Originally published in the Herald Sun September 2011.
So, The Kid came home a few days ago, finished with six months of summer internship and first-time completely independent living. Petey and I filled the fridge with childhood favorites like Clementines and RC Cola, and counted the hours.
I made a big pot of childhood’s favorite guilty pleasure; pink sauce.
Despite being the child of an Italian girl from Jersey, I have never liked red sauce (called Sunday gravy by my mom and her sisters). Consequently, I never made it. If Petey or The Kid wanted spaghetti and meatballs, they had to leave home, and get their fix on the streets.
Because I wanted to make some kind of spaghetti for the family, but mainly because I’m always looking for something thick and yummy to ladle onto carbs, I came up with this coral-colored, indulgent concoction.
I invented this recipe before I could really cook, and The Kid has loved it for years. This sauce is not for the faint of heart. It should be no more than an occasional treat if you want to fit into your jeans or look your doctor in the eye. Fat is flavor, and can be the culinary equivilant of false eyelashes and push-up bra for the novice cook.
A big pot of this bubbling velvet starts the day before the finished dish. I make a batch of meatballs. My walnut-sized offerings are made with a mixture of ground veal and pork. Before the meat even comes out of the fridge, I make a panade. A panade is a bread ripped into tiny pieces and soaked until saturated.
My soak is egg, cream, shredded Parm, finely chopped garlic, chiffonade of basil, a splash of both olive oil and marsala wine, and salt and pepper. When the bread and the soak are one, I break the ground meat into small pieces and lightly mix, almost fold the mixture together. If you go nuts and mix your meatballs too much, they will be rubbery and dry.
I can’t fry a spherical meatball to save my life. So, I bake them, on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet, at 350 for twelve minutes, and a few minutes minutes under the broiler, flipped once. This gives them some color that translates to flavor in the finished product.
To get them uniform in size, I use a smallish cookie/portion scoop. I roll them into balls, sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and a little bit of freshly ground nutmeg. About eighteen or so go in the sauce, and any extra go in the freezer for future use.
The sauce itself is pretty simple. I brown 10-12 Italian sausages that I’ve cut into one inch slices. I remove them from the pot and carmelize about 1 1/2 pounds of sliced mushrooms, a small onion chopped, and five or six chopped cloves of garlic. Then I add back the sausage and a can of tomato paste. When the paste has cooked to a deep burgundy, I deglaze with a cup of marsala. When the wine is almost gone, I dump in a quart of chicken stock and 2 cups of cream. Into it I put a couple of tablespoons of sundried tomatoes, 1/2 cup shredded Parm, a tablespoon of sugar, 2 tablespoons of chopped basil, a drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
When it comes to a boil I thicken it slightly with a peanut butter colored roux and add the meatballs. It then slowly cooks for hours on the stove top.
When we’re ready to eat, I toss in another handful of chopped basil for fresh flavor.
I serve it on spaghetti, bake it into ziti, and use it on a ton of other things. The Kid is convinced it would be tasty on an old tennis shoe. Tonight we’re having leftover sauce on rice, my personal favorite.
Thanks for your time.