Thursday, June 11, 2009

Confessions of a Prego User

One of the dishes my mother used to make on a regular basis was spaghetti with a red sauce and ground beef.  We referred to it just as spaghetti never thinking for an instant that there was any other way to prepare it or that spaghetti was just pasta!  My brothers and I thought this was the best dish ever.  When I married and had my own children I tried to recreate my Mama's dish.  In the beginning the dish had browned beef and onions, tomato sauce, an entire can of tomato paste and plenty of sugar.  Later the tomato sauce became a jar of Prego.  My children thought this was the best dish ever. Now that I am older my understanding of "spaghetti" has changed and the gravy that goes on top can be something entirely different.  So with apologies to my children your Mama's spaghetti will never taste the same. 

Mama's Tomato Sauce with Pasta
1 - 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 - 8 oz. can of chopped tomatoes, drained
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1/4 cup of chopped onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons sugar (more if you like it sweeter)
3/4 cup red wine (I prefer a Cabernet Sauvignon - choose what you like to drink)
Fresh Basil
3/4 teaspoon salt, for pasta water
1/2 pound pasta

Heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions and garlic.  Cook until the onion is translucent but not browned. Add both cans of tomatoes, the red pepper flakes, sugar, wine and a couple of basil leaves.  Reduce your heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Boil your pasta.

While reading Giulia Melucci's I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti I learned several secrets that I believe the Italians have been keeping to themselves. It is about how you get the pasta and gravy together and get it to the table hot, looking great and tasting truly wonderful.

Tip # 1
Salt your pasta water.  Salty water is essential to flavorful pasta; it should have the aroma of the Mediterranean.
Tip # 2
You can't time pasta; you know it is done only by tasting it.
Tip # 3
Heat your pasta bowls.  I put mine in the microwave during the last few minutes that the pasta is boiling.  Be careful when removing them - they are hot.
Tip # 4
Drain the pasta and put it back in the same pot that you boiled it in.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, a ladle of your sauce and torn basil leaves.  Stir. Place in hot bowls and top with another ladle of sauce and a few basil leaves and parmigiano cheese.

During the summer feel free to use fresh tomatoes just know that your cooking times will differ. Feeds 4

Save the Prego for Italy - it means "you are welcome".  Life is good - enjoy!

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