D’s friend Jeremy recently commented how easy it is to make cranberry sauce. The same goes for a good tomato sauce. If you are willing to chop a few vegetables, it is remarkable how delicious a homemade classic tomato sauce can be (and how easy it is to create variations on the original).
Friends will eat your sauce and ask what brand it is. They will marvel at the chunks of vegetables they can actually taste. Most importantly, they will secretly love you for not killing them with the over abundance of salt that is found in most jar varieties. You will love them back because they will remain in your life longer—unless of course, you no longer desire this, I suggest any high-salt jar variety.
I will sometimes make this sauce with meat—otherwise known as Bolognese. But oh! To have giant meatballs doused in sauce looming on your plate! It makes you want to sing out—On top of spaghetti/ All covered with cheese/ I lost my poor meatball/ When I had to sneeze… But these meatballs, trust me, will be in the belly before anyone can sneeze. (I was eating leftovers today at lunch and was beyond stuffed. The glutton and greed in me pushed on, fighting to finish the last meatball before the plate was passed to D for completion. Who promptly asked, “where’d the meatballs go?!”)
To swank up this classic meal, aim was taken at the garlic bread. Tease peoples’ palates by adding anchovy to the butter/ olive oil mixture. There is no offensive taste that an anchovy can sometimes offer. For many, it is a salty afterthought that will leave them to wonder “what was that delicious spice?”. This bread is so good and easy to make I’ll sometimes prepare only this for lunch. My friend A loves it so much that whenever she comes over we make a big loaf of this as a snack. My vegetarian friend B loves it so much she breaks her will just for this occasion. And you didn’t garlic bread could get any better.
I will have to say the best part of the spaghetti dinner is the leftovers. I love warming spaghetti on the stovetop the next day. The sauce cooks into the noodles creating a single entity. Rather than sauce on noodles, the dish unites. What was once a delicious spaghetti and meatball becomes a hearty, home inducing memory…
SPAGHETTI & MEATBALLS w/ ANCHOVY GARLIC BREAD
Serves 6. Cook + Prep time= 40 min
1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
4-5 garlic cloves
5-6 black olives, chopped
2 Tbl olive oil
1- 5oz can no salt added tomato paste
1-15oz can stewed (or diced) tomatoes, no salt added
1-28oz can crushed tomato, no salt added
2 Tbl brown sugar
2 bay leaves
10 leaves fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp oregano
fresh pepper/ salt to taste
1) In a saucepot on medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add onions, garlic and mushrooms. Sauté 10 min until onion is soft and mushrooms reduce and brown a little. Add olives and pepper, sauté 5 min. Add basil, oregano and stir. Add 3 cans of no salt added tomato sauces. Add bay leaves, brown sugar, salt/ pepper to taste, stir. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer while you prep the meatballs and noodles. Allow to cook at least 20 min.
NOTE: mouthwatering plays on this simple recipe: option 1- Add ¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes to the sauce. Option 2- Blacken some red peppers in the oven. Remove skin, chop and add to sauce. Option 3- Using 5-6 lbs Roma tomatoes, cut into quarters and place on a non-reactive bake dish. Preheat oven to 450F. Add ½ cup olive oil, ½ cup balsamic vinegar, 10 garlic cloves. Roast for 40 min until tomatoes begin to blacken. Use this in lieu of the canned tomatoes. Option 4- Add meat with the onion/ garlic/ mushrooms to create a Bolognese sauce. Option 5- Use 2 portabella mushrooms instead of the button (or meat). Option 6- Add 2 cups chopped basil to create a pesto-tomato sauce.
Makes about 15 balls
2 lb meatloaf meat (veal/ beef/ pork)
1 medium white onion, chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ tsp sage
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1) In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients until evenly distributed. Warm a skillet on medium heat with 2 Tbl oil.
2) Form 2-3 inch balls. Add to skillet and allow to brown on all sides, about 10 min. Once done, add to tomato sauce to warm through and absorb some tomato flavor. Let sit for at least 5 min before serving. (You can make your noodles now according to the package)
ANCHOVY GARLIC BREAD
Makes one loaf.
1 loaf good Italian bread
2 Tbl unsalted butter
2 Tbl olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1) Cut loaf in bread lengthwise (a la hamburger style per Kindergarten terms)
2) In a small sauce pan on medium heat add all ingredients. Using a fork, mash up the anchovy as butter melts and stir everything together. Once garlic starts to sizzle, remove from heat and brush onto both sides of bread. Close bread, cut into pieces (cut so the bottom of the bread still holds together but pieces can be easily torn off. Sit on a baking sheet and broil 5-8 min until lightly golden, sizzling and delicious.
ORDER OF PREP:
1) Start the sauce first. While the onion/ garlic/ mushrooms warm, mix the meatball ingredients and form balls.
2) Once you add the cans of tomato for the sauce, cook the meatballs.
3) While meatballs cook, prepare the anchovy garlic bread filling.
4) Transfer meatballs to sauce. Begin noodles (unless fresh then wait until last min to prepare). Brush filling on bread and cook.