Many years ago I was married to a man of Sicilian descent. His father, horrified at what I called spaghetti sauce, took it upon himself to teach me how to make proper sauce.
This is not a quick sauce. It takes several hours and a lot of attention to make properly, so I like to make it on a weekend or holiday. Often, I make a double or triple batch of the basic sauce and freeze it in quart-sized containers, allowing me to have the lovely flavour of this long-cooking sauce without having to spend the time.
This is an authentic sauce, a Sicilian-style sauce exactly the way I was taught to make it by a 58-year-old Sicilian man back in 1966. He learned it from his mother, so it goes back a long way. You may make your own variations, of course, but remember that when you do, the sauce you end up with should not be called Sicilian-style because it will no longer be.
The basic (vegetarian ) sauce is used in a variety of dishes other than spaghetti, like lasagne and cannelloni, and the variations Old Joe gave me are shown at the end of the recipe.
Pasta Sauce Sicilian Style
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 large cans peeled Roma tomatoes (Progresso (with basil) recommended)
2 6 oz. cans tomato paste (Contadina recommended)
5 tomato cans water
1 tomato can red wine (optional…water can be substituted)
½ cup fresh basil leaves, cut coarsely
1 tbsp oregano (or mixed Italian seasonings)
Salt to taste
In a deep pot, sauté onion, garlic and herbs in oil until onion is translucent. Add one can of tomatoes, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, mash the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon and add the second can of tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, stir the pot, then mash the tomatoes against the side of the pot and add the wine and one can of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, add the tomato paste, stir the pot, then mash the tomatoes against the side of the pot and add two cans of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, add the last of the water and some salt (keeping in mind that the canned goods are already salted), stir the pot and, if any remains, mash tomatoes against the side of the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook, uncovered for a minimum of two hours. Stir the pot regularly to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
The sauce is ready when it turns from bright tomato red to a darker red-brown and it no longer has tomato as a dominant flavour. Cook until desired thickness is achieved, adding water ½ cup at a time if needed.
Serve the pasta separate from the sauce so that people can dish the amount of sauce they want on their pasta. Set out fresh Romano and Parmesan and a small hand grater so that diners can grate the amount of cheese they like over their food.
Such additions as meatballs and Italian sausage should be removed from the sauce and served in separate dishes.
Meat Sauce (Bolognaise)
While sautéing the onion, add 1 lb (500g) fresh ground beef and chop up while frying. Drain off the rendered fat and continue with the Basic Sauce recipe.
Peel and devein a pound (500g) of fresh uncooked shrimp. Rinse and drain well. When the sauce is ready to serve, add the shrimp, stir well, cover and let sit 3 to 5 minutes. The residual heat of the sauce will cook the shrimp without toughening it. You can add other seafood in the same manner.
Mushroom (and Olive)
Add 1-2 cups cleaned and sliced mushrooms (Portobellini recommended) to the pot as the onion is being sautéed. Continue with the Basic Sauce recipe. If olives are desired, add 1 small can of sliced olives, well drained, just before serving the sauce.
With Italian Sausage
Add fully cooked and drained Italian sausage to the sauce in the last 20 minutes of cooking. Remove from the sauce and serve on a separate platter.
Add fully cooked and drained meatballs to the sauce in the last 20 minutes of cooking. Remove from the sauce and serve on a separate platter.
Photo by Brokenarts, Stock.xchange