“The Family Recipe” Meaty Pasta Sauce

When I met my wife’s family over twelve years ago and tried their sauce recipe, I knew that I was marrying into the right family. It’s the best tomato based pasta sauce that I have ever eaten. It’s thick, rich and meaty. The ingredients are basic, its seasoned to perfection and cooked slowly. I fell in love with this dish years ago, its contributed to my joy of cooking and my appetite for pasta dishes.

This is one of those dishes that you start on a Saturday morning and the sweet aroma permeates the house all day long while it simmers on the stove. You can make large batches and freeze it or turn it into other meals like… Well I’m not going to tell you since that would be giving away next weeks post. To me and my family this sauce is comfort food, it brings back great memories of family meals of the past. I hope you will find that this recipe transforms your family as it has mine.

“The Family Recipe” 
What you will need

3 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Large Yellow Onion Chopped
6 Cloves of Garlic Chopped
1.25 Lbs Ground Beef (90/10)
1 6oz Can of Tomato Paste
1 28oz Can of Tomato Sauce
1 28oz Can of Whole Tomatoes
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 1/2 Tbs Oregano
3 or 4 Leaves Fresh Basil Julienned (Sliced in strips)
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
1 Lb Dried Pasta (I like Spaghetti or Rotini)

In a thick bottomed pot add your olive oil and heat over medium. Once the oil is hot add your chopped onion and cook for 3 minutes. Move the onions to one side of the pot and add your garlic. Let the garlic cook for 1 – 2 minutes, but don’t let it brown (or it will become biter). Mix the onions and garlic togethers. Add a few pinches of salt and pepper, add the oregano and mix together. Move your onions to one side and add the ground beef to the pot. Season the ground beef with salt and pepper. Break the ground beef apart with a wooden spoon and cook until browned. It is okay to mix the onions and garlic in with the ground beef. Once the ground beef is browned, add the tomatoes, sauce and paste. Mix and let the sauce simmer for 2o minutes over low heat. With a potato masher crush the whole tomatoes. Mash them until the sauce becomes smooth. Add the fresh basil. Simmer over low heat for 3 to 4 hours, mixing with a wooden spoon every 30 minutes to make sure the sauce doesn’t burn at the bottom of the pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over pasta and enjoy what my family has enjoyed for half a century.


Perfect Summer Pasta

I could eat pasta anytime, any day. I’m a pasta junkie. The good news for me and other pasta junkies is that pasta, and their accompanying sauces are really versatile. There is a combination for every season. A rich meaty bolognese (see here) is great on a cold winters night. With the summer upon us, I’ve got the perfect pasta recipe to share with you. I’ve been making this dish for years, to the joy of family and friends. Made with ripe cherry tomatoes, sweet basil, garlic and olive oil, this dish bursts with flavor. The tomatoes and garlic marinate in the olive oil, making a deliciously light summer sauce.

Inspired by Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa -

Perfect Summer Pasta
1lbs Angle Hair Pasta
2 Pints Cherry Tomatoes
5 – 6 Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Red Chili Flakes
15 – 20 Basil Leaves, Julienned
1/4 Cup of Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tsp Kosher Salt

Rinse, then slice all of the cherry tomatoes in half. I used a variety of both red and yellow cherry tomatoes. In a bowl top the sliced tomatoes with 1 tsp of kosher salt. This is really important, because the salt pulls the water and flavor out of the tomatoes. This helps to make the sauce extra flavorful.

Add to the bowl, the sweet basil, red chili flakes, and garlic. Pour the olive oil into the bowl and mix all of the ingredients together. Cover the bowl and let the mixture sit for 2 – 4 hours. This allows time for all of the flavors to come together.

The rest is easy. Boil your water and cook the pasta according to directions on the package. Angel Hair pasta usually cooks really fast, in just 3 – 4 minutes. Once the pasta is cooked and strained pour the tomato and olive oil sauce over the top along with the parmesan cheese, toss together. Plate, and top with a little extra parmesan cheese. If you friends and family are like mine, they will be clamoring for seconds, so make plenty.


Coal Miners Spaghetti ~ Pasta Carbonara

I admit it, I’m a pasta junky! I have made my fair share of different pasta dishes, but Carbonara has alluded me until just last week. I’m really not sure why? Maybe it was the egg yolks that concerned me? It turns out those egg yolks make the most amazing rich sauce, that perfectly coats each fine strand of spaghetti! I think I might have thought that Carbonara was harder to make, but it’s actually very easy. The peas pop in your mouth adding great texture. The salty bacon and the hint of sweetness from the peas will almost guarantee you help yourself to a second portion.

The exact origins of Carbonara is a little foggy, but it is thought to have been invented in Rome, Italy around the time of World War II. Eggs and bacon were being rationed out by U.S. Soldiers, the basic components of this tasty treat. While on post, U.S. Soldiers couldn’t get enough of the newly invented pasta dish and it made it’s way back to the United States with them. Overall an easy dish to make that is simple in terms of ingredients, but shockingly flavorful!

Oh yes, in case you are wondering ~ Carbonara means charcoal burner and is sometimes referred to as coal miners spaghetti.

What you will need -

1 Tbs Olive Oil
10 oz Frozen Peas
8 oz Bacon
¼ Cup Pecorino Romano Cheese (plus extra for topping)
3 Large Eggs (2 whole eggs, one yolk) Room Temperature
¼ Yellow Onion Chopped fine
2 Cloves Garlic Chopped
¼ tsp Pepper
¼ tsp Salt
1 lb Spaghetti

You are going to need a bowl to mix the pasta in (use a metal bowl if you have one). Place that bowl under your pasta strainer in your sink. We want to warm the bowl with the pasta water, so that it helps to keep the pasta hot to cook the eggs once they are added. Defrost your peas (I heated mine in the microwave for a few minutes).

Start your water boiling. Once the water boils add your spaghetti and cook according to the directions on the box. While the water is heating up, in a large frying pan add your olive oil and heat your pan over medium heat. Once your oil is hot add your bacon and cook until browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pan… I’m sure you will try a piece, I did! Add your chopped onion to the frying pan and cook until translucent 3 – 5 minutes. Add your garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, don’t let the garlic brown or it will become bitter. Once the onion and garlic is cooked, remove the pan from the heat. Poor off any excess fat, leaving about 1 Tbs in the pan. Return the bacon to the pan. The bacon, onions and garlic must be finished before you can strain your pasta.

In another bowl crack two of the eggs. Then for the third egg you need to separate the yolk from the white. This is pretty easy, you crack the egg over a separate bowl and pass the yolk back and forth between the halved egg shells. The egg white will fall into the seperate bowl and you will be left with just the yolk. Add the yolk to the bowl with the other two cracked eggs.

Add the Pecorino Romano cheese, salt and pepper. Whisk vigorously to add some air to the mixture.

Timing at this point becomes critical, because you are going to use the heat of the pasta to cook the eggs (or bring them to a temperature that is safe to consume) and not scramble them.

Strain your pasta making sure to collect the water in the bowl placed under the strainer. Quickly shake you pasta to remove any excess liquid. Pour the spaghetti into the frying pan with the oil, bacon, onions and garlic, toss together. Carefully pour the water out of the bowl. Pour all of the ingredients from the frying pan into the now heated bowl. Add the egg mixture and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon to coat all of the pasta with the egg mixture. Add your peas and mix them into the spaghetti. Plate, top with a sprinkle of Pecorino Romano cheese and eat at once!

{Top Photograph taken by Carly Dunn}


San Marzano Marinara Sauce

Grown in the volcanic soil surrounding Mount Vesuvius, the San Marzano Tomatoes are similar to fine dark chocolate, they are rich in flavor, more expensive and high quality. Legend has it, that the San Marzano tomato came to Campania, Italy in 1770 as a gift from Peru. These tomatoes are sweeter and less acidic than other tomatoes, making them perfect for a simple marinara sauce.

Americans love to add ingredients on top of ingredients. Italian cooking is all about simplicity and showcasing one or two ingredients. When it comes to marinara sauce there is no better ingredient to showcase than the San Marzano tomato. The price of these tomatoes are about $5 for a large 28oz can compared to $2 for a large 28oz can of plum tomatoes. The extra $3 is well worth it and won’t break the bank. Good cooking starts with great ingredients. Brands available in supermarkets include Cento, Nina, La Bella, Solinia, Vantia, and Strianese. If you can’t get San Marzano tomatoes don’t bother making this sauce, it just won’t be the same.

Serves 4

Ingredients -

1 28oz Can of San Marzano Tomatoes
1 15oz Can of Hunts Tomato Sauce
1/2 of a Medium sized Yellow Onion
3 Cloves of Garlic
Fresh Basil
Parmesan Cheese
Salt & Pepper
2 Table Spoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Table Spoon Butter
1lbs Pasta – spaghetti, linguini or fettuccine

Heat a 4qt sauce pan and add the olive oil and butter. Rough chop the onion and add to a food processor. Chop the onion until very fine but not pureed. Add the onion to the hot oil and butter. Add the garlic to the food processor and chop very fine. Once the onion becomes translucent add the garlic to the pan with the onion, sprinkle with salt & pepper. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes until the garlic softens. Don’t let the garlic darken.

Add the San Marzano Tomatoes, the Tomato sauce and stir. Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes. Use a potato masher to crush the San Marzano tomatoes, until the sauce is smooth with no large chunks. Simmer the sauce for an additional 20 – 30 minutes and remove from heat. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Add several large basil leaves torn or Julienned.

I prefer to serve this sauce over spaghetti, linguini or fettuccine. Homemade pasta or fresh pasta, such as Buitoni is great too! Cook your pasta according to the package and drain. Promptly after draining add your pasta to the sauce and toss until the pasta is fully coated. Plate the pasta and shred 1 – 2 tbs of parmesan cheese over the pasta and top with fresh basil. Enjoy!


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