Monday, September 12, 2011

Another Family's Comfort Food

One of my most comforting memories from college involves food obviously. My freshman year, I moved into the dorms with a total stranger! This girl, Beth-O became one of my most essential support systems and best friends throughout my college experience. So naturally our parents watched over us both. Beth was from Ohio, so her family wasn’t really close. But her dad, Bob, came in pretty regularly to spoil us and we ate it up! Beth comes from an Italian family and while running into an Italian family is no special thing here in Boston, down south it’s an entirely different story. So after us girls got apartments, Bob would come in and make food for us, I mean her, but we all got together at her place and hung out while he cooked! Bob made these crazy meatballs that I cannot adequately explain. They were magical. But Beth would make this delicious marinara/spaghetti sauce for them. I would stand over her shoulder until she was finished getting all the ingredients in and we would eat it cold straight out of the pot before it even had a chance to marry! This stuff was amazing.

Beth gave me the recipe for this delicious sauce before I left Kentucky. I tried over and over to make this stuff, but I think it was more the care and comfort that made it what it was to me, so I never was able to get the taste right. The problem was, I was completely spoiled for sauce and could not entertain the idea of jarred sauce ever again! So I took this calamity into my own hands and came up with the recipe I make now. I make it in huge batches to freeze for easy dinners later. Learned that from them too!

Here’s my recipe. It’s nothing like Beth and Bob’s, but its pretty good!

1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 handfuls sliced baby bellas, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. dried oregano
2 Tbsp. dried basil
1 Tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
sprinkle of garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
1 – 14.5 oz can tomato paste
2 – 30 oz. cans tomato sauce 
2 – 30 oz cans crushed tomato (unsalted)
olive oil
Cast Iron Dutch Oven (or any deep pot)

Put onion, green pepper, mushrooms, garlic, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, salt, pepper and a few splashes of olive oil into the pan. Sauté on medium-low heat, stirring frequently until the vegetables are soft. About 10 minutes. If the veggies start to stick to the bottom add a little more oil. Just be sure they’re soft! Stir in the tomato paste and cook on low heat for about 5 -10 minutes stirring frequently. You don’t want it to get dry, so watch it closely. Stir in the tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes. Turn the heat to super low, cover and cook for at least 2 hours. I stir about every half hour making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. If you want to cook it longer, go right ahead!

WARNING: This is a super spicy marinara. If you’re not into super spicy, cut the red pepper flakes back or get rid of them completely.

This sauce is going to taste a bit different to you than what you’re used to because I don’t add sugar to cut the acidity! I like it with kick and don’t love the idea of sugaring up something that is otherwise healthy.

My times in the kitchen with those two special people sharing their culture and other friends gathering around for food and comradery are some of my most comforting memories from my time at the University of Kentucky. Maybe you can turn my recipe into the same for your and your friends and family.

Ciao ya’ll! 

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