Well folks, I did it! Another item checked off my 35 Before 35 List! I finally made spaghetti sauce from scratch! And while it wasn’t fast, it wasn’t a hard process and the end result was so yummy-yummy-yummy-in-my-tummy-tummy-tummy that I will definitely do it again.
After finally scoring the “recipe” from Carla, I went grocery shopping last Tuesday and bought most of the stuff to make this sauce. I figured if we were gonna be sitting around waiting for the baby, we might as well eat well. But Mac arrived before I got my sauce-making-act together!
Sorry – can’t resist sharing another shot of his precious mug! Sigh… Cuteness. Anyway, when we had a snow day on Monday,
I decided to make the sauce my husband warned me that I better get my rear in gear and make some sauce before the tomatoes went bad. Okay, he said much nicer than that, and he was right – and a snow day was a good day to tackle this mission.
Now I know this picture is unclear but actually, so is the “recipe” so it doesn’t matter! I’m calling this a “recipe” in quotes because I don’t know that you can really consider what Carla gave me to be a recipe in the classic sense of the word. There are no exact amounts for any of the ingredients and there are no time frames given for any of the steps (except the slow roasting the tomatoes for “a couple of hours”) so there was a lot of freedom given to follow the steps however you please. I guess that’s how they do it in culinary school. For me, this was both good and bad. Like any good American, I like freedom and want to ultimately create my own recipe but I could have used more direction on some of the steps…
Anyway, to begin making this sauce, you first slice tomatoes in half and place them cut side up on cooling racks on parchment paper (we were all out so I used aluminum foil) on cookie sheets. I used about 30 vine ripened tomatoes ’cause I couldn’t find any good plum tomatoes like the “recipe” called for. Salt and pepper them.
Then chop up your garlic (ideally while still wearing your hospital ID bracelet and using your POTY chopper thing from Susanna). I used about 8 cloves.
Chop up fresh basil (or you could also use tarragon) and combine the garlic and basil with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I did a very large handful of basil that chopped down to about 1/3 cup. I used a little under 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar and a little over 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. I think that was too much EVOO. Live and learn.
Spoon this mixture on to your tomatoes and toss them into the oven for “a couple hours” at 230 degrees. I left them in there for three hours.
The next step was to sauté crushed garlic in olive oil. And then add onions. The “recipe” says nothing about adding diced carrots and chopped celery (I chopped a cup or so of each – next time I might do a little more) but those are listed in the ingredients and when I made the batch with Carla, those were key.
So I sautéed the garlic and onions and then added the carrots and celery. In retrospect, I would have added carrots and celery before the onions or at the very least at the same time as the onions. They were a little underdone and thus didn’t blend into the sauce as much as I would have liked when I got to the food mill step below.
Next step is to add some tomato paste (I did about 4 oz.) and cook it a little. Pretty straightforward so I didn’t get a shot of that.
Then pull your most-amazing-smelling tomatoes out of the oven. These puppies would be really yummy served bruschetta-style on some crusty Italian bread.
Slide them into your pot and relish the fact that your sauce is finally looking like sauce! Then deglaze your pot with some of this secret ingredient:
Nope, it’s not stale ginger ale. Nope, not iced tea either. It’s white wine. Apparently when it snows all the liquor stores in Bowie close their doors. My sweet hubby went to four of them then came up with the plan to get some wine from Noodles & Co. Who knew that they even had wine, let alone that you could get a to-go cup?!
Let your sauce simmer for a bit (I cooked it on medium heat for about 20 minutes) and stir it occasionally. You can add tomato sauce here if it needs moisture. I didn’t know how to tell if it did so I added some. Mine probably didn’t need it ’cause of the extra olive oil I added and the extra carrots and celery I should have added.
Add some salt, pepper and sugar to taste, then put it through a food mill into another pot. Thankfully, Carla had just purchased a new fancy food mill so she gave me her “old” one (similar to the one above). It still looked new and it worked perfectly!
Let the sauce simmer a little longer to really mix those fantastic flavors together. Adjust salt, pepper, and sugar again if necessary. I let mine sit for another 20 mins. or so because it was pretty liquid-y, but once again, I think this was my fault for not interpreting the “recipe” better.
Here it is again in all it’s finished glory. I didn’t get a picture of us eating it because making it took a little longer than I expected and we were all quite ravenous! But the reviews by the kids and hubby were 100% positive. The only negative was that I could have made more for leftovers. Bottom line is, even with all the little things I will correct next time, this sauce beats any you can buy in a can (even my stand-by spaghetti sauce Newman’s Own Tomato Basil Bombolina) and I love the idea of making it again and again and again and tweaking it into a true recipe (no quotation marks this time) that our family adores.
Are you perfecting your own family heirloom recipes? Learning to make your own sauces? Your own pasta? I might have to try that next time I make this sauce!