You can’t think of Italian cooking without thinking of old-fashioned red marinara sauce or gravy as some like to call it. Traditional spaghetti and meatballs are a staple meal in our home that always brings the family together at the table talking and laughing. It is great soul food and healing salve. Even on tough days, if I serve spaghetti with marinara sauce for dinner, everyone gets a whole new outlook on life.
It’s amazing! It’s something my mother would always cook every Sunday where we would have big family dinners with aunts, uncles and cousins visiting to share in the celebration. It always filled the house with aromatic smells and just soothed the soul with its wholesome goodness. I have some key ingredients in my sauce that always give it that unforgettable taste. I stick to the same things that work and it comes out magical every time.
I like to start off using the olive oil that I fried the meatballs in. It gives the base of the sauce some extra flavor. If I baked the meatballs in the oven, I usually need to add some additional olive oil since there is not as much olive oil left over in the baking pan. Thinly chopped garlic and onion come next. I saute this for just a few minutes and then add 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste. I like to use Contadina. Why? Because that’s what my mom used.
I cook that for another few minutes, letting that tomato paste change the color of the mixture to a reddish color. Now, comes my secret ingredient. It’s something I add that my mother does not. But it was interesting to find out that it was supposedly something that my mom’s father in Italy used to add and he was a great cook also! So she approved of my secret ingredient. You ready to know what my secret ingredient is? It’s just for you readers. It’s fresh rosemary.
I cut a good amount and add to the mixture in the pan and saute it for a minute or two. After this I remove from the heat and add 2 large cans of tomato puree. I always use Red Pack. I just like the flavor. And again, why? Because that’s what my mom used. Then I fill one of the empty cans with water and add to my sauce. At this point, while I’m stirring and waiting for the sauce to boil, I add 1 tablespoon salt, several leaves of fresh basil, pepper, Italian seasoning and a bit of sugar, like around a tablespoon.
Once it comes to a sturdy constant boil, I simmer and add my meatballs. I let cook for 2 hours. And the house fills with delightful smells and anticipation of a favorite meal. Cook your favorite pasta and top with the sauce. Add meatballs to your plate or serve meatballs as a second plate (secondi) after the pasta. Don’t forget your favorite red wine, fresh Italian bread and a light salad. Some Pavarotti on the speakers and you are all set!