by Millie Bentley
Greetings. Here is a recipe that my son Geof loves to make. Once, as a teenager, Geof went on a skiing weekend at Big Bear Lake. His one concern seemed to be how to make spaghetti for a large group. So I sent him off with a recipe, a bag of herbs and other necessary ingredients. When he returned, he declared, “Mom! I was a big success. They loved my spaghetti.” Here it is.
4 tablespoons good olive oil
2 teaspoons whole oregano, dried
2 teaspoons basil, dried
1 teaspoon rosemary, dried
2 small cans tomato paste, no salt added type
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried red chilies
1 large onion, finely diced
2 large (28 oz.) cans tomatoes, crushed in their own juice
2 tablespoons apple juice concentrate
½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 or 3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt, or as needed
1 can (14 oz.) beef broth or water
1 pound Italian sausage
Hot cooked pasta (spaghetti, thin spaghetti, or angel hair)
In a large heavy pot over medium heat, heat olive oil. Crumble oregano, basil and rosemary in your hands and drop into the oil. Stir briefly. Now add the two cans of tomato paste; cook and stir continuously for 10 minutes, being very careful not to burn your roux. (If it burns, throw it out and start over.)
Next add sugar, dried red chilies, and onion. Cook and stir another few minutes, then add the crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, parsley, and apple juice concentrate (from frozen concentrate; do not dilute). Reduce heat, cover pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Check for seasoning; add salt and garlic; stir and continue to simmer on the lowest heat possible for another 30 minutes or so. At any time, add beef stock or water as needed if sauce seems too thick. Meanwhile prepare Italian sausage and meatballs.
Italian Sausage: Place a pound or so of Italian sausage, hot or mild – your choice, in a skillet and cover with water. Simmer for about 20 minutes; remove sausage to a cutting board to cool slightly; then cut into about 1 inch slices and set aside. Discard sausage cooking water or us instead of water or beef stock to think the sauce.
1 ½ pounds ground beef
½ pound ground pork (NOT sausage)
½ teaspoon each salt and pepper
½ teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
2 slices white bread, soaked for a minute in water and lightly squeezed dry
3 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup minced onion
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Mix all ingredients with your hands and roll into balls about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Place on a rack (over a pan) in a 350 degree oven and bake about 15 or 20 minutes. Place meatballs on paper towels to cool a bit and remove some of the grease.
When sauce seems good, and about 20 minutes before serving, add sausage and meatballs and simmer for another 20 minutes. While sauce is finishing up, cook the pasta according to package directions; drain and stir in a tablespoon or so of good olive oil; serve in a large pasta bowl.
Serve sauce separately and have freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, dried crushed red chilies, and chopped fresh parsley on the side. Accompanied by a good plain green salad and hot sourdough bread, this dish will make a grown man cry.
Sauce may be frozen or kept refrigerated for a couple of days. It actually tastes better the second – or third – time around.
This recipe is especially for my daughter-in-law Nancy. Geof undoubtedly captured her heart with his spaghetti. A fortuitous event. Until next time, dear Reader, vaya con Dios.