Me and My Dad Hit the Sauce

If I do say so myself, my sister and I achieved a collaborative personal best with our Thanksgiving pie crust. It was flaky, golden, held up to the apple and pumpkin fillings, but was not even a little tough. I need more practice but I no longer fear home made pastry.

This weekend, I spent some quality cooking time with my dad. It was rainy and disturbingly warm for December in the Bay State. With Christmas just days away, it was the perfect opportunity to get a magnificent cauldron of tomato sauce made. Here is how it all went down.

Step one was to saute a large (softball sized) onion in a little olive oil. When it was getting soft and translucent, I brought three heads roasted garlic to the party. Yes, I added three heads of roasted garlic. It is a really large pot, and roasted garlic is much less offensive than fresh. Trust me, it was not overkill. Also, it smelled amazing.

Next, the most important ingredient was added- tomatoes. I had a one gallon freezer bag of tomatoes from my garden; Dad also had gallon bag full of tomatoes he and my mother grew. Theirs were pre-seasoned with a generous dose of home-grown basil. There was not quite enough to fill the pot, so we added some canned tomatoes, as well. Dad busted out his hand blender and mixed it all smooth in just a minute. I wish I could have recorded the smell to share with you.

Side Note: There is a rumor in foodie circles that San Marzano tomatoes are the best. I can not tell the difference between a $4.00 can of San Marzanos and a $1.00 can of store brand, and I’ll bet few people can. We used the store brand.

The final labor-intensive step was the meatballs. The matter of what should and should not go into a meatball is almost as contentious as what should or should not go into tomato sauce. We went with a mix of ground beef, ground turkey, grated Parmesan cheese, a touch of pepper, oregano, parsley, and torn up bread. We use soft, crusty bread to help hold the meat together without sucking up all the moisture. We only needed two eggs for about two and a half pounds of meat. You should add what you like, though.

Dad used a scoop to make evenly sized meat balls and I seared them on all sides in a skillet.

Side Note 2: Now, there are about one thousand and one other things we could have added to this tomato sauce- mushrooms, eggplant, a pork loin, wine, broth, escarole, shrimp… there are no wrong additions. Do not let anyone shame you into forgoing your Favorite Things. You are the one who will eat it. Make it how you like it. Be your own food culture. Live your DIYet.

Once seared, the meatballs went for a swim in the sauce, adding their savory flavor to the mix. At that point there was not much to do but let the sauce simmer. Time is an important ingredient.

Dad and I knocked out a couple batches of Christmas cookies while that was going on.

One pan of shortbread and four dozen snowballs later, (with a break for lunch) Dad sifted the meatballs out of the kettle. We set the sauce to cool a bit on the back porch. Both sauce and meatballs ultimately made it to the freezer. They will be thawed for our magical Christmas feast. It might be manicotti, it might be lasagna. I will let you all know. The important thing is that we made some delicious sauce.

The “we” is the most important part. Food is something to share, both in the making and in the eating. What special foods are part of your DIYet this holiday season? Who are you sharing them with? Share in the comments section!