This past Sunday was just the perfect sort of Sunday for us. Admittedly, we are still in COVID recovery mode, so we weren’t up for exuberant adventures. No running with the bulls in Pamplona. No cross country adventures in a vintage convertible that end with a fiery crash as we hurl ourselves toward freedom. It was a cool, gray, misty day; perfect for reading the newspapers, doing mountains of laundry, and making a Sunday spaghetti sauce.
We are competing again with the ghosts from our childhoods – which will haunt us forever with their elusive, never-quite-remembered ingredients – because we were kids and didn’t pay attention to every step in the process of meal creation. We followed our running, frozen noses into the warm house, pulled off our crusty snow suits and red rubber snow boots, washed our hands at the kitchen sink, and sat down to shovel the hot, delicious food into our gaping maws. It was steaming, it was tomato-y, and it was hard to twirl the spaghetti on the fork. Besides nostalgia, there is always the mystery flavor enhancer – why does food always taste better when someone else makes it?
When I was in middle school my best friend and I would alternate houses on the weekends for sleep overs. We always made popcorn. We used identical ingredients: Jolly Time popcorn, Mazola oil, grocery store butter, and Diamond Crystal salt. We cooked on gas stoves. I always swore it tasted better at Sheila’s house, she thought it tasted better at my house. It is another ineffable mystery for the ages. Which is another reason why we can never reproduce exactly the meals from our youth.
This past Sunday I tried for something new, a recipe by Ali Slagle, who at one time, worked with our friends at Food52. I bought her new book I Dream of Dinner (so you don’t have to) for Christmas. Then, last week I heard an interview with her on the Slate Magazine Working podcast. https://slate.com/podcasts/working/2023/01/recipe-developer-ali-slagle-easy-weeknight-meals
It must have been kismet, because the New York Times then printed her recipe for Sunday Sauce. Cross your fingers that this link works: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1022972-sunday-sauce?unlocked_article_code=jmGiCoZ5baNYeOGKw8HkCn9Wl5e2-MAw3VqptpJ8GPlaEZkMSgbKACC4g3vyy3AccnIqBC5Wc4erEFIh4vgsSZ79Nv3We1hvNXHC0_HMiIaK0ndrbaDT2D17kcBDBks5i_33iXNHsqdvCIs8YILkNZOVxnQ0ga4Fjjm7fcEFLBUb-21KR8w2HhmlqjBWmAnPdiYdkD7_j296IflWG0zg1WA_dPlWrr7L79L1AZmWQ-dODGX3iYIOFF_QxP0XobBS7OOyeAzZ07TT2tRd5X33UPN2Po9T5QKCoFZvH3INVVK114ph5WjOQI6qchZua0Bs8g&smid=share-url
The complex flavors of the meats are slowly steeped into this sauce, as you stir it every half hour of so, over the course of the afternoon. The six cloves of garlic pervade the house, their magic aroma wafting back toward the bedrooms, and through the front door, welcoming the uninitiated to your warm and cosy retreat. Your house will smell like the finest, most inviting Italian trattoria. Mangia!
It took all my energy to make this sauce, but there are ways to simplify. You can leave out the pork shoulder, and just have meatballs and sausages. You can buy pre-made meatballs. If you do have a Sunday when all you have to do is laundry supervision, it is a good way to made a tasty, thoughts-of-home recipe. It takes too long simmering away on the stove to even think about doing as a weeknight meal. We also enjoyed two nights of re-heated leftovers, which is money in the bank.
Sometimes you need to simplify. All that meat in the Sunday Sauce recipe can be intimidating, and expensive. This is tasty, easy, and gives just as much pasta satisfaction: https://food52.com/recipes/13722-marcella-hazan-s-tomato-sauce-with-onion-butter
If you don’t have a leisurely Sunday stretching invitingly before you, or you just want some hot pasta, there is no shame in picking up a jar of Rao’s Marinara Sauce. It is almost as good as having dinner at someone else’s house. You will still have to wash up, but there is satisfaction to be had in scrubbing pots, and making order from the kitchen chaos. It is a good thing to do on a Sunday or a weeknight. Just add some garlic to make it your own.
Another friend believes you should always have a family-sized Stouffer’s lasagne in the freezer. It is good for pasta emergencies. We don’t judge.
“Italian cuisine, at its very best, is a math problem that doesn’t add up. A tangle of noodles, a few scraps of pork, a grating of cheese are transformed into something magical. 1+1=3: more alchemy than cooking.”
― Matt Goulding