During my (very brief) stint as a classic poor college student, I would head over to my grandparents’ house about once a month, to be fed and/or do some laundry. My grandmother, in ever-declining health, wasn’t up to cooking the foods she used to make when I was a kid (a subject that richly deserves its own post), so we’d usually get some kind of take-out.
There was, however, one time (I think I had stopped by to pick up some things I’d left in the dryer last time ) she felt up to the task of making spaghetti sauce. And, just as she did every time I’d ever left her house, she loaded me up with food, including a plastic tub full of sauce, straight off the stove. Seeing as it was still warm when I got it home, it seemed a waste to put it in the fridge right away, so…
I probably polished off a pound of this rich, meaty sauce before I had the good sense to save the rest for later. I don’t think it was the last time she made spaghetti sauce, but it was certainly the last time I remember getting to eat it: standing in the dim pantry of the run-down apartment I shared with no less than five roommates, eating sauce right out of the container with a spoon I’d had to wash before using. Maybe it was just from living on ramen noodles at that point, but I don’t think I’d ever eaten anything that made me so happy before.
And yesterday, after years of trying, I think I’ve come as close as possible to making that sauce myself.
It happened pretty much by accident — in truth, I really just needed to cook some sausage meat before it spoiled — so I’m going to try and recall everything I did, in the hopes of recreating this sauce again later.
- 1 lb. sausage meat (or lean ground beef)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 big handful fresh parsley, minced
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 tbs. red wine
- 1 heaping tbs. sugar
- 2 cans crushed tomatoes
- about 1 can of water (because I couldn’t waste that bit of tomato clinging in the cans)
- salt and pepper
The rest is pretty self-explanatory; brown the meat and then the vegetables, dump in the rest, set it to simmer.
Here’s what I did differently yesterday: I pretty much forgot about it. Seriously, I walked away from it simmering on the stove and started doing something else… and then before I knew it, it was two and a half hours later and my husband was calling from the kitchen, “uh, should I be doing something with this sauce out here?”
I scuttled off to the kitchen, muttering fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck! under my breath, and found the sauce had reduced by about a third. I stirred, skeptical but hoping some of it could be salvaged, and found it was more than salvageable — it was perfect. As close as I’ve ever come to the sauce my grandmother made.
And, of course, I just stood there in the middle of my kitchen, the same as I did fifteen years ago, just eating that sauce with a spoon and being happy.