Monthly Archives: December 2008

i’ll give you a sauce


I made a red sauce tonight. It wasn’t, as my mother would call it, a real Ragu, since I made it without meat. I do believe that Gran Fran (my mom, for those of you who are new to this blog) thinks it’s a crime to make the sauce without meat. But, these days, a girl has got to watch what she eats, and a heaping bowl of sweet Italian sausage, ground beef and braccioli are not on my list right now. So sad, but true.

The sauce in question uses many of the same techniques and ingredients as Gran Fran’s (see the two recipes below), but mine has twice as much red wine, half the tomatoes and way more garlic. So, I hope she is pleased with my take on her classic, but I fear her wrath when she sees this post.

One thing I always do the same, is use a can of whole, peeled tomatoes (preferably from the San Marzano area) and smash them through a sieve or a strainer. It brings back very clear childhood memories.

As the youngest of the 5 kids, I ended up doing tasks that didn’t require knives (of which there were only butter knives anyway, but more on that in a later post), fire (of which I was petrified until I was in my 20′s) or heavy pans to lift. Thus, I ended up more often than not as the tomato smasher. Which, I know, sound super fun, especially since it involved sticking your hands in lots of smushy tomatoes.

But, it was inevitable that I always had a small scratch or cut on either or both of my hands. And, as a reader of this blog, Non-Reactive Pan, you will understand that the acid in the tomatoes burned my hands like no other. Then, to top it off, as the tomato smush dried, I got some sort of skin treatment (like a facial only horrible) which always left my skin dried out and smelling like tomatoes for days.

To this day, though, you will find me in my kitchen smashing tomatoes through the sieve for the sauce, all the while cursing the burning of my skin. In the end, it is always worth it, though the sauce tastes different from Gran Fran’s, it’s essence is the same as hers, and so it always brings me home.

Red Sauce ala Fran’s Daughter
serves 8

  • 4 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
  • Bay Leaf
  • 2 tsps Tomato Paste
  • 1 1/2 cup Red Wine
  • 1 can whole, peeled tomatoes, pushed through a sieve, solids discarded

you will need a large, NON-REACTIVE saucepan with a lid.

  • Heat the olive oil until hot, but not smoking.
  • Put the fennel, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and bay leaf in the olive oil.
  • Just when the spices start to brown and pop, add the tomato paste.
  • Keeping the flame on high, stir constantly, for about 2 minutes.
  • Pour in the strained tomatoes and the wine.
  • Bring the whole thing to a boil.
  • Lower heat to a simmer and put the cover on, leaving a vent for steam to release.
  • Stir every 10 minutes to ensure it doesn’t stick.
  • After 40 minutes, remove the sauce from the heat and eat!

Serve with pasta, or use this for pizza sauce or even just for dipping bread in.
Oh, and, again, please remove the bay leaf before serving.

Red Sauce ala Gran Fran
serves 8

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 2 cans whole, peeled tomatoes, pushed through a sieve, solids discarded
  • 1 cup Red Wine
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1/2 tsp Basil
  • 1/2 tsp Rosemary
  • Bay Leaf

you will need a large, NON-REACTIVE saucepan with a lid.

  • Heat the olive oil until hot, but not smoking.
  • Brown the garlic in the olive oil.
  • Add the tomato paste.
  • Pour in the strained tomatoes and the wine and stir well
  • Add all the remaining spices.
  • Bring the whole thing to a boil.
  • Lower heat to a simmer and put the cover on, leaving a vent for steam to release.
  • Stir every 10 minutes to ensure it doesn’t stick.
  • After 30 minutes, add the sausage (recipe below).
  • Simmer with meat for up to 3 hours, then enjoy!

Sausage for Red Sauce ala Gran Fran
serves 8

  • 1 cup Red Wine
  • 1 1/2 Lbs Sweet or Hot Italian Sausage, pierced

you will need a large, NON-REACTIVE saucepan.

  • Heat the wine until boiling.
  • Add the sausages, turning after 5 minutes.
  • Once the fat starts to emerge from the sausages, lower the heat and saute the sausages until cooked through.
  • Add to sauce and continue to cook as in above recipe.
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