Sauce for Pasta

Shop on Friday afternoon or evening. Then start cooking around 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, after you’ve had a good walk, a shower and a healthy breakfast. If you’ve put off shopping, go shopping pronto and get home and cooking by 10 a.m. If you’re any later than that, forget about it and try again next weekend.

To begin, put some Vivaldi or Respighi on the stereo. If you haven’t got speakers in the kitchen, turn the music up until you can hear it. Put on an apron. Wash your hands. Whip out the cutting board and a sharp knife, and begin.

Cover the bottom of your largest pot with olive oil and fire it up.

Peel one fist-size head of elephant garlic and cut the cloves into generous dime-size pieces.

Slice up one huge purple onion, or two medium-sized, into thin but not skimpy circles, and then once across to make rainbows, crescent moons, letter C’s, whatever you want to call them. (They break up easier in the pot that way.)

Toss the onions and garlic into the pot and sauté.

While they are sizzling along, rinse and cut up one bunch of celery with all the leaves. If some crude, unfeeling grocer has chopped off the leaves, do the best you can.

Toss the sliced celery into the pot with the garlic and onions and sauté it too, adding more olive oil and stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.

While you’re doing that, toss a frying pan on the stove for the sausage and ground beef.

On the cutting board, cut three or four feet of sweet Italian sausage into bite-size chunks. Brown them in olive oil in the frying pan. While they’re browning, don’t forget to stir the celery.

When the sausage is browned, pick out the chunks with tongs, let ’em drip for a moment, and then toss them into the pot with the garlic, onions and celery.

Take the frying pan off the flame for a moment, while you open a bottle of inexpensive Italian red wine, say a Bardolino or a Valpolicella from Riunite or Folonari, and pour the entire bottle into the big pot. Follow that with a large can, at least 20 ounces, of V-8 Juice. I also dump in a small jar of Ragu Original for luck; I figure, if I’ve left anything out, the professionals will cover me. Stir the contents of the pot.

Put the frying pan back on the flame. Drop in a pound or two of the best ground beef money can buy, break it up and brown it in the oil and fat from the sausage.

To the large pot, add a large can of tomato paste. Stir.

When the ground beef is browned, drain the fat, and toss the beef into the big pot. It is now about 11 a.m., and not later than 12 noon. Stir the pot, and let it simmer over low heat. Leave the lid on until 2 p.m. or so, then let it cook down, stirring frequently. The object is to cook it down to a thick, rich sauce with no watery run-off when it’s placed on pasta.

Do not put water in this sauce. Never. Do not add oregano or a mix of Italian spices. You do not need to; the flavor is in the vegetables, the sausage, the beef, the V-8 and the wine.

Let the sauce cook down until at least 6 p.m., then take it off the heat.

I prefer to serve it over linguine, but that’s really up to you. Accompany with a nice antipasto, if you like, and fresh bread or bread sticks. Don’t bother with a veggie course; they’re already in there. Open a good bottle of Italian red for the meal, perhaps a Valpolicella, a Bardolino, a Chianti Classico, or a Dolcetto di Alba.

Now, if you read all this and find yourself thinking, “I could save a few dollars by…” or “I could make this healthier by…”, then just forget about the whole thing. It needs three feet of sausage, and it needs an entire bottle of wine, and it needs to cook all day. Yes, it can set you back $40. It’s not the healthiest thing in the world. But it is a show-stopper. People will tell you they’ve never tasted anything like it, and that’ll be a good thing.

Shopping List

1 head elephant garlic
1 large purple onion
1 bunch celery with leaves

3-4′ of sweet Italian sausage
1-2 lbs. of lean ground beef

1 bottle of inexpensive Italian red wine
1 large can of V8 juice
1 large can of tomato paste
1 small jar of Ragu Original

plus pasta, antipasto and wine to drink


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