Folks talk about Sunday Sauce and all types of pasta sauce as if everybody’s born to be Italian and some go as far in thinking there’s only one right one, being the original, the one passed along in their family from Mother-who-in-heavens-knows-anymore. I doubt they do either. Well, when it comes to eating spaghetti and making a meat sauce, I reckon it don’t matter what part of the country you live in or where you got your recipe, it’s all good, right? And before ya’ll get all riled up, let me say I know yours is the best.
The sauce we make down here is a bit different I suppose than some from the ‘real country’ as one put it, yet the more I got to looking at others, the more resemblance I saw and I guess that’s because Mobile and the south was the entry for so many folks from so many countries. Long before anyone thought about setting sights on the Upper New England territories, settlers were already mingling with the natives down here, probably making some kind of good sauce, melding different flavors into a new one. It’s no wonder so many of our good food sounds somewhat familiar to many from overseas, our roots stretch around the globe.
This is the way I grew up making tomato sauce with meat. Grandmother used just ground beef, Momma used beef and pork and well, I kind of use whatever I fancy at the time as long as it fits within the budget.
Southern Tomato Meat Sauce for Pasta
1/2 pound ground beef chuck
1/2 pound bulk country sausage (I also like Italian sweet links)
oil if needed
1 large chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup minced celery
4 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup red wine (whatever you drink)
7 cups tomato meat (like Creole or Roma types) or two 28.5 oz cans San Marzanos tomatoes (sieved if desired)
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon oregano
1 -6 oz. can tomato paste if using fresh tomatoes
In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, add the ground beef and Italian sausage, cook over medium high heat to brown stirring occasionally to form sucs on the bottom of the pot. Remove meats to a plate and if needed, add olive oil making about 2 tablespoons. Add the onion, bell pepper and let the onion soften but not caramelize and then toss in the celery, mushrooms and garlic to sweat a minute or two. Add the wine and let this cook out. Stir in the meat, the tomatoes and season with the salt, pepper, bay leaf and oregano. Bring to a low simmer and cook covered for about 2 hours. Remove bay leaf.
Stir in the tomato paste and meatballs if using and simmer for 1 hour or until thickened. Toss a little of the sauce with pasta prior to serving.