I have a Nonnie, but this is not her meat sauce. It is my son’s best friend’s Nonnie’s meat sauce. Sort of. I have to be honest with you, I am becoming a bore. If you sit next to me at, say for instance, a Saturday basketball game, I am going to hound you about what you had for dinner last night, and what you are making over the rest of the weekend. For the Nonnie in question, I really bug her about her cooking. I want to be a good Italian mama. The only problem is that I am not Italian. My mother is not Italian. And my grandmother is not Italian. You learn to cook Italian food by watching Italians cook Italian food. The next best thing for me is to hound someone else’s Italian grandmother while she is trying to watch her grandson play basketball.
The thing about how she cooks is that quantities come into question. How much ground sirloin? Enough. How many carrots? Until it looks right. What kind of sausage? Eh, whatever looks good at Corti Brothers. How many cans of tomatoes? It depends on the size of your pot. After I came home from last week’s basketball game, I was confident that using her directions, I could make a good sauce. And you know what? I can.
And because my Nonnie is equally adorable, here are my children and her in front of a gigantic hot dog. Because isn’t that where all memories are made?
1 package dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground sirloin (I use grass fed)
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 large onion
2 ribs celery
2 cloves garlic
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) tomato sauce
salt and pepper
flat leaf Italian parsley
Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and keep the mushroom liquid.
Brown the sirloin and sausage in a large pot with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat.
Add the onions, carrots, and celery. Cook until the vegetables soften. About 5 minutes.
This is what the mushrooms will look like when they are re-hydrated. Chop them into chunks.
Add the mushrooms, mushroom liquid, and garlic to the pot. Cook for another 2 minutes.
Add both cans of tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a bubble.
Turn the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. I made this sauce the day before we were going to eat it. I cooled it down and put it into 2 (1-quart) mason jars. This sauce made enough for two dinners, so you might want to freeze half for another meal.
While my spaghetti was cooking, I heated the meat sauce in a large saute pan. When the pasta was cooked al dente, I tossed it with the sauce in the pan.
Garnish with Parmesan cheese and chopped Italian parsley.
Grab a nice glass of red wine, some crusty bread, and say a toast for Italian grandmother’s everywhere. Because some crazy person is hounding them at a basketball game for their meat sauce recipe.