Now, much can be debated about what tomato sauce looks like, what it’s supposed to taste like and how it’s supposed to be made. There are very few recipes that I will share a long back story on, because if you are really interested in you them can read about it on the blog page, but this one deserves special attention.
It was my last term of college, and I had finished my Associates culinary degree a few months earlier and was on track to complete my Bachelors Degree in Food Service Management in the coming weeks.
I was at my grandma’s house for Thanksgiving. Well, we all know that grandmas don’t last forever and sometimes their minds go before their bodies, so I wanted to take advantage of my time with Gram. I wanted to get the secret family recipe for her delightful tomato sauce, which I could never replicate but LOVED. Like I don’t eat much tomato sauce (teaspoons worth usually) but hers I piled on.
So I sit down at the dining room table (the very one I’m typing this up at right now, in my own home, 22 years later). I’m an eager, fresh faced, college kid about to be thrown into the world of working people and wanted this special recipe so I could lord it over my friends.
So I ask Gram, “will you tell me the recipe for your tomato sauce?”
“Why, of course,” she says while cooking up my second favorite, the left over turkey and rice soup from thanksgiving dinner.
“You take a pound of chop meat, (as she calls ground beef), a pound of hot Italian sausage and a pound of sweet Italian sausage, out of the casing. Sauté them up together. Then add a green pepper and a white onion and cook that a bit. (So far so good, right?) Then you add a can of crushed tomato and a can of water of the crushed tomato (ooookaaaay….). Add some garlic (it was ambiguous if it was crushed, fresh, powdered, etc., but I was waiting with bated breath, so I wasn’t going to interrupt her). Then you take a large jar of Prego and pour it over the top and a jar of water from the Prego jar and mix it in.” WHAT?!?!?!?!??!?!?!? Wha? Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? PREGO?!?!? Souped up/tricked out Prego? This is the family recipe I have been yearning for?
I. Was. Horrified.
Like, no. nononononononononono no way did my family eat from a JAR!!! Here it is though in her own writing on a slip of paper she had laying around the house:
Such is the story of my very very NOT Italian family’s pasta sauce recipe. I place it here, on the internet for you, internet people, to encourage you. Don’t be ashamed of anything your grandparents or parents cook/cooked. Unless it was freaky jello mold stuff. That should be whispered about in back kitchens.
I write the above, not to shame my grandmother, but to lift her and her memory up for teaching me such wonderful lessons in life, including sometimes it’s just better to spend time with your family and make it a souped up sauce instead of a 3 day fiasco.