Monday, October 28, 2013

"The Flavors of Italy" - Tomato and Meat Sauce

Date I made this recipe:  October 20, 2013

Flavors of Italy by Simonetta Lupi Vada
Published by:  Crescent Books
ISBN:  0-517-05920-7
Recipe:  Salsa di Pomodoro Con Carne (Tomato and Meat Sauce) - p. 47

Well, okay.  Two minutes ago, it was September and now it's the end of October and I have only one recipe posting to show for myself.  But my husband and I were ridiculously busy in September and the first two weeks of October we enjoyed a long-awaited (and I mean long) vacation in Hawaii.  There really is nothing like warm sun and a gentle breeze to help settle the soul.

By all rights, I should have made something tropical upon our return but reality set in in more ways than one when we landed in Minneapolis on October 13th:  cold temperatures (mid 40's), gray and cloudy.  So much for papaya salsa and that "settled soul." 

But fear not folks, my cookbook arsenal is huge and so in no time, I found a book and a recipe to help transition from the abrupt change in climate and temperature:  Flavors of Italy.

What I wanted, what I really, really wanted was just a hearty pasta sauce and that was easily accomplished with this book.  What was not easily accomplished, at least on paper, was making the sauce.  If I followed the recipe to a "t," something I almost always do, I would have ended up cooking half the day with a yield of 9 pounds of sauce (yes, it said 9 pounds) and that was just not going to happen.  So changes were made.  The end result though, was just a basic tomato meat sauce, beautiful to look at, beautiful to eat.

Speaking of beautiful, I like cookbooks with photos and this cookbook is rife with photos of food and scenic areas in Italy.  Not that I needed a photo for this recipe, but I do like them if making more complicated dishes, not because I expect my creation to look like the photo (they often don't) but because I like to know if I'm in the ballpark. 

Most recipes in this book contained a little map icon alerting the reader/cook to the region from which this recipe is best known so if you're in the mood for northern Italian food, this book is helpful.  Since my relatives are from Sicily though, I tended to look southward! 

Before I get into the meat of the instructions below (pun intended), let me just say that although I did not cook for the blog in September, I was busy attending several Hennepin County Public Library ( used book sales, adding to my already vast collection; this book was one of my purchases for a - wait for it - buck!  I love these sales.  All proceeds benefit the libraries that fall under the Hennepin County umbrella (Hennepin County is home to several cities, including Minneapolis).  I am a huge supporter of public libraries and of course, love me a few cookbooks and so it all worked.

Buon appetito a tutti!

Salsa di Pomodoro Con Carne (Tomato and Meat Sauce) - warning:  makes 9 lbs of sauce!
*This was a mix and match recipe.  Below is the recipe for the meat sauce (page 47) to which I added a few ingredients from the piquant tomato sauce recipe found on the preceding page (p. 46) and then more or less cooked as directed on page 45 but with a few adjustments.  End result:  It all worked (amazingly) and it was delicious.

8 lbs firm, ripe tomatoes
1 lb slender carrots
3/4 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup mixed chopped parsley, sage and basil
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup olive oil
1 3/4 lbs lean ground beef
*bay leaf
*white wine vinegar (about 1/2 cup or less, to taste)
*2 tablespoons sugar (I always add just enough to cut the tartness of the tomatoes)
(Other optional items from the pomodoro piccante are green peppers, red bell peppers, pickled pepper, cloves (2 whole) and cinnamon.  Note too, that the pomodoro piccante sauce serves 4 whereas the meat sauce makes 9 pounds.  The piccante sauce also cooks down for 3 hours, then you add more ingredients and cook for 2 more - Mama Mia! 

To make a more reasonable amount of sauce to serve 4 people, use the following ingredient amounts:
2 lbs tomatoes
1/3 cup carrots
1/4 cup celery
1T (or more) chopped parsley, sage and basil
1-2 cloves garlic
1/4 lb onions
1 T butter
1- 1 1/2 T olive oil
1/2 pound lean ground beef

If you stick with the meat sauce recipe, do like I do and cook just the tomato sauce for about a half an hour or so, then add the meat as directed and cook for another hour or so, bringing the total cooking time to 1 1/2 hours.  You can play around with this as you wish.  The total cooking time for the basic tomato sauce recipe, found on page 45, is 4 hours and I'm sorry but no, that's not going to happen.  I will allocate 4 hours or more if necessary to watch a Packers game but draw the line at spending 4 hours popping in and out of the kitchen unless it is to refresh a cocktail!

Directions:  Wash the tomatoes and seed them, then chop coarsely.  (By the way, I don't know why I didn't think of this before, but a small ice-cream/dough scoop does the job perfectly).  Set aside.  Put the onions in a pan with butter and olive oil.  Heat gently until softened.  (New instructions)  Add the tomatoes, carrots, celery, herbs and garlic (use whole cloves of garlic).  Cook for 1/2 hour.  Add the meat (raw) and cook for another hour to hour and a half; add water if necessary.  Season with salt.  Serve!

No comments: