In two nights time, I will be hosting 30 hungry teenagers for dinner.
It’s the swim team carb-loading pasta party. Not only do I have to worry about having enough food to fill 30 teenage athletes’ bellies, I am doing it with what some people would consider ethnic food.
Having grown up in an Italian house, pasta sauce isn’t that exotic to me. I’m not talking about that shitty Hunts in a can or Ragu in a jar. Granted, my mother used Ragu, or Prego if she was feeling fancy. I can’t even eat that stuff. If I want freeze dried onions, I’ll have a McDonalds cheeseburger.
My grandmother though, my grandmother would make real pasta sauce with oregano and basil. Sauce with pepperoni and loads of spicy Italian sausage and meatballs. Loads of fresh garlic in a sauce so thick I was quite happy to skip out on the pasta and just eat the sauce with a spoon. It was glorious. It would cook for days and it only got better the longer it was cooked.
My husband and I cook sauce in that vein. In the summer we use tomatoes, oregano, and basil (garlic too if we have it) freshly picked from the garden. When that’s not possible, we use canned tomatoes, Contadina is by far the best of the traditional grocery store options (there are some other brands that are as good or better, but they aren’t the ones in my local stores. I have to go to specialty stores to get them). We have fresh oregano and basil for a far longer part of the year than we have fresh tomatoes. Sometimes we through in zucchini or yellow squash. Sometimes we caramelize onions and make a hearty meat sauce. Whenever I have it, I pour in a generous amount of burgundy.
Sorry, I just made myself hungry.
I have found though, that many people are not accustomed to real pasta sauce. Many people think that Hunts, it’s so flipping nasty and bland it might as well be ketchup, is a real pasta sauce. I love Hunts. Whenever I buy ketchup, I choose Hunts. But it doesn’t belong on my spaghetti. And yet, in many middle of the road restaurants, that’s exactly what is served on pasta. Abomination!
Or, people think that the red liquid in Spaghettios is pasta sauce. No! That’s not sauce, that is really crappy tomato soup.
There is not a single jarred pasta sauce that is any good. I’ve tried them all. I don’t care what you do after you open the jar, it’s still rubbish pasta sauce. You may “doctor it up” all you like, it will always have that straight-from-the-jar flavor. There is no love in there.
Real sauce is so easy to make. A couple of cans of tomatoes, some olive oil, salt and pepper, oregano, basil, garlic. That’s all you need. A little onion salt, some tomato paste. That’s all there is to it. You can add whatever else you like, but you don’t have to add anything else. Throw everything in the crock pot in the morning and when you get home from work it’s ready. Throw it over blanched green beans, spaghetti squash, pasta, rice, or whatever else makes you happy. It’s perfect. And cheaper than jarred sauce.
I’m afraid though, that all that love in my homemade pasta sauce, well…. Not every child is used to so much love. It might be overwhelming. For those kids, I have potato chips and breadsticks.