Friday, December 1, 2006

Mom's Meat Sauce

2 pounds ground sirloin (or a combination of meats of your choice)
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 small can tomato paste
28-ounce crushed tomatoes with added puree (preferably Muir Glen or San Marzano)
2 large cans tomato sauce
1 can (16 ounce) diced tomatoes
½ cup red wine
Dash of balsamic vinegar
Dried or fresh basil, oregano, and thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sugar

Heat a large, deep skillet over low heat. Add the ground meat, season with salt and pepper, and about half a cup of water. Cook slowly, without allowing meat to brown, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon.

When the meat is cooked, remove from the pan and set aside. Add some olive oil to the pan, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the onion and red pepper; cook until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the tomato paste, cooking for a minute or two to allow the tomato paste to caramelize and the flavor to develop. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato puree, along with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Add dried herbs, beginning with about 2 teaspoons dried basil, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, and 1 teaspoon dried thyme. Add the sugar. Return the meat to the pot.

Once the tomato sauce has come to a simmer, add the red wine. Cook over a very low heat for as much time as you have, but at least an hour. Add a tablespoon or so of balsamic vinegar, and taste to adjust seasonings. Depending on your taste, it could take quite a bit of dried herbs, salt, and pepper to bring the sauce to your liking. If it tastes like it needs “something,” try a little more balsamic vinegar or red wine. Feel free to adjust all seasonings—including sugar—adding a little bit, allowing the heat from the sauce to blend the flavor, then tasting again.

Don’t forget to use a clean spoon for every taste! When the sauce is the way you like it, it’s done.

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