Thursday, January 5, 2012

Spaghetti Sauce

This recipe comes from Sylvia Sebastiani's cookbook, Mangiamo, Let's Eat! Sylvia and my grandmother were lifelong friends. I consider these ladies to be part of Sonoma's old guard; they can remember it in the days when it was little more than a weekend getaway for families living in San Francisco. Over the years, they have seen it change dramatically and become an international tourist destination and one of the major wine capitals of the world. 

Mangiamo was the first cookbook I ever owned, personally signed by Sylvia and sent off with me to college. It was a great first book to start experimenting with as it's filled with authentic old world Italian recipes. I've found some great gems throughout the book, one of them being Sylvia's spaghetti sauce. It is extremely rich in flavor and definitely worth the three hours it simmers away on the stove. This sauce can be used for a variety of dishes, but I particularly love it in lasagna and with spaghetti and meatballs. 

I know three hours sounds like a long time, but you don't have to hover over the pot, just stir it from time to time (plus, it will trick your senses into thinking there's an Italian grandmother in your kitchen). I like to make this sauce on rainy days and let it cook while I do chores around the house or run errands. When I come back from my errands I simply give it a good stir. Doubling the recipe will give you a great quantity of sauce, which I freeze so it's always on hand. You can throw a meal together in minutes with a well stocked freezer filled with homemade sauce.  


Slightly adapted from Sylvia Sebastiani, Mangiamo, Let's Eat!

4 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. butter
1 lb. ground chuck
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp. fresh thyme, minced
¼ tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
½ cup Italian parsley, chopped
1- 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed with their liquid (see notes below)
4- 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
About 1½ cups water (use this to rinse out your tomato cans and add to the sauce)
1 cup dry white wine
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Over medium-high heat, melt the butter and olive oil together in a 6 qt. stockpot. Add the meat and brown until just cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add celery and onions and cook until onions have browned slightly, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. Salt and pepper the meat and vegetables to taste, then add the herbs, tomato sauce, and mashed whole tomatoes. Rinse all of the cans out with water and add this liquid to the sauce (about 1½ cups water in all). Stir in the wine and sugar. Season again with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and gently simmer the sauce for 3 hours over low heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon (be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot with your spoon to avoid scorching). Taste again to adjust seasonings. 

Yield: about 3½ to 4 quarts

  • I prefer to use San Marzano brand canned tomatoes, but they were sold out at my local market so I used Luigi Vitelli brand instead. 
  • Let cool before placing sauce in plastic containers and freezing for later use. 
  • For a marinara sauce leave out the ground beef and begin by sautéing the vegetables in butter and oil.

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