Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday (Angela) Jean

Saturday afternoon isn't Saturday afternoon unless I have a pot of sauce on the stove.

Almost every Saturday of the first 20 years of my life were spent with my sister, brothers and cousins at my Nonna's house. Our mothers worked on Saturdays and our Dads would bring us to their mother's house. Sometimes they would stay too, but most of the time they left to play or coach soccer and we were there alone with Nonna.

In the summer, we spent the entire day outside in her huge backyard. I remember it being massive, but I'm sure if I returned there now it would seem smaller somehow. We would have running races from one end to the other or climb the steps in the rock garden up to the top where we would pick the super-sour concord grapes and sweet snap peas.

In the winter we would stay inside either playing "girls" or dress-up in the spare bedroom or exploring the basement wine cellar where the skinned animals and homemade sausage hung from the ceiling, curing. The basement had never-ending rooms to late Nonno's workshop where all his framed jigsaw puzzles hung or the cupboard under the stairs where the home-delivered crates of Cynar Gingerale and Gassosa were stored.

But the part of Saturday that left the deepest impression on me was the food. There was always a pot of tomato sauce on the stove. The rest of the family would trickle in later in the afternoon and we ate at 6. Not 6:15 not 6:20. 6. If you were late, you were in trouble. It's been over 16 years since I've had Saturday supper with my Nonna, but I can picture her mixing the penne, cheese and sauce in her big serving bowl like it was yesterday.

Having my own pot of sauce brewing this afternoon brings those memories to mind. I can't be with my whole family every Saturday any more, but having pasta for supper makes them all feel closer. Especially my Nonna.

The thing about making tomato sauce is that there really isn't any recipe. Please don't ask me how much of this or that, or how long do I blah blah blah, because honestly, I have no idea. At this point I just do it by feel. I've probably never made it exactly the same way twice. (I know Ruth is cringing this case, variation is GOOD!)

Here's what I did today.

First, I bought some meat. On Sale.  I have a personal policy never to pay full price for meat. (I think my Nonna would smile at that).
I used half a package of ground beef and half a package of ground pork.

I would normally start by frying some chopped onions in olive oil, but today I had a few pieces of celery, carrots and red pepper in the fridge so I chopped them up too and threw them in with the half a red onion I had in the fridge. I think I added some salt too.

 When the veggies were softened I added the ground meat, and some more salt.

Next, since I was out of our family's homemade jarred sauce, I had to use canned tomatoes. One of those giant cans works perfectly. I always buy whole tomatoes and grind them myself in the food processor.
A few minutes before the meat is fully browned I add the garlic, chopped. If you add it any earlier you run the risk of it burning and that can ruin your whole pot of sauce.

Add the browned meat to the tomatoes, add some more salt. And...well...wait. A long time. I usually simmer my sauce for at least 5 hours on low, stirring every once in a while.

I don't know if it's because it somehow knew I was going to write about it tonight, but this batch turned out particularly well.

Buon appetito a tutti!

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