Sauce…or gravy for the initiated
OK…my favorite sauce – gravy for some- is flavored with some sort of meat. It doesn’t matter too much, but pork is probably my favorite. It’s a little fattier and I find it imparts the most flavor. The simplest sauce for me utilizes sausage. When I make sauce, I like to make enough so that I’ve got enough for a week…or for freezing.
I usually work with two pounds of my favorite sweet sausage. (Genoa just off the corner of Route 9 and 378 is my local favorite in Albany, NY.)
Other ingredients needed: 2 cans of San Marzano tomatoes. (San Marzano are just the best…they cost a little more…but are worth it!), One small onion, 2 cloves of garlic, one can tomato paste (any brand).
Place your sausage on a baking sheet and place in your pre-heated oven at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Your sausage should be browned after 30 minutes. If not browned, keep going for 10 minutes at a clip until ready. No need to overcook…your meat will cook further in your sauce.
While your sausage cooks, put ¼ cup olive oil in the bottom of the pot in which you will be cooking the sauce. Chop ½ of a small onion into small pieces. Saute over low heat until translucent or soft. Next, either chop the two cloves of garlic as small as possible, or crush through a garlic press . Add to the onion and oil and sauté for a minute or two. Be careful to not overcook the garlic and don’t allow it to brown (if this occurs, you have sort of moved your sauce towards a marinara sauce…but it’s fine…I just prefer the garlic to have been sautéed…not browned for this sauce.)
Once your onion and garlic are ready, add the can of paste and stir the onion and garlic into the paste. I typically add water to the paste can, mix a little with the handle of a wooden spoon, and add the water with the rest of the paste.
Now, add your two cans of tomatoes. I typically crush the tomatoes before I add them to my sauce. I also remove the center stem and seeds from each tomato. This is optional. If you choose to do this, just take each can, and remove one tomato at a time, peel back the pulp, leaving the stem and seeds. Discard the stringy stem and any skin you find. Place the pulp in an empty bowl. Add the tomato pulp in your bowl and the juice left in the can to your sauce.
Set to simmer and allow to cook as long as you have…a few hours is great. Your sausage should be just about done at this point, so add the sausage to your sauce. I cook the sausage in links but before adding to the sauce, slice the sausage into serving size pieces.
Allow your sauce to cook with your meat for at least an hour…the longer the better… Now, if you choose to simmer with the cover off, use your empty paste can. Add a can of water occasionally as your sauce reduces. Just look at the side of your pot…you’ll notice that the original level of your sauce is lower…you shouldn’t try to bring your sauce level back to the original…but you should add water to stop your sauce from becoming too thick. This takes a little experimentation…I add a can of water every 1/2-3/4 hour if I’m cooking a sauce over an afternoon and doing other stuff around or near the kitchen.
You can add a pork loin, a few pieces of beef or pork braciole, beef or pork ribs, or meatballs to your sauce. Add one can of paste for each two cans of tomatoes. More meat will require more sauce…you could add ½ dozen meatballs to your sauce without adding more tomatoes for example. More meat than that, and I’d recommend more tomatoes.
If you prefer a spicy sauce, add as much crushed red pepper flakes as you desire at the start of your sauce. This is definitely a personal choice, and you will need to experiment with crushed red pepper to know how much you prefer. 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes will not overpower most…and not impart too much heat. You’re on your own after that!
Garnish with a few sprigs of or some shopped parsley and some shaved fresh parmigiana cheese (Again…in Albany, Genoa has some great cheeses).
My thanks to my Cousin Jimmy and the Café Capriccio for their inspiration. Visit their great restaurant or their website at www.cafecapriccio.com and check out their fantastic new Fall Menu!