As with most of Mrs. Forgione’s recipes, this is more a guide than a conventional recipe. She wishes you could cook with her so you could see firsthand how she makes things. Her sauce recipe is flavored by meat which is removed and served separately. The meat gives the sauce a rich flavor.
You will need:
6 to 8 large containers of good italian tomatoes
Choice of meat: chicken legs (with skin and bones) or pork chops or brisket or Italian sausage, hot or mild
Good Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, always freshly grated, to add to the sauce while it is cooking.
-Generally, the sauce will only be as good as the tomatoes you use. I like Pomi crushed tomatoes or strained tomatoes, or Muir Glen Organic crushed or strained or puree, but there are other good Italian tomatoes. You can vary the consistency of the sauce by the chunkiness of the tomatoes you use. Add up to about 2/3 can of water to the pot, rinsing the tomato cans to get all the good stuff.
Of course, Mrs. Forgione cans her own tomatoes, using the plum tomatoes from her garden which she cooks, then purees, then pours into Mason jars and finishes in a water bath.
-If possible, use a stainless steel pot. Some aluminum pots react with the acid in tomatoes and give the sauce an off, or too acidic taste. Adding a tablespoon or so of sugar will neutralize that taste. I have read that you can also add grated carrot to the sauce to sweeten it without making the sauce taste like carrots. (I have never tried that.)
-Brown the meats you have chosen to flavor the sauce. Good meats are chicken, pork chops, Italian sausage, beef brisket, and meatballs. I would use one or two chicken legs, a couple pork chops, or several sausages in any combination. Chicken adds a good flavor. If you are making meatballs, first brown the meatballs in a skillet.
-Put the tomatoes in the pot and start them simmering. Bring the sauce just to boiling, then turn down the heat and simmer for 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours.
-Now you can add oregano or marjoram to the sauce, or a blend of Italian seasonings, grate cheese into it, add some good red wine. If you have the rind from parmesan cheese you can put it in the sauce for flavor.
-(Part of the beauty of making sauce is that the flavor changes subtly from time to time depending on what you put in it.)
-Let the sauce simmer until it is done. How do you know? The look of the sauce will change from tomato puree to a silkier texture and have a few swirls of oil on the surface. You know what it should taste like when it is done. It will take about 1-1/2 hours to 2-1/2 hours. You will tell when it is done. Be careful to not let it burn. If the bottom does burn a little, DO NOT stir or scrape that part up into the sauce.
-When I make sauce, I make a lot and freeze some. You can freeze the meatballs, too, but they will fall apart a bit when they are reheated.
Many Italian cooks heat the amount of sauce they intend to use for a meal in a large shallow pan. They stir in the drained cooked pasta (just to the al dente stage) and allow it to heat for a minute or two. This technique helps the sauce coat and penetrate the pasta. Grate parmesan cheese into the pan. Try it instead of pouring the sauce over pasta in a cold bowl. You will be surprised at the difference in flavor.
Basic Meatball Recipe
You will need:
2 pounds lean ground chuck
1 pound ground pork (not sausage)
½ pound ground veal – if you do not want to use veal, add extra ½ pound ground chuck and ¼ cup milk to meat mixture
3 eggs, beaten slightly to mix the yellow and white
Progresso or Contadino Italian seasoned bread crumbs
Seasonings: garlic powder, Italian blend, minced onion, salt and pepper
-Combine the ground meats.
-Add the 3 beaten eggs.
-Mix together with your hands. (The mixture will be gloppy.)
-Add seasoned bread crumbs until the mixture reaches a good consistency, not too wet, not too dry. At least ½ cup up to 1 cup but it is a “feel” thing. You want the meat to hold together so you are able to roll the meat into balls. (Adding too many or too few bread crumbs is not the end of the world.)
-It is important not to overmix the meatball mixture because it will make the meatballs too dense and tough.
-You can also add garlic powder, salt and pepper, minced onion, Italian seasoning, grated cheese, etc. The seasoning in the breadcrumbs also adds flavor.
-Scoop a portion of the mixture up and roll it between your palms until it forms a ball. The size depends on you. The ones I make are usually about two inches in diameter.
-In a large skillet, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. You can add some garlic cloves but be careful not to let them burn. Take them out if they are getting too done. Brown the meatballs on all sides. They are ready to turn over if you can easily lift them from the pan. You can cover the skillet and turn down the heat if you want to cook them a bit more before adding them to the tomatoes. When they are well browned on all sides, transfer them to the pot of tomatoes which should be hot. Scrape up any bits in the skillet and add them and a bit of the oil to the sauce.
NOTE: This is also a good recipe for meatloaf. Follow the steps above, and instead of forming balls, form the mixture into a loaf shape and put into a shallow pan. Spread ketchup or tomato sauce on top of the meatloaf and sprinkle with a bit of brown sugar. To make a whole dinner, add halved fingerling potatoes (no need to peel), carrots, parsnips, and onions around the meatloaf. Cover the vegetables with water. Cover and bake until almost done, then remove the cover to brown the last 10 minutes or so. (It will take about 60 to 90 minutes to cook.)