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Grandma's Spaghetti Sauce

My kids and grandchildren love my spaghetti sauce. Old-fashioned, not fancy, just packed with good flavor. I have to admit, I vary it from one pot to the next, depending on my mood. But the method is sound, and I happened to have made it yesterday for a family dinner, so short of showing you the two-year-old's red-smeared face (from ear to ear) I figured I'd share. I always make enough for leftovers, and that includes a quart for the freezer. Last trip we took, we knew it was there for the day we came home, and boy was something home cooked a treat. Just remember, label your container with the contents and the date, and don't leave it for next year. The quality will be best in a month or two at the most.

Yield: about 1 gallon of rich, meaty sauce

  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • at least 1/2 head garlic, more if you want, chopped
  • 1 lb. or so of mushrooms, either crimini or white button, sliced
  • 5 or 6 Italian sausages, either mild or hot, as you prefer, cut into chunks (6-8 per sausage)
  • 2 lbs. good-quality ground beef (my preference is Estancia free range from Berkeley bowl)
  • Herbs of your choice — some basil leaves, oregano, etc. as you prefer, plus, if you like fennel sausage and didn't get it, a small spoonful of fennel seeds
  • 1 cup decent red wine
  • 3 quarts tomato — I used home-frozen, from last summer's dry farmed Early Girl crop, but canned is fine; chopped in puree works well
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: a saved Parmesan rind or two
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Dice the onions, choose a large pot (2 gallon size) with a heavy bottom, preferably tri-ply so the sides don't burn, and saute the onions over medium heat in the olive oil, salting lightly . When they're soft and starting to color, add the garlic and the mushrooms. Turn the heat up a bit, and cook until the mushrooms are soft, and their liquid is reabsorbed. As the mushrooms cook, add just a little more salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Once they are 'dry' in the pan, turn up the heat, push all the vegetables to the outside edge, and add the sausage pieces. Cook without moving them till the bottoms brown a bit, then stir the pot, making sure the onion and mushroom mixture isn't burning.

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Add the beef, breaking it up with a wooden spatula. Continue to cook over high heat, stirring not too frequently, but enough to keep things from burning, until all the beef is lightly browned. Add the wine and herbs, and continue to cook until the wine is totally evaporated, over high heat. Add the tomato product, a bit more salt if needed (note: canned tomatoes have salt in them, whild my homemade ones did not).  Pop a couple of parmesan rinds into the pot if you have them, they will help flavor the sauce.

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Cover with the lid slightly ajar, and let cook, stirring every 15 minutes, until done — at least an hour, maybe a bit longer. Taste, and adjust seasoning if needed with more salt and pepper. Serve with your favorite spaghetti, and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.