Ya’ll, I am sick. I was able to meet my friend’s baby for the first time last weekend and the poor guy had a cold. I knew I shouldn’t, but when he reached toward me to be held, I couldn’t help it. I reached back! I figured, if this little guy can handle the runny nose at a noisy party with only a little bit of grumpiness, then it won’t be so bad for me.
The lesson I took away from the experience: never underestimate the resilience of a one year old. The other lesson I learned was to always have a nice cushion of recipes developed, tested, and photographed in case of emergencies like giving yourself baby flu! Truly, I am so grateful for my practice of adulting as self care because all the work I did for myself last week enabled me to rest and focus on getting better this week. I only wish I had thought to make myself some chicken noodle soup!
Thankfully, I did have the next best thing: red sauce. Red sauce, or spaghetti sauce as many people call it, is one of my all time favorite comfort foods. It tastes like Sunday evenings at home spent with people who don’t care if you’re still wearing your pajamas at 7 p.m. Of course, you can buy a jar of red sauce at the store, many of them will contain all whole foods with no added chemical flavors and only citric acid as a preservative, and you can easily brown some ground beef or spicy Italian sausage to turn it into a meat sauce, but you will be missing out on an opportunity to make a truly great red sauce. Truly great (TM) red sauce cooks slowly, in great abundance, and is made with love. It also freezes very well, and takes very little work. If you consider the effort spent making homemade red sauce can feed you and your family for 3 meals or more, the time spent actually preparing the sauce is probably comparable to what you would spend making three spaghetti dinners with the uninspired jar and ground beef.
The best sauce contains a cut of beef meant for a stew or roast, and bones. Braised osso buco is both in one cut of beef, and it is super cheap, in spite of its fancy Italian name. Try making this sauce if only for the meat. Beef stewed in red sauce has been one of my favorite foods for going on three decades now – that’s as long as I have been eating food! It is a true test of will for me to get any of the meat back into the sauce after I pull it off of the bone. I’m only human, after all!
NOTE: When pulling the meat off of the bone, make sure you scrape the bone marrow out of the largest bone and put it back into the pot (or spread it on a piece of bread and eat it over the sink!) Bone marrow is a delicacy packed with flavor so don’t let it go to waste!
NOTE: I used to use expensive D.O.P. canned tomatoes until a wizened old Nonna hobbled over to me in the grocery store as I stocked my cart with 8 dollar cans of tomatoes and just started taking them out of my cart and putting them back on the shelf. Through a mixture of English, Italian, and a lot of hand gestures, she let me know that she uses cheap Sclafani brand canned tomatoes from New Jersey and that I should too. Who am I to argue with an Italian Grandmother?! That was three years ago and I have probably saved myself $150 in canned tomatoes in that time. I also haven’t noticed a difference in the taste of my sauce, which I have been making on my own for 15 years now.
Red Sauce (Spaghetti Sauce)
2 cuts of osso buco (sub a lb of stew beef, brisket, chuck roast, or short ribs plus beef bones)
4 cans of crushed tomatoes (28 oz cans)
1 large onion
8-12 cloves garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
4 tbs tomato paste
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 cup dry red or white wine, whatever you’re drinking. Sub beef or chicken broth.
Optional: 1/2 lb Italian sausage without casing (hot or sweet)
Optional: 1 tsp red chili flakes
Salt and pepper meat and bones liberally.
In a large stock pot, heat 1 tbs olive oil over medium high heat. Add the beef and bones, working in batches if needed, browning them on each side. The more browning, the more flavor, just be careful not to burn them.
When all meat and bones are browned, remove them from the pot using tongs. Add onions and another tbs of olive oil and with a pinch of salt. Turn heat down to medium. Cook until onions turn translucent. Add garlic and cook for another minute or two.
Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until paste starts to turn deep orange-red in color.
Add wine or broth to deglaze the pan. Scrape all the browned bits of meat and onions off of the bottom of the pan. Cook until liquid is halved.
Add canned tomatoes and return browned beef and bones to the pot. Add red pepper flakes, if desired. Turn heat up to medium high and stir until sauce begins to bubble. Turn heat down to low. Cover pot and cook for 2-4 hours, until beef is fork tender and falling from the bone, stirring intermittently (every 20 minutes, about) to make sure the sauce does not burn on the bottom.
Remove cooked beef and bones and let cook until they can be comfortably handled. Pull meat off of bones and break into pieces. Cut any pieces that are longer than two inches. Scrape marrow out of bones. Return meat and marrow to sauce.
Serve with pasta of your choice and grated Parmesan cheese.
As always, here are some pins!!