My grandmother on my mother’s side married the son of Italian immigrants. I am not sure how well she cooked before before she married, but for a woman who came from a long line of English-Americans, she adapted well and made the most wonderful spaghetti sauce. She made it often when we came to visit, and the whole house would smell amazing.
Because she cooked it so long, the chicken would fall off the bone, and so would the ribs. Oh, I didn’t mention the ribs? Or the meatballs either, I suppose. Yes, her sauce actually had about 4 types of meat. It was out of this world. But probably not as healthy as we’re trying to be these days. If you want to add them in, simply cut out some of the chicken and sausage, and then brown up some ribs and meatballs when you’re cooking the rest of the meat. Then just add it back in at the end like you do with the chicken and sausage.
My mom always says the secret to her recipe is to cook it on VERY low heat for a very long time — all day if you possibly can (Don’t cut corners and make it in a slow cooker. I tried it like that once and it tasted terrible. I don’t know the science behind why it happened, but it was very acidic, like it had been cooked with rust and aluminum.)
Though we all know the secret, none of us can ever get it quite like she made it. I don’t even think she had an ingredient she wouldn’t tell people about (though I wouldn’t put it past her — I can totally picture her tossing in that one ingredient when no one was looking and having a good laugh all by herself).
Could the secret be love? Maybe?
This is a major tangent, but I have to tell you this one story. Once, when I lived in Canada, some women from Trinidad made me and my friend the most amazing beans and rice. I couldn’t get over how good they were. We kept asking what was in them, and they listed the ingredients. They were like, “Oh, onions, a little garlic, some peppers, and love.” Hm. Love. I wonder now if the “love” was marijuana. Could I have have been that naive?
Anyway, here is my grandmother’s sauce. Best of luck, and I hope you can get it as good as my Mom-mom made hers.
In case you wanted a quick peek into my genealogy. . .
My grandmother on my mother’s side was a direct descendant of Bygod Eggleston, who, in 1630, left his home in Yorkshire, England and came to America. He helped to settle Windsor, Connecticut.
Lillian’s spaghetti sauce with chicken and sausage
2 pounds (about 6 pieces) chicken thighs with the bones (with or without skin)
5 sweet or hot Italian sausages
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 large onion, cut any which way you want (that’s how she always did it)
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning
2-3 28 ounce (800g) cans of tomatoes (crushed, whole peeled, or diced, or some of each)
1/2 cup (112g) tomato paste (one small can)
A sprig each of fresh herbs, such as oregano, basil, and thyme (but only if you have them)
1-2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1. Rub chicken thighs with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in a large pot set over medium high heat. Sear until well browned and remove to a plate. Next, brown the sausage, and remove to the plate.
2. Pour the olive oil into the pot and reduce heat to low. Sweat the onions until tender, about 10 minutes. Add in the garlic and dried herbs, and cook for a minute more. Add in the tomatoes, tomato paste, fresh herbs, and bay leaves, and bring the sauce to a simmer. Fill one of the tomato cans with water, and add to the pot. Stir the meat back in.
3. Reduce heat to the lowest possible setting. Simmer for 6-8 hours, stirring often to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom and burning. Add a cup of water every now and then to prevent it from sticking as well.
4. When all meat is cooked through, you can taste and add salt and pepper accordingly. Just before serving, remove bay leaves, herb sprigs, and chicken bones. (If you used chicken with the skin on, now would be a good time to fish those little suckers out as well, eww.)
5. Serve with pasta (I like using capellini or fettucini), and a generous amount of fresh parmesan.