Go Do Spaghetti Sauce

[Editor’s Note: Ironically, I was writing this when Eric called his mom to interview her about her handed-down Sugo (The Whole Recipe – Sugo). These sauces are different, but not so much; and both are worth cooking and worth eating… maybe the best two sauces you’ve made.]

I have a “Go To” sauce for spaghetti, been cooking it for years. I got it from Nancy Harmon Jenkins book, The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook. (That’s “diet” as in “cusine, the diet of the Mediterranean culture,” not “diet: to lose weight.”)

“Mita Antolini, my Tuscan neighbor, uses this sauce to dress pasta or gnocchi di patate, little potato dumplings, that she makes for Sunday lunch.” [See full recipe at the end.]
— Nancy Harmon Jenkins

Uncharacteristically, I never transcribed this recipe into my computer files. After I made it a few times from the book, I knew it and just cooked it. Anyway, this is how I cooked it last Friday — I call it “go do” because I just go and do it, varying it a bit each time.

celery and spring onions

I rough chopped a few spring onions and tossed them into my mini-food processor — the Breville “Control Grip.”
I chopped some celery from the top of a head, leaves and all and threw that in.

Normally, I would put in a carrot, but I had two small pasilla chilis I got at the farmers market. This will make the sauce a bit “Southwestern”-Italian for a change of pace. [NOTE] (These are actually the dark green poblano chilis, often called pasilla chilis in the US.).

the Breville Control Grip: chopper/processor, motor and immersion blender

So, I fine chopped those in the mini-processor and got them going in olive oil in my skillet over a very low flame. These will need to cook for a while – at least 15 minutes – until beyond soft. Ideally, the vegetables will disappear into the sauce.

Added some white wine and cooked that down to nearly dry.

Sliced two Niman Ranch Spicy Italian Sausages in half lengthwise, cleared a space in the center of the skillet and added a little olive oil, fried those, cut side down, until browned.

Tomatoes: Normally, I use a can of San Marzano tomatoes, but I have these pickled tomatoes that I canned last fall. Why not process those — basil and peppercorns and garlic and all — in the mini-processor, since I have it out.

Added the tomato sauce and some dried Italian Seasoning, and slowly cooked that down, seasoning with salt and pepper. That sauce is good.

the sugo cooks

The Pasta
When I don’t make pasta or buy fresh pasta, I like thin spaghetti, its very comforting to me. Scanning the Barilla shelf in the supermarket, I saw Spaghetti Rigati. Hmmm. Its thin, has ridges to hold sauce, and I’ve never tried it… three good reasons to buy. For just me and Carol, I use a third of a pound of pasta for a meal. I cooked that, tossed it with the sauce, and served.

That’s darned good. Yum. (Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing about it.) I served it with tomato and cucumber salad with fresh mozzarella balls, dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette, and Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant red wine. Yum.

Here’s how Nancy Harmon Jenkins wrote it in her book, The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook.

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup minced, flat leaf parsley
1 celery rib, finely chopped, leaves and all
1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon xv olive oil
1/4 pound very lean beef, veal or pork
1 chicken liver, cleaned and finely chopped (optional)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 28 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 small bunch of basil, chiffonade, about 1/3 cup
1 1/2 pounds tagliatelle or other long, flat pasta
6 quarts water
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese or more to taste

Saute the onion, garlic, parsley, celery and carrot in the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently untll the vegetables are soft, but not brown — about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the ground meat and chopped chicken liver, raise the heat slightly and cook the meats, stirring constantly until they have lost all trace of rosiness — about 10 minutes.

Pour in the wine and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let the wine cook off until just a few tablespoons are left in the pan — about 5 to 10 minutes. Turn the can of tomatoes, juice and all, into the pan, raise the heat again and cook, chopping the tomatoes with a wooden spoon until the sauce is dense and thick, the tomatoes are reduced almost to a puree, and the juice has cooked down to a few tablespoons, about 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as desired. Stir in the basil. Set the sauce aside and keep it warm while you prepare the pasta.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions. Drain the cooked pasta into a colander, turn it into a heated bowl, and immediately dress with the hot sauce. Sprinkle a little of the cheese over the top and pas the rest of the cheese at the table. Makes 8 to 9 servings.

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