Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce
WHEN I WAS 6, WE LIVED IN LIVORNO, ITALY. Mom learned how to make this sauce from Anna, the woman who took care of us kids and was my Mom’s friend and companion when my Dad was gone traveling for his government job. If you’re thinking Anna was a cheerful, round woman in loose house dress and peasant scarf, think again! I don’t remember ever seeing Anna in anything less than 3-inch serious, black heels, pencil skirt and trim blouse…tucked in. I have no idea how she made pasta from scratch on the marble counter top by hand, without getting flour on those slim, wool skirts, but somehow she managed to always look like Sophia Loren’s double.
This is from memory, so please forgive me, Mom and Anna, if I’ve left anything out.
1 1/2 lb ground beef
~1/4 pound Italian sausage (or not…whatever you like is fine)
1 medium yellow onion
couple cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 celery stalks, de-stringed
1 whole carrot, topped and washed
Italian spices: (use fresh herbs if you have them)
Italian parsley, oregano, basil, thyme… to taste (don’t overdo)
1-2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced (fresh – I like the brown ones)
1-2 bay leaves (dried)
3 large cans whole Italian plum tomatoes (cut up) with juice
couple cans tomato sauce (small)
1 small can tomato paste (with one additional can of water to get all the good paste out)
In a large sauce pot, saute chopped onion and minced garlic in olive oil until onion is translucent. Stir frequently to keep from burning. Remove from pan, set aside. Brown hamburger and/or sausage. Thoroughly drain and add onions and garlic back into the pot. Add remaining ingredients and simmer on delicious until done! Let the aroma fill your home for at least 6 hours so the flavors can blend. Remove bay leaves before serving.
Ladle over spaghetti (al dente), top with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, and you have a winner every time. Vegetarian? Just don’t add the meat.
Having lived through the war, Anna was very frugal. She kept rabbits in her attic and used whatever protein sources were at hand. So, in her sauce she didn’t always add beef, but used large, white, garden snails, roughly chopped. We discovered this one night when we went to her house for dinner.
Luckily, we had no idea they were in there until after we ate it. I must say, though, it was really good! Who knew?