A Mother's Legacy
My Mom, a Irish-German woman, married my Dad at the young age of nineteen . My dad is full blooded Italian and although he was not raised with his family on a regular basis, he did like his pasta and any other Italian style cooking. My Mom knew how to cook and very well. However, it was mostly on the plain side, nothing really fancy in an Irish family, usually meat and potatoes. I think the only pasta my Mom had, before she met my Dad, was egg noodles with melted butter and definitely no Italian cheese.
My Mom, Margaret, was like any other young married woman. Wanting to learn and please her husband, her father in law took on the job of teaching her how to make “real Italian sauce.” The story she told me described quite an experience. First you fry fresh garlic with tomato paste, then you make your meatballs with various seasoning, you fry those in that concoction of paste and garlic. That was only the first step.
Needless to say I was glad that somewhere along the line my Mom met my surrogate aunt, her best friend of over thirty years. One day, my Mom told me, Aunt Vinnie, another full blooded Italian, came over and my Mom had started to make this sauce. My Aunt exclaimed “What the heck are you doing?” My Mom explained, “This is how Phil’s father showed me how to make sauce.” My aunt said “You have got to be kidding! Get your coat, we are going to the store and I will show you how my mother makes sauce. I think it will probably be healthier, not as much grease.” Mom’s sauce was born, Thank God.
To me it is not just a recipe for Italian sauce, it represents a time I spent as a child wanting nothing to do with the process. However, the memory of the aroma of cooking tomatoes early in the morning is clearer to me than bacon and eggs. Also, as an adult learning how to make this recipe and spending time with my Mom was probably our best mother-daughter times. The following is what my family, including my husband, David, affectionately calls Mom’s Sauce.
Always use a large enamel pot
Ingredients: Note : for every can of tomatoes you use one small can of paste, also you can make one can of tomatoes crushed
Four Cans of Italian tomatoes
2 Large cans tomato paste
3-4 pieces of Garlic
Oregano to taste
Pepper to taste
A little salt
2 packages of Italian Sweet or Mild sausages
For meat balls you want 1-11\2 lbs of round ground
3\4 - one slice of bread
Garlic, pepper, oregano to taste
Mix all ingredients for meat balls in a bowl and make them small, they cook easier this way. I do this first before starting to cook anything if I am going to make meat balls, which I only do if I am making a special dinner or Lasagna. If I am making sauce just for David and me, I do the abbreviated version. For that you will only need two packages of Sweet Italian sausages.
Cut the sausages into thirds and start cooking them on a low flame, before starting the sauce, as they cook raise the flame so they get a little more brown on the outside.
While the sausages are cooking then get everything together for the sauce. Put all the cans of tomatoes in one pot and squeeze them until there are no obvious chunks of tomatoes left. The best way to do this is by hand, I wear new Playtex gloves, so you can feel when the tomatoes are no longer whole. You will probably get some while cooking, these can always be removed and some just dissolve during the process. A little hint, don’t do what my husband did once to shorten time in the kitchen. He put the tomatoes in a blender and voila! you have tomato puree. This is what you don’t want. The tomatoes need to cook through for flavor. Next, add the spices. Use fresh garlic and peel off about 2-3 pieces, if you can get a garlic squeezer, if not just cut them small.
Mix all the spices in the tomatoes well and put on a full flame and watch closely, you want to bring it to a boil and then reduce the flame so it is boiling at a consistent rate for an hour. Stirring constantly. In the meantime tend to the sausages, when they are done I put them on brown paper to absorb the grease. The best way to check if the sausages are done is to cut open one, if the meat is brown all the way through, they are done. Then cook the meatballs. Also place the meatballs on brown paper to drain the grease. After an hour add the paste and all the meat. I also add a little more pepper, oregano, and garlic. When this is all done the boiling rate usually slows down, adjust the flame to bring it to a full boil again stirring constantly, every 5-7 minutes for another hour.
Be prepared to spend 3-5 hours in the kitchen, cooking this recipe does take time. As Mom constantly reminded me “You don’t rush the sauce.” After this last hour of cooking let the sauce cool to room temperature. After cooling put in jars or Tupperware and put in the refrigerator. Personally I have never put the sauce in the freezer. I remember asking my Mom about doing that and she said that what she made was always consumed too fast to freeze, so why even bother.
Over the years I have made “Mom’s Sauce” numerous time. I always think of my Mom and even though it is work I remember the time we spent together and the memories we created. The recipe is very good, but time consuming. I come to think of it as therapy. I have tried to teach my younger sister, Phyllis, how to make it. It surprises me that she has never attempted it on her own. She spent as much time with Mom helping to make the sauce as I did. Although Phyllis has complimented me on my attempt every time she has it.
My older sister, Valerie, has made her own version of it by using a slow cooker. Her version tastes better than store bought, but not as great as Mom’s. For that matter mine doesn’t even taste as good as Mom’s. The one ingredient she added I could never add, A Mother’s Love.