Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"...Spaghetti on the side."

"L.A. At Last" is one of my all time favorite "Lucy" episodes and it contains a very famous scene where Ethel aids Lucy in cutting her spaghetti with manicuring scissors while sitting in the Brown Derby- it's hilarious, in fact the entire episode is classic "Lucy" genius:) And of course I couldn't find a picture of that exact scene so you'll just have to watch it!

I made homemade spaghetti & meatballs for the family tonight (apologies for terrible pics but it's late & I forgot to do this earlier!)- there were 3 tummies (of varying sizes) that were full and happy:) This was Jonah's 1st spaghetti dinner and he enjoyed it like a champ; Livy is my little Italian loving girl so she gobbled hers down with plenty of audible "Mmmmm"s & I got a "Dinner was great" from hubby. Score!

As tempting as it is to buy a pre-made spaghetti sauce, I just can't do it- my Mom labored over the stove in my youth bringing authentic spaghetti sauce to the table for me and so I delight in doing the same for my "3 ring circus":) It's just not difficult and tastes so much better- there's also no worries about hidden unknown ingredients, a major plus for me.

Maybe you do the same for your family or maybe you've never attempted homemade spaghetti sauce- want to try?

Here's what I do (recipe given 'conversation' style) - feel free to alter as you wish.
1. In a large non reactive dutch oven, soften 1 minced onion over medium heat in approx 2 tbsp olive oil- I prefer to not brown my onion so keeping the heat at medium allows the onion to soften and 'sweat' without browning. When the onion is almost done, I add several gloves of minced garlic. I've been using a free sample of Penzeys Minced Garlic and find it quite convenient- the garlic is dried so I simply rehydrate in a tbsp of water while 'sweating' the onion and then add. Easy!

2. Next add some tomato paste (I get mine from HEB) and saute for approx 1 minute, allowing the onion/garlic to meld with the tomato paste- this evokes a more caramelized flavor from the paste.

3. Now it's time to add your 'sauce'. For tonight's batch I used a large can of crushed tomatoes, large can of diced tomatoes, regular can of puree and an additional regular can of diced tomatoes- I always use whatever I have on hand:) Bring this to a boil and then simmer over low heat for as long as you can- I only had 2 hrs for this batch and it's fine but I prefer to cook it for at least 4 hours.

***NOTE: I always endeavor to make my sauce the day ahead of when I plan to serve it- allowing it to sit in the fridge overnight (or even thawing from being frozen) results in delicious sauce! Not sure what the science is behind it, but it's one of those universal truths. So in actuality, I made my sauce yesterday and then made the pasta & meatballs tonight:)

4. While the spaghetti sauce simmers, I add salt & pepper and some dried Oregano (Turkish) & Basil (California)- I eyeball everything so sorry there's no exact measurements. As a rule of thumb, go heavier on the Basil than Oregano. I've learned so much about herbs/spices by looking at the descriptions at Penzeys and one of those information nuggets was to add Oregano at the beginning of cooking and Basil towards the end, to retain its natural sweetness:)

5. Last touch- a little sweetness. Due to tomatoes being very acidic, I like to add a pinch of sugar with my other herbs/seasonings- I've used Stevita the last two times and it's worked beautifully:)

Once the sauce has simmered for adequate time, allow to cool and then refrigerate or freeze. Once you start the homemade road, you'll never go back to the bottled sauce:)

*NOTE: I do keep an 'emergency' bottle of sauce on hand for Livy but hubby is spoiled and won't touch it and I'm thinking Livy will soon be rejecting the occasional 'emergency' sauce for when she needs "pa" aka "pasta" right away!


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