Stepson Simon E-mailed me from where he lives and attends university in Växjö, southern Sweden. He needed the recipe for my spicy spaghetti sauce. It is the one dish I can call my own, and one that the whole family seems to enjoy. I hadn’t put the recipe in writing, only preparing it from memory and instinct, so I thought it a good time to record it for posterity and to help Simon with whatever grand social occasion he was planning.
My older, twin granddaughters usually call me Papa Ron, so I attached this name to the sauce. I usually make it in large amounts in order to freeze a portion for later use. Every time I cook a batch, it is a new thing. The ingredients are almost always the same, but not always in the same proportions. I do not have a strict recipe for them, but go as the whim takes me.
Typically, I add a lot of freshly crushed garlic to the meat (low-fat, high-quality ground beef) while it is frying, and prior to its placement into the main pot of sauce. So, you may correctly infer that there are three pots: one for the main body of the sauce, and one for frying the meat-with-garlic, and another, later, for boiling the pasta. I use a lot of meat, perhaps 500-750 grams, depending on the amount of other stuff.
On the frying of the meat: I like to replace, as much as possible, the beef fat in the meat with olive oil, while frying. If you wish to do this also here’s how: the frying pan should have a tightly fitting lid (preferably glass, so you can see what’s going on); when the beef is about halfway cooked (and the cook should constantly chop and stir the meat so it cooks as evenly as possible, to break it into the smallest pieces possible while combining with the fresh garlic), there will be juice released from the meat; drain the juice away (it’s not necessary to save it); do this again after it all has cooked some more (always with the lid on, except while stirring); after the second draining, add olive oil to your own satisfaction and cook the meat a little bit more, enough to get the oil and meat well-combined; it is now ready to be put into the main pot.
The main pot will have in it, first, a lot of crushed tomatoes, perhaps two liters or more, depending on the size of pot you have—-the bigger the better. Have on hand a tube or two of tomato paste to use later, if necessary, to thicken the final product. You can use flavored crushed tomatoes, but I think it not necessary.
Then, into the main pot put:
– One finely-chopped onion
– One-half to three-quarters of an average size habanero pepper, to your own taste. One whole pepper will be too much unless you are making 3 or more liters of sauce. THESE PEPPERS ARE EXTREMELY HOT. DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES OR ANY MUCOUS MEMBRANE AFTER FINELY CHOPPING (OR SQUEEZING THROUGH A GARLIC PRESS) UNTIL YOU HAVE THOROUGHLY SCRUBBED YOUR HANDS AND FINGERS. If you use a garlic press, use a sharp knife to scrape and capture the parts of the pepper that cling to the surface of the press, where the materials extrude (use this same method for pressing garlic). For your first time, perhaps you should use 2-3 average size green chili (jalapeño) peppers instead, until you get more confidence with this key, but dangerous, ingredient. The same precautions for touching and washing apply here also.
– Perhaps two large carrots, chopped into pieces that are around ¼ of the cross-section of an average-size carrot, and about ½ centimeter thick. If you don’t like carrots, fuggeddaboudit.
– One large zucchini, chopped similarly as the carrots, but in proportionately larger dimensions. Use more zucchini if you like zucchini.
– Somewhere along the line, add some red wine. I use the wine (Chianti is good) to rinse out the tomato and other containers to capture all the juices.
– Add some pine nuts if you like them. Mushrooms too.
– Add anything else that seems right for your sauce.
– At the very end, add some chopped leaves of fresh basil, to your own taste, Use more, rather then less, because its flavor tends to be overpowered by all the others. You might instead sprinkle the uncooked, chopped leaves over the end product, just before serving.
After adding all the ingredients, including the meat, stir thoroughly and let simmer for around 10 minutes. Then, check the consistency of the sauce as it cooks, slowly, over at least an hour. Two or three hours is even better. If the sauce is too watery and needs to be thickened, add tomato paste and maybe a little more olive oil. If it needs to be thinned, add more wine. Use your imagination. Engage, emotionally, with your sauce as it cooks.
When the sauce tastes good enough to serve (you WILL be sampling it every ten minutes or so), boil up the water into which the pasta will go (third pot). If you can, use a pot that has the strainer inserted already into it, as part of the apparatus. Add a lot of olive oil so it floats across most of the top. This will add taste to the pasta and it will keep the pieces from sticking together, especially if you keep stirring it as it boils. Use the best pasta you can. Spend money.
If you want garlic bread with your meal, talk to me. This is the other thing that the family all demands, upon occasion.