I learned to make sauce from my mother, who learned from her mother, two women of Italian descent who knew how to cook without looking in a book.
We’d have sauce at least twice a week growing up: spaghetti and meatballs, usually, often with garlicky braciole rolled with twine and simmered right in the pot. A variation used penne or rigatoni instead of spaghetti. A special occasion called for lasagna.
Sauce wasn’t just comfort food, it was a mainstay menu item, on good days and bad days, weeknights or weekends. When we learned my mother was dying, we had sauce that night, my father and my siblings and I defrosting a supply my mother had made and frozen, preparing a meal in efficient silence, the familiar sustenance helping us navigate our long journey of grief and pain.
These days, I make sauce for my own family. I always make meatballs to go along with it. I make sauce when someone I love is in need. Last week, when making sauce for friends who’d experience a terrible loss, I had my son by my side performing the steps. Now he can make sauce, too, a skill that will come in handy when he moves into his first apartment in a few months. Sauce = Home.
My recipe uses meat, but for a vegetarian version you can sautee onions and peppers instead of the pork, and use that for the base.
- One clove garlic chopped
- One Italian sausage link removed from the casing or a piece of pork or a pork chop with some fat on it
- Three 28 oz cans of tomato puree
- One 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- One large can of tomato paste
- Large bunch of parsley chopped (about one cup)
- One tsp of dried basil and one of oregano, or other herbs to taste
- One tsp sugar
- A few splashes of red wine
- Salt and pepper
- Fry the pork in a little oil and add the garlic; drain the fat when pork is cooked
- Add all the tomato products and rinse out the cans with hot water, adding about two large cans worth to the sauce
- Bring to boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cook, partially covered, for at least one hour or up to two hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking
- Prepare the pasta of your choice or use the sauce in eggplant or chicken parmigiana, lasagna, or any other recipe that calls for tomato sauce
- Eat and be comforted