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Six Simple Words That Can End Your Life

September 2, 2014

Last weekend I made sauce for the first time in months. It even had the power to draw my daughter downstairs before 11 a.m. Still in her pajamas, sleepy-eyed, she said, “I love waking up to the smell of spaghetti sauce.”

The smell is heavenly. The garlic and olive oil mingle with the sausage, tomatoes and herbs, filling your kitchen with tomatoey love. You should start cooking it or make friends with Italians, so you can experience the magic.

If I was a good Italian mother, I would make it every Sunday, but I usually don’t have time.  As I write this, I’m vowing to do it more often because I feel so guilty.

I’m sure it reminds my daughter of when she was a happy kid living in our cute house, pre-divorce. But, I know she’ll have good memories of this apartment too, because I say,  “Home Is Where The Pasta Is. Nothing else really matters.

Here, our pasta is usually made with pesto because my daughter and her boyfriend are pesto addicts, but today I made tomato sauce with sausage and pork that cooked for hours and reminded me of being a happy kid in my parents’ house.

My mother, stunned at my betrayal.

My mother, stunned at my betrayal.

I am now going to write something that could kill me instantly, so just in case, thanks for reading my blog and following me. 

I was not a huge fan of my mother’s spaghetti sauce. (I’m waiting for the lightning bolt to fly through the window and fry me.) Her sauce was thinner than I like. The flavor was good, but hers was a little more salty and less sweet. So when I was in my 30’s I started making pasta sauce more to my liking.

(Wow, no lightning bolt yet, she must be up there eating salami.)

One slow summer afternoon when I was visiting my parents I said, “Hey Ma, I’m going to make some spaghetti sauce today.” I’ve been making it lately using all fresh herbs and it’s really good.” I never said the six most dreaded words to an Italian; “My sauce is better than yours,” but my implication was clear.

She responded, ”Well, I’mma gonna make a somma sauce today too, so you show me how you make a yours, OK? I wanna see.

I said, “OK, I think you’ll really like it, it’s nice and fresh.”

She came back with, “OK, you show me wenna a da time a comes.”

Later that afternoon we settled into our positions at my mom’s, white, electric, 1950s kitchen stove. I was at the right burner, she was at the left, apron on and ready to go. The garlic and olive oil were in and we were adding mom’s homemade canned tomatoes. I complimented her on how good and naturally sweet her tomatoes tasted compared to store-bought tomatoes. She agreed.

We added the next ingredients; tomato paste and herbs. Mom was adding some dried Italian seasoning and I pulled out the fresh rosemary, thyme, basil and oregano. I was chopping them up and adding them to my sauce when I caught my mother sneaking a look at my ingredients.“Whatta you put inna?” she asked suspiciously.

I said, “This is fresh rosemary, it really…” when she cut me off with this simple command, “Putta some inna.” She was pointing to her sauce, not mine.

I said, “But I thought you were making your sauce…” when I was cut off again by her pointing the small paring knife she was using, at me, as she again said menacingly, “Put it inna here!”

I looked at her with a smile and said, “Oh, a little competitive are we?” And without a trace of humor, or a lowering of the paring knife, she replied, “Justta put it inna.”  That moment of clarity showed me that Italians are without humor in just one area; cooking.

I chopped up all my herbs, divided them neatly into two piles and gave her half of everything I had. Then said, “You know what? I think your sauce is better than mine.” She agreed.

Never say or imply “My sauce is better than yours to an Italian.” This woman gave birth to me – yet the possibility of cutting my heart out danced through her head as I challenged her sauce. Sauce smack talk is only appropriate if you actually do want to die.

Mom got her revenge though. My daughter confessed to me years ago that she prefers my Uncle Richard’s spaghetti sauce to mine. She won’t even finish a bowl of pasta for me and she asks for seconds at his house. Maybe I should point a paring knife at her.

For years I never included my sauce recipe in this blog, but I just revised it to include it. I figure if my Uncle Richard finally gave me his recipe now that he’s 89, I can part with mine at a much younger age.

Fran’s Pasta Sauce

5-28 ounce cans Cento Whole Canned Tomatoes with Basil  (Not Mom’s, but good)

Or you can use 2 large 90 oz. cans (if you can find them at Costco)

Pasta with sausage and a nice chunk of tender, slow cooked pork. it's heaven on a plate!

Pasta with sausage and a nice chunk of tender, slow cooked pork. it’s heaven on a plate!(These are good and the added basil makes them taste as close as you can get to my mom’s homemade canned tomatoes.  (If I was a good Italian girl, I’d be canning my own – God, more guilt!) Progresso also sells canned Pomedori Pelati (peeled, whole tomatoes).  You can use either, but I like Cento because I can buy a huge can at Costco and I think they have less salt.)

5 to six Pork Ribs with bon

6 Mild Italian Sausages

1 cup Cabernet or Merlot wine

1 can Contadina Tomato Paste

1 whole head of garlic, separated, peeled, and crushed  or minced

2 Tbsp.Olive Oil

2 Tbsp. Butter

2 tsp. dry Italian seasoning I like Aroma

2 Tbsp chopped Fresh Basil

1 tsp. Fresh Rosemary

1 Tbsp fresh parsley (optional)

1/4 cup Apple Juice Concentrate (optional)

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Place the oil and butter in a large, deep pot and brown the pork and the sausage. Then remove it, and put the garlic in the pan and cook it for about 2 minutes.

Return the meat to the pan and turn off the heat.

Remove the tomatoes from the cans and cut them in half removing the seeds. Then place them in a large blender or food processor and process for a few seconds until just blended.

Turn the heat back on low, under the pan and pour the tomatoes over the meats and garlic.  Stir well to mix. Once all the pureed tomatoes are added, add the Italian seasoning, the fresh basil,  rosemary and parsley. Add the wine and taste the sauce. If it needs sweetening, add the apple juice concentrate. If you think it’s sweet enough without it, leave it out.

Place a heat diffuser under the pot and cook the sauce for three hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so.  Serve over pasta with grated Parmigiano, Romano or Pecorino, and enjoy!

  • Reply
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    […] competitor, and proof is in this cornbread story. (The other corroborating evidence is in my Six Simple Words That Can End Your Life  post, where I narrowly escaped death by paring […]

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    September 19, 2018 at 4:04 am

    […] When it comes to special people in my life, Uncle Richard, or Zio Riziero is one of my absolute favorites. The My Sauce is Better Than Yours apron is really perfect for him, but was inspired by my mom and the six simple words that can end your life story . […]

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    Biscotti That May Get You Blacklisted | At Fran's Table
    May 15, 2016 at 9:18 am

    […] forced me to put everything in hers I was putting in mine. Here’s a link to that post, called Six Simple Words That Can End Your Life.  I don’t think she would have disemboweled me, but you never know.  It’s a good rule […]

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    Justta Follow Da Recipe! | At Fran's Table
    March 4, 2016 at 7:48 am

    […] born competitor, and proof is in this cornbread story. (The other corroborating evidence is in my Six Simple Words That Can End Your Life  post, where I narrowly escaped death by paring […]

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    July 10, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    […] doesn’t burn. The ingredients to my sauce are in my blog post from September of last  year, “Six Simple Words That Can End Your Life.” When my book gets published, I’ll cave in and share the exact recipe […]

  • Reply
    Chas Madonio
    September 25, 2014 at 10:50 am

    I’m a little behind on your blogs, so as I catch up, I am sending belated comments. Anyway, my sauce is a litlle simpler though no doubt better than all the others. I only use tomato puree, paste, sugar or splenda, baby back ribs (less fat than other ribs), salt, pepper, garlic salt, fresh garlic, basil and meatballs. Simmer 4-6 hours. Try it – you’ll like it.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 25, 2014 at 12:54 pm

      I’m so glad you’re taking the time to get caught up!! Thanks Chas, you rock. Your recipe sounds pretty good — no doubt better than everyone’s but mine. Will you share your meatball recipe?

  • Reply
    Brother Bern
    September 4, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    I have to agree that our mother’s sauce was not that great and a bit watery although tasty. Aunt Johanna’s sauce was the bomb! Mom made so many great things but her offspring’s
    make better sauce!….. signed an offspring.

  • Reply
    El
    September 3, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    My college roommate told me her (Irish-American) mother made the best spaghetti sauce ever. The look in her eye when she said that meant (violently) I best repeat that oath the moment I tasted her mom’s spaghetti that evening. Moral – Nobody makes better comfort food than your own mom – you betchur life.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 3, 2014 at 9:39 pm

      Excellent point El, except I must be the hideous exception. I hope my mom’s spirit forgives me!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 4, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      Thank God, I am redeemed. I don’t remember Aunt Johanna’s sauce, but I’m sure it was great. Thanks for sharing. My guilt is lessened and now the lightning bolts have to hit both of us.

  • Reply
    Michele
    September 3, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Please tell me the wine doesn’t go IN the sauce…. just for cook’s consumption, right? I’m a good German girl and not very versed in matters of the culinary, but if I get to drink wine while cooking, I’d totally give this sauce thing a try. 🙂

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 3, 2014 at 1:56 pm

      Oh Michelle, yes, it goes in. But, like every good cook, it is your duty to taste the wine before you put it in the pasta sauce. It’s only right. And then, usually, you like it so much that you have to taste it again, to make sure you were right the first time, then maybe a third time to really be sure. Then, after you eat, you cut up a peach and put it in a glass of wine for dessert, so there’s that. And if you’re sick, you heat up wine and add a little spice and honey and then…well you get the picture. There is ample opportunity for drinking in an Italian kitchen, trust me!

  • Reply
    Nicol Zanzarella
    September 3, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Quote of the year: “Wow, no lightning bolt yet, she must be up there eating salami.” !!!!! Fran, we definitely have to have a sauce-off!! Although, I think both will have value for different reasons (insert arm-wrestling pose here!).

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      September 3, 2014 at 11:25 am

      OK, you’re on Nicol! Our mothers would be proud!

  • Reply
    Fran Tunno
    September 3, 2014 at 8:12 am

    I am sure she would. I am taking my chances, no lightning bolt yet. I will be posting the pzza recipe sometime soon. Thanks for reading.

  • Reply
    Mary
    September 3, 2014 at 6:19 am

    Yep, but the memories that stand out in my mind are when she baked bread & pizza. You could sail through the air on that smell 🙂
    Good thing she’s not here, Fran. She might wanna strangle you for posting some of the photos, . . . . . .LOL!

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