In this Italian-American town, the holidays include the usual fare: ham and turkey, sweet potatoes, pies... but they also include sauce. Lots and lots of sauce.
Now there are hundreds of ways to make spaghetti sauce. And there are multiple varieties of ready-made sauces at the grocery--many of which are quite good. But when I know I'm going to need a lot of sauce, I like to make it myself, slow-cooked in either the crock pot or a 250*F oven overnight. Here's how:
Mrs.W's Overnight Sausage and Meatball Spaghetti Sauce
- 1 6-pound can of tomato sauce (not spaghetti sauce--just tomato sauce, or tomato puree if you prefer)
- 4 basil ice cubes (or about 1/4 cup packed fresh chopped basil leaves)
- 3 pounds meatballs (combine ground beef or turkey with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp dried basil, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese and lightly work together with a fork. Don't mash or squish. Gently form meatballs--about 1-1/2 ounces--and pan-fry in olive oil.)
- 1/2 cup leftover caponata (optional; I use this for added veg and flavor)
- 2 pounds medium-hot italian sausage, cut into 2-inch sections (I prefer the reduced-fat pork sausage. You need some pork to make this sauce taste just right.)
- 1 large onion, chopped fine
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- splash spicy vinegar from my container of home-pickled sliced cherry peppers (optional; may substute a couple teaspoons of crushed cherry peppers from a jar, or a good sprinkle of dried chile flakes plus a splash of white vinegar or any leftover wine you might have; balsamic vinegar is good here)
Fill a large oven-safe pot or crock pot up to two-thirds full with sauce. Add basil ice cubes, fried meatballs and caponata.
In a large saucepan set over medium heat, pan-fry sausage pieces in a little olive oil to brown on all sides and render out some of their grease. As they get browned on all sides, add to your pot of sauce.
If you use low-fat sausage like I do, you won't have a whole lot of that grease--and we'll use it later. If you use regular-fat pork sausage, keep only two or three tablespoons of the grease and discard the rest.
Fry onions in the sausage grease, adding a little olive oil if needed. When onions are transparent, add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Immediately ladle in some sauce from your pot to soak up all the goodness from the pan, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits.
Pour everything from saucepan into sauce. If there's any room left in your pot, add more sauce from the giant can. (I had only a few cups left, so I poured it into a freezer bag with the last basil ice cube for future use.) Cover and place in 250*F oven or set crock pot to low for eight hours.
The result: full-flavored sauce with tender meatballs and sausage chunks.
Why don't I add salt? Because that sausage is salty and flavors the whole pot of sauce after eight hours of cooking. Depending on what you use, you'll want to taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
This sauce can be distributed into meal-size portions in freezer bags and frozen. This is certainly a frugal alternative to those jars of ready-made sauce from the grocery store.
Tomorrow is another Man-Food Sunday, so I'll be using most of this entire batch... come back Monday for another installment of Man Food!