Great weekend cooking – year round
I make this sauce every couple of months, and when I make it I make a lot of it, and freeze about 75% of it in 3 large tupperware or corningware containers. Unless we are having a big party, then this amount is enough to make two tin foil trays of ziti easily!
The containers stay tasty for a few weeks in the freezer, so when there is a week that I know I will be out of leftovers and ideas by Thursday, I will put a frozen sauce container in the refrigerator on Tuesday to thaw for a couple of days and voila ! Italian night that Thursday or Friday. All I have to do is heat up the sauce and boil the pasta.
If you keep the proportions the same as my suggestions below, you will need a very large stock pot. If you don’t want to commit to such a large amount the first time out, just cut the ingredients in half. Don’t worry about exact measurements on this recipe, just taste and season as you go and you will be fine.
Pictured above is the sauce on “Trio Pasta” my kids favorite pasta, they like the mix of shapes! Using beef and pork is the best combination for good flavor, I stopped using ground veal ages ago after discussing with the butcher.
2.5 lbs. ground beef (85% lean if possible)
1 lb. ground pork
Half cup Red wine or dry sherry
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
5 large carrots (4 diced in very small pieces, 1 kept whole)
5 celery ribs (diced in very small pieces)
2 medium onions (diced in very small pieces)
3 cloves of garlic (small dice or crushed with a press)
6 fresh, ripe plum tomatoes (crushed)
5 cans San Marzano ‘crushed tomatoes’
Squirt or 2 of tomato paste
Small container of low sodium beef broth
2 bay leaves
2 tsps of Italian spices
Teaspoon of sugar
Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan to sprinkle on top
Warm up the meat in the largest stock pot you can find. Break up the meat as you mix it around over a med-high burner. While it is cooking you can dice up all the vegetables (keep one carrot peeled but whole). I use a mini-prep Cuisinart to chop the veggies.
Add some swirls of Olive Oil in a large skillet and warm it up on medium heat. Add all the diced veggies (except for the whole carrot and the garlic) Veggies should be diced very small and blend into the sauce, but not completely mashed so a smooth paste. Saute the vegetables for 4-5 minutes, then add the garlic and saute another 1-2 minutes.
Trick: Adding the ripe tomatoes adds a fresh note, and the canned tomatoes a sweetness, that is why I always use both.
Once the meat is browned, drain off some of the fat and add in the wine and cook for a few minutes. Dump in the 5 cans of tomatoes, then use the beef stock to clean out the leftover tomato out of the cans by swirling it around in there, and dumping it into the sauce. Add the tomato paste, the bay leaves, the whole carrot the seasoning, sugar and some salt and pepper.
Secret from my Mom: The carrot will soak up some of the acidity out of the sauce, just remove the whole carrot and the bay leaves prior to serving.
Once the vegetables are cooked, dump them into the large stock pot and stir them until the sauce is well combined. Let the sauce simmer on medium – low heat for 30 minutes. Then add 1 tablespoon of butter at a time every 5 minutes, ending at about 5 tablespoons. This is not completely necessary, it just adds richness to the sauce.
The sauce is ready now, put some in a large pot to mix with pasta for dinner that night.
Tip: I always cook the pasta for a minute less than al dente and then finish it off in the sauce.
Put the rest into containers and cool, then freeze for future dinners.
Warning: Avoid ever covering tomato sauce with aluminum foil, the acidic nature of the tomatoes will burn through the foil, if you need to use foil put clear wrap on the sauce first, then add the foil on top.
Best topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese – it is not cheap but goes a long way, and stays in the fridge for weeks since it is a hard cheese.
Trick: You can freeze the rinds for use in homemade beef soup (it adds this amazingly nutty flavor to beef soups).
Accompany with a nice homemade garlic bread and the rest of the red wine you have leftover. After this cooking event the cook deserves a nice glass of red! But remember – you can get 4 or more family meals out of a big pot of sauce or feed an “army” at a party.