Wednesday, September 19

Da "Sauce" and Da Shame

I just made a pot of "mahdanad" (that's marinara for you medagons) and I started thinking about how hard it was for me to master this very important staple to the Italian-American diet.

I couldn't cook a thing until I lived on my own in college. I poured a mean bowl of cereal but my mom was a stay at home mom until I was a senior in high school and we always had our lunches packed and our dinners cooked. Why would I have needed to know how to cook?

So, once in an apartment at 18, I committed the gravest of sins- the worst thing an Italian-American daughter could do- I bought pasta "sauce" in a jar (Classico, NOT Ragu, although in my family, one is no better than the other). However, I learned how to make stromboli (after all, at my college, kids basically lived off of take-out stromboli), I stuffed (pasta) shells myself, cooked chicken 4 different ways and made tuna salad in a way that the fish taste was disguised (secret ingredient- RELISH). Not bad a for a novice kid. At 20 I somehow made a four course meal for my future in-laws, no pasta.

Once I moved in with my friend Sharon, I was 21 and the family stigma of using jarred sauce was getting to me. So, I bought a little crock pot and, carefully following my mom's instructions... I burned the sauce. Badly. It was only in the crock pot for 1 hour. Sharon has not let me forget this and it's almost 20 years later. I maintain that the crockpot was faulty. I gave up after various attempts for the next few months and spitting out the conoction. I was branded a failure, an inept gravy-maker in a long line of masters of delicious gravy- my mom, my aunt and both of my grandmothers' gravies all tasted the same. Shamed, I continued using the Classico until I was about 24, when I discovered a restaurant that had takeout marinara sauce. I started passing it off as my own until the place closed and I was revealed for the fraud that I was. Even my father would comment how, by that time in my life, I could cook any entree but still turn out a lousy batch of gravy. It was my culinary failure to bear, no matter how many more times I tried to duplicate my mom's recipe.

It was only about 10 years ago that I mastered the impossible. I deviated from my mom's complicated recipe and made up my own. It was much like a science experiment, with many batches of foul-tasting gravy being sent down the sink. This past Easter I cooked for my family and my inlaws. Among several other items, I served 6 dozen stuffed shells (homemade filling) with, of course, "gravy" (that is, marinara with meat-ground veal, pork and beef), sausage, bracciole and my renowned, yes RENOWNED, meatballs. Since I had never made a pasta dish for any of them it surprised me that I got compliments because it didn't occur to me that they had never had my version. My mom, in particular, who is hard to please, said it was good. That's the stamp of approval in my family.

The way I make it is easy but specific:
1 can of TUTTOROSSA crushed tomatoes (I can't be held responsible for what happens if you use another brand)
3 tablespoons of garlic POWDER
3 teaspoons of parsley flakes
1 teaspoon of basil
1 dash of pepper (I like white)
1 dash of salt

Stir. Cook for 1 hour on medium-low.
If you want to make a meat sauce (or GRAVY):
brown 1/2 pound of ground veal-pork-beef combo with 1 clove of fresh garlic in vegetable oil.
add to sauce and cook sauce

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This stuff is too funny!