Grandma's Tomato Sauce
There is nothing like her tomato sauce-- this is a 'last meal on earth' type of situation. At 87 she still grows her own tomatoes, spends days pushing them through a food mill, and canning them into the puree we use as the base for our sauce (she has an entire room in her house designated to jars). There's no argument; food is just better when it's your own labor, start to finish. When you're devouring something that was once a seed you planted, and it's satisfying the people you love to feed.
If we're being completely honest, the puree is the only part of this recipe that's reminiscent of her sauce. Our version is a heavily adapted, admittedly embarrassing attempt at recreating something which can't be descibed. You'd just have be there. Sitting at her kitchen table, trying to stop yourself from a 10th scoop of her homemade ricotta cavatelli. Come over and try.
Grandma's Tomato Sauce
2 quarts/8 cups tomato puree
1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
1 cup water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. oregano
1 tbsp. tomato paste
fresh parsley, minced
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
2-4 links Italian sausage, optional
Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large pot. Saute sausage until outside is brown, but not thoroughly cooked throughout. Remove from heat, cut each link in half and set aside. Scrape up brown bits from bottom of the pot and add another tbsp. olive oil. On low, saute onions and garlic until translucent. Add minced parsley, oregano and tomato paste and stir, 2 minutes. Add tomato puree, and one by one, crush San Marzano tomatoes with your hands, and add them to the sauce. Add water, and stir. And sugar, and plenty of Kosher salt. You'll need to go back and taste every half hour or so, adding more salt frequently to taste. Sauce should take at least 5-6 hours, tomatoes should break down leaving some pieces. About 3/4 of the way through your cook time, you can either process the sauce through a food mill or use an immersion blender to make smooth (you can also leave sauce as it, depending on how you want the consistency to be). Additionally, add water as you like to get the consistency you want. Re-add the sauce to allow to cook through, with juices, and add 2 tbsp. olive oil. Simmer another 1-2 hours. Serve with pasta and tons of fresh parmesan, black pepper, a drizzle of oil and parsley.
Note: Gram usually cooks some sort of meat first to get the sauce going, be it ground beef or sausage. The fat adds depth to the sauce, but you can certainly leave this out or replace with carrots and extra garlic. Any store bought puree is going to be somewhat thicker than what we use, but you can offset this with more water. If you chose to use an immersion blender, any of the seeds/core from the tomato are going to be in your sauce. If you don't prefer that flavor, definitely go with a food mill or a large mesh sieve to remove entirely-- which will be much thinner.