sauce is a show-off piece and guaranteed to impress.
I have a quick and easy Italian bread to go with this, which I was not planning on featuring. If anyone wants the recipe shoot me an email or a comment and I will get it to you.