Thursday, March 11, 2010

Homemade Pasta Sauce

This recipe is a mixture of a couple of family recipes for a tomato-based pasta sauce.  The ingredient list is not exact - a lot of my day-to-day cooking is a matter of a little bit of this, a little bit of that, until it tastes good!

Start with a couple of pounds of pork riblets.  You would also use stewing beef but I think a lot of the flavour comes from the bones themselves.
Preheat oven to 350*F.  Slice the ribs into strips and arrange on a baking sheet.  I used a rack so that any fat would drip off.  Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 20 minutes or so, or until lightly browned.  I'm not a big fan of the drippy goo that results from raw meat in hot liquids.  If you can stomach it, you can skip this step!
In the meantime, prepare your veggies.  I used 2 1/2 medium onions, 3 large carrots and 7 or 8 cloves of garlic, but the number you use will depend on the amount of sauce you want to make!  I would have liked to have more onions in relation to the carrots, but my cupboard was bare.  And I used A LOT of garlic, because we love it around here - and let's face it... Aili's immune system can use all the help it can get!  Again, I am not a precise kind of girl, so you may have to half or double this recipe, depending on your needs. 

Chop your onions finely, but do not mince them.  Unless you have children (the little OR the big kind) who gag at the sight of an onion.  Then mince away.  Using a fine grater or your food processor, grate your carrots.  Crush garlic using a garlic press.  If you don't have one, lay your large chef's or santoku knife flat on the garlic cloves and give them a good WHAP!  Then chop with your knife until they are finely minced.
Heat oil in a non-stick pan.

Add onions, carrots and garlic and saute until onions become translucent.  Do not BROWN garlic!  If you find that the mixture is sticking or burning and you don't want to add additional oil, you can add some chicken stock.  Dump mixture into a large stock pot when done.
For this recipe, I am using home-canned tomatoes and tomato sauce, but you could just as easily use canned.  Remember to watch the sodium content though - President's Choice Blue Menu Low Sodium brand are a good choice.
My dad canned these tomatoes.  A canning domestic diva I am not.  He gave me four jars of tomato pieces and another four of tomato puree.  Since I have finicky kids (and an even more finicky hubby), I blended all but one of the jars of tomato pieces.  I removed the bay leaf before blending to avoid any mysterious green pieces.
Add tomato puree and pieces to the onion/carrot/garlic mixture.
Depending on your preference, you may choose to add tomato paste to your sauce.  I find it creates a thicker sauce.
Once you have added your tomato paste, add your seasonings.  Again, this is a matter of preference.  I added a generous helping of black pepper and red pepper flakes, along with some sea salt.  I would have added chopped fresh basil if I had it and maybe some oregano.  Again, bare cupboard syndrome...
Now, one of the key ingredients in this recipe is to add a touch of sugar.  This cuts the acidity in the tomatoes.  I added about 1/4 cup to my mixture, but again, it will depend on the quantity that you are making.
By now, your ribs should be browned.  These could have had a little more colour but I was in a rush to get it all in the pot and simmering!
Add the ribs to your sauce mixture.
Stir and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 1 to 2 hours, or longer, if you prefer.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Remove pot from heat and sift out the ribs.  The meat will probably be falling off the bone.  If it's not, return it to the stove and simmer longer!  Be careful, because the pork ribs may have small pieces of bone. 

Once all of the ribs have been removed, ladle sauce into freezer-safe containers and let cool before covering. 
And that's it!  You've just made homemade pasta sauce!

Now, pop this in your freezer and next week, I will share a recipe for meatballs!

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