Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Family Style Spaghetti

Usually when I make spaghetti it's for one or sometimes two servings. I rarely take the time to make an old-time checkered tablecloth red sauce -- the kind of Sunday gravy characters on The Sopranos would eat by the bowlful. But His Highness had a friend coming to dinner and I had to work late so I wanted to be able to walk in and have dinner ready in a jiffy. And, believe it or not, I had a world of leftovers just perfect for a slow cooked sauce.
Instead of my usual pork ribs or neck bones I used chunks of ham and salami left over from our party and sauteed them along with chopped onions and a bit of garlic. I always like to serve preserved tomatoes next to our party cheeses so I had a jar of deep roasted tomatoes to add to the pot. I thought that might be not quite enough sauce (we were going Italian American style here after all) so I thought back to one of the most rustic old-timey sauces I know . . . tomato paste sauce and threw in about 3/4 cup of concentrated tomato paste and 5 cups of water. I've many times made an old-fashioned Naples-style sauce of just pork on the bone, onion, tomato paste and water. It has a rich mouthfeel and deep flavor unlike more modern sauce recipes. But this time I went for a little of both.
I allowed the pot of ingredients to simmer gently for a couple hours. And, because I wasn't going to serve the meat as a second course (and because the meat would have the rich flavor but not the dreamy texture of fresh pork cooked in sauce) I puréed the sauce and set it aside to reheat the next night.
When I got home from work James had the water boiling. As he made a few grilled oysters for appetizers, I popped my already prepared loaf of garlic bread in the oven, cooked the pasta, laid out a platter of roasted fennel and cauliflower (more dip leftovers) as a "salad", and finished the sauce with a dollop of heavy cream.
Dinner for guests, ready any time.

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