spaghetti sauce with italian sausage

aunt marylee, this post is for you . . .
if i authored my own history in recipes, this one would surely warrant an entire chapter. the first time i ate it was in san rafel at the table of my aunt marylee, who isn't really my aunt at all. she married my dad's college roommate, so she actually belongs to me vicariously. aunt marylee became one of my early-on-style-mavens because even at a young age i admired and appreciated how she maintains her household, and her kitchen . . . her domain shines with california-elegance but isn't pretentious or uncomfortable, and every visitor feels the welcome of a home that is lovingly cared for.  
my mother brought home this recipe after that first time my family was lured in by it's fragrance, as the sauce simmered away on aunt marylee's stove. i started making it 30 something years ago at mother's stove, in her big sauce pot, with her wooden spoon. it makes a meal that defines my approach to cooking and dining: artistic and still approachable, memorable with a little mystery, satisfying but not indulgent, and a reminder that the best meals are eaten at home. it brings a fragrant history of it's own to the table, and stirs up the question, "what is the secret" . . .
the secret is allspice.
as aunt marylee tells it, "my grandmother, nana, was born in tuscany. she came to the u.s. when she was in her twenties and met my grandfather in san francisco, he was also from tuscany. they settled and raised my mother and her three sisters who grew up asking my nana for the recipe for her spaghetti sauce. she would only offer, i use a little bit of this and a little bit of that. nana would not reveal her secret even to her own daughters. none of the sisters could make the sauce taste like nana's. finally one day, one of the girls was in the kitchen when nana was cooking the sauce. aha! nana added a good shot of allspice."
this sauce conveys a smoky incense and fermented flavors that leave a lasting impression on the scenes. it is one of those dishes to display on the mantle, not tuck away into a scrap book. serve it to your family and friends to heap on your love for them, and make sure to set each place with a spoon . . . everyone will want to ladle it up.

note: i add a little red wine and use fresh italian parsley instead of dried, but otherwise, it is passed on to you as it was to me . . . we are the lucky recipients of it's secret charms. 
• 1 1/2 cups ground beef
• 1/2 to 3/4 lb. italian sausage
• 1 large yellow onion,
• 3-4 large garlic cloves, minced
• one 15oz. can chopped tomatoes
• two 15oz. cans tom. sauce
• about 1/3 cup dry red wine
• 1-2 tbsp. oregano
• a few handfuls of italian parsley, minced
• a few tbsp. sugar
• 1 heaping tbsp. allspice
• kosher salt
1. brown the onion, garlic, beef and sausage. drain any excess liquid and fat.
2. add the rest of the ingredients and simmer on extra low three hours.

1 comment:

mr coffee said...

have to love the secret ingredients..
I'm on for this in the next week!