A Spaghetti Sauce Worthy of Christmas Dinner
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My granddaughter was here for four nights and the silence right now is kind of deafening.
Don’t get me wrong – we loved every minute. But this morning I had to peel her off the walls, she is so hyped up about Christmas.
This photo makes her look like she doesn’t have any pants on! She was actually wearing light pink tights.
We’ll only have 8 here for Christmas Eve dinner. It’ll be fun, but I’m still missing 4 kids and their partners.
I’ve been thinking of an easy, make-ahead menu for weeks. The last thing I want to do is be stuck in the kitchen when everyone else is sitting around, drinking wine and having a good time.
It’s all one big room, anyway, but it’s the principle of the thing.
All of the items on my menu can be made days ahead of Christmas Eve dinner. I’m just praying that my stupid oven doesn’t start hip-hopping all over the place, like it has been lately. Getting it to stay at 350° or 375° is nearly impossible, so we’ll see. At least, I’ll always have an excuse if something doesn’t turn out right, right?
My daughter sent this homemade ornament and I love it. I’m so happy that she is doing the same thing with her kids that I did with her and all of her brothers and sisters.
This recipe is my mom’s Spaghetti Sauce. Back in the day, being Irish and German, we didn’t call it Bolognese. My daughter-in-law swears it’s the best Spaghetti Sauce she’s ever had and I agree. I never bothered to ask my mother where she got it; probably from her mom. Anyway, it’s funny because I saw one of the Italian chefs on Food Network make Bolognese one time, and he used cinnamon and allspice, as she did. He also crushed his canned San Marzano tomatoes with his fingers.
I’ve got a couple of Tips du Jour for you: When you open a can of tomatoes or tomato sauce, you’re going to get some of sauce on the top of the lid, right? Do yourself a favor: just wash off your cans before opening. Think of how many hands have been handling those cans and how much dust they’ve accumulated over the months. Ick! So, wash them off.
Secondly, one time when I was in college, my roommate opened a can of orange juice and put the lid in a towel. That was back in the day when you had to use a can opener for orange juice, so the edges were super sharp and wavy. I grabbed the towel after washing my hands. That damned lid cut deep into the bottom palm of my hand.
I still have a huge scar, 40 years later. So, when you’re throwing out your lids, dig out a bubble wrap envelope that came with Amazon, and put the lids in the bottom, so you don’t go pushing down your garbage and cut your hands.
Anyway, this recipe is really good and can be made 3 or 4 days ahead of time. Then it can sit it out in the garage fridge.
Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce
2 pounds 7% ground beef
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 large, sweet onions, chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped garlic
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
Pinch each of cinnamon and allspice (you won’t taste it but don’t omit!)
1 1/2 cup Dry Vermouth (the sauce won’t taste of wine!)
2 large cans whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes, squished up with your fingers
1 large (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
Dash of sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One pound to 1 1/3 pound thin spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan
Heat a large Dutch oven (or large, non reactive pot, like stainless steel) to medium high. Salt and pepper, then brown the ground beef thoroughly in olive oil and remove to a bowl. While that’s browning, chop your onions.
Chopping the onions is the most time consuming step of this recipe. You can cheat a little and use your food processor, if you like. Cut off both ends and cut the onion in quarters. Then peel them and throw ’em in the food processor. Pulse until the onion pieces are about 1/3 of an inch big.
Lower the heat on your Dutch oven to medium and add enough extra virgin olive oil to coat. It may look like an awful lot of onions, but don’t worry. If they’re sweet, they’ll do your sauce good. Cook your sweet onions until they are soft and translucent. When you put your onions in the pan, add a teaspoon of salt. When they are cooked, add the garlic and stir.
Now, add the rest of the ingredients to the onions, including the ground beef. To squish up your tomatoes, do this. Put a large sieve over your pot. Now, reach on in there and squish away with your hands. When you’re done with the first can, dump it out and go onto the next can of tomatoes.
Cook on medium so that the sauce is at a low bubble. Stir occasionally, making sure it’s not so hot that the bottom is sticking. Adjust the heat so it won’t stick, if necessary. Cook for an hour or two, at least.
You can also put it on very low and continue to cook for a few more hours, to let all the flavors marry.
When you’re ready to cool the sauce, taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasonings.
When cooled, put in fridge for a few days. The morning of your dinner, reheat on low. Let it sit for the afternoon, warming away on the stove. The smells will be amazing. Cover if it’s getting too thick.
Right before you want to eat, heat up a large stock pot with salted water. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions, until al dente.
You can either combine the sauce with the pasta (which is what I do) or you can place the cooked spaghetti on each plate and ladle sauce over it. What a pain.
Pass the freshly grated parmesan at the table. Yum!
Hope you’ll try this – it’s wonderful!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
If you don’t have a Dutch oven, here are a couple of options on Amazon; they are all enameled. Do not use regular cast iron when making Spaghetti Sauce because it will react with the acid in the tomatoes!
This first one is a 5 quart Dutch oven on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2kVnXc9
This second one is a 6 quart Dutch oven from Lodge (who makes all sorts of great cast iron skillets): http://amzn.to/2zbLZ8b
This next choice is a 7 quart Dutch oven on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2CUjwGb
And finally, here’s the Le Creuset, which is 7 1/4 quarts: http://amzn.to/2CUQBBx