Last weekend, I spent a snowy Saturday with my mom in the kitchen while she made her famous sauce (it's actually a ragu because it's meat-based...one of the many things I learned while attending Spaghetti School). I took copious notes down to the finest details, closely observing exactly how she rolled the meatballs and how she grated the garlic. It's one of those recipes Mama B has been making for decades so she doesn't need a recipe--the recipe is in her head. Watching my mom in her element was fantastic. It felt a bit like watching DaVinci paint the Sistine Chapel (or so I can imagine).
What I learned is that the recipe isn't an exact science, but it is a labor of love. I'm not sure I'll be able to create it as well as she does, but I am definitely going to try. One thing I can create is the perfect bite. A harmonious balance between meatball, noodles, sauce, and cheese...mmmmm.
So now--drumroll, please--I present the world premiere of Mama B's Italian Ragu recipe. I highly recommend you try it--you'll find yourself eating some pasta delizioso! Buon appetito!
Mama B's Italian Ragu
Pour approximately 3 TB of olive oil in the bottom of a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
Add 1 chopped onion, 4 cloves of chopped or grated garlic, 1 TB of salt and 1/2 TB of pepper. Saute until translucent.
In a separate pan, brown 1 pound of Italian sausage. Drain and cool on a paper towel and set aside.
Add one 12 oz can of Contadina tomato paste. Cook on low for 3-5 minutes, stirring often to avoid burning.
Add 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley, 1 tsp of dried basil, 1 tsp of dried oregano, and 1 TB of sugar. Cook for 5 minutes, then add 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper, 1/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan or Pecorino Romano. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often to avoid burning.
Add 3 cans of warm water (using the tomato paste can), stirring between each can to combine. (Mama says, "Don't worry if it's thin--it will thicken!").
Add crumbled sausage and 8 oz sliced mushrooms.
Bring to a boil and then lower heat. Simmer uncovered for approximately 2 hours, depending on the consistency you prefer.
Add meatballs and 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese 10 minutes before ready to serve. Meatballs will finish cooking but won't absorb too much sauce.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Enjoy with your preferred noodle (I am a classic spaghetti girl myself, but it's excellent with penne or rigatoni, too).
Mama B's Meat-a-balls
Soak 2-3 slices of white bread in milk, cream, or half-and-half (just enough to cover the bread).
In a large bowl, mix 2 beaten eggs, 1/2 tsp of dried basil, 1/2 tsp of dried oregano, 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley, 1 large chopped or grated garlic clove, 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese, 1/8 cup grated Pecorino Romano and 1/4 tsp of onion powder.
Add 1 pound of ground beef and 1 pound of ground pork, gently mixing to combine (Overmixing will cause the meatballs to become tough).
Roll into balls, slightly bigger than a golf ball. Bake @ 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. Meatballs should start to become oozey with cheese, but shouldn't be cooked all the way through--they will finish cooking in the sauce.
*Note: Many recipes call for frying meatballs. I've had these meatballs both ways, and baking them in the oven is much better. Roasting enhances the flavor of the meatballs and keeps them extremely moist. (And they are awesome in a sandwich the next day).