Friday, January 6, 2012

Italian in my Irish

Where I am from, Italian heritage was all around me,
yet I am not Italian.  I am Irish.
I grew up believing the BEST cooks were older Italian Grandma's or Ma's,
women who spoke broken English,
 had lots of kids,
stayed at home wearing flowered moomoo's and
ALWAYS had a pot of "sauce" on the stove. 
You didn't walk into that woman's house without being offered a plate of pasta,
hungry or not.
 Its not one woman that I am thinking of, but an image. An image that is an accumulation of many woman.
An image that represents a spirit of HOME to me.

Now, I must say that I am a bit nervous talking about "Sauce".
In a way I feel like I am trespassing on ground that does not belong to me.

So if you are of Italian heritage... forgive me.

I am writing about "Sauce" today because Ragu and Prego take up an entire isle at my grocery store.  I am writing about "Sauce" because, much like when I was younger, there are many who think of sauce and say.... that is too hard and way more cooking than I have time to do.
It is that thinking that sends people to that isle in the store for the jar of RAGU.

That's too bad, because nothing could be easier than making a pot of Sauce. 
 It is what I save to make when I am too tired or too busy too cook. 
It is what I make when I want to cook something on a moments notice,
like when a friend or a neighbor has a death in the family and I want to help them out. 

On top of all that...
its versatile,
it can be made in large batches and frozen, and...
it makes the house smell fabulous!!

Literally... it takes 5 minutes to put together.

Who doesn't like Spaghetti? 
 Well I'm sure there are some but really,
for the most part it is one of those universally liked things,
 something that most kids wont turn aways from.

My mother is a fabulous cook...
but my mother can not make spaghetti sauce.  It may be the only thing that she makes that I just do not like.
 Sorry Mom.

When I was newly married I wanted to learn to make Sauce in the worst way. 
 I think even as a young woman I wanted to convey that image of home.
  That warm image that draws a body in to stay for a while. 
Unlike everything else, Sauce was not something that my mother could teach me. 
For this I would need to go elsewhere.
So that's what I did. 
 I asked an Italian woman I worked with. 

 I was expecting to be taken to her kitchen where we would spend hours
 chopping and cooking
 and I would be instructed on those amazing
 "Italian Sauce Secrets". 
Instead, she wrote this very simple recipe on a scrap of paper and told me...
the trick to a good sauce is the Tomato's.  Don't skimp on your tomato's!
and cook it slow!

So here it is...


1 32 oz. can of Italian Plum Tomato's
2 cans Tomato Paste
Meat of your choosing, I use Italian Sweet Sausage most of the time.
Olive Oil, about 1/3 cup
Lots of chopped Garlic... 2 + Tablespoons once its all chopped. (Yes, I do cheat and use the jar Garlic but, NEVER garlic powder.)
1 Tablespoon of Sugar
2 Tablespoons of Basil
3 Tablespoons of Parsley
1 Bay Leaf
Salt and Pepper

Now one thing that I have learned along the way is that even among Italians, Sauce is different from household to household,
 family to family. 
Every family SWEARS by their sauce to the point where they may not eat anyone's sauce but their mom's, or wife's. 
My house is no different. 
My hubby, even me... We prefer my sauce to others. 
 I have been told that I make a darn good sauce for an Irish girl. 

I will say, I like my sauce thick and chunky.  The original recipe had, 1 tomato sauce can of Red Wine and another of water but that was too thin for my taste.  Feel free to add it back if you prefer a thinner sauce.

So... add your olive oil to the pan with sausage and garlic.  Brown it up just a bit.  Open tomato's and crush them with your hands (careful or you may squirt yourself). Add crushed Tomatoes and all other ingredients to pot and simmer on low heat for 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes.

These days unless I am in a hurry, I just dump all the ingredients in my crock pot and put it on low for 5 or 6 hours, stirring occasionally.

A word of advice... If you want to double the recipe don't double the tomato paste.  If you use 4 cans of paste it is horribly pasty... use 3 cans.

So... next time you are reaching for the Ragu... Don't.
Reach for a can of good Italian Plum Tomato's instead.  You will be surprised how easy it is. 
 Your house will smell terrific and your taste buds will thank you!

I have discovered that the Moomoo isnt necessary.


Here's to the Italian in your...?



  1. And for the vegetarians....replace the meat with Morningstar Veggie Crumbles. Meat lovers will be hard pressed to tell the difference (just ask my dad!) :)

  2. Good morning, Sunshine!
    Another way to balance the acidity of the tomatoes without adding the white refined sugar is to use carrots. For a batch of this size, one good sized carrot ought to do the trick. First peel it then finely chop it and saute it with the garlic and meat to soften it. This adds a bit more time to the process, but not that much. Have a beautiful day!

  3. Looks delicious. Love the carrot suggestion as I don't like to put sugar in my meals. And also like the Morningstar veggie Crumbles. Although I am not a vegetarian, I like the idea of less pork. Thanks for the blog, Peggy. I liked your title, "Italian in your Irish".