Though it almost pains me to put up a new post and replace the lovely cupcake photo that received such an amazing outpouring of enthusiasm…its time to move on to other things. And this is a very, very good thing indeed.
Homemade lasagna made from my family’s recipe. The picture does not…cannot…do this justice. Frankly, I’m not sure if anything could do this justice. This is the ultimate comfort food for me. It is the smell of home, of Sunday afternoons, of holidays, of my Grandma. Its basically every childhood memory…bathed in homemade sauce and baked under a heavy blanket of cheese.
I honestly have no idea why its taken me so long to get around to making this. I marvelled aloud to JiT that I’d been living in our condo for over a year and in all that time, and despite an arsenal of Mario Batali cookware thats been begging for this, I had yet to make “sugo” (Italian slang for simple spagetti sauce, pronounced “soo-goo”…at least in my family). Perhaps because my mom or my grandma make sugo…and usually lasagna and homemade meatballs virtually every time we go home, or perhaps because good sauce needs the better part of an entire day to simmer and meld flavors. Or maybe its because I went through 3 ENTIRE bags of mozzarella cheese whilst assembling the lasagna.
Or maybe because I knew that writing this post would bring out my sappy, poetic streak because writing about this stuff is like writing about my family. Its how I was raised and its who I am and I’m getting misty-eyed just thinking about it.
Whatever the reason, I finally got around to it and I’m so happy I did. Its a lengthy process but a comforting one. One that fills your entire condo with the smell of garlic and oregano, probably driving your neighbors half crazy, and has you sneaking spoonfuls of sauce all afternoon to “test” it.
Actually, in honor of all that process, I think we’ll do this in two parts. Today, we’ll talk about the sauce….tomorrow the lasagna. Because really, there is no lasagna without the sauce. The sauce…or sugo if you’re my grandma…is everything. What will probably surprise you is how incredibly simple the ingredients in this sauce are. Nothing fancy… not even fresh ingredients. There have been times where I’ve mulled swapping out the cans for fresh tomatoes or fancy additions but in my heart I just can’t. This is a recipe that I cannot mess with. Its not in my nature to do so. And, based on the reviews it gets whenever I make it, there is no reason to change it.
The simplicity of the sauce is what makes it so good. Whether you’re using it lasagna, or topping your favorite pasta, or sopping it up with some crusty bread, it will be good. Simple but good.
My Family’s Sugo
Makes enough for one batch of lasagna, plus more for serving
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb. ground sirloin
3 small cans tomato paste
32 oz. can of tomato juice
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup sugar
Salt & pepper to taste
In a large pot or dutch oven, drizzle olive oil and heat pan over medium heat. Add onion & garlic and sautee until translucent but do not brown. Add sirloin and cook, stirring to break it into small piece until the meat is cooked through. If using lean sirloin, you won’t need to drain off any fat.
Turn heat to low and add in tomato paste, rinsing each can with a small amount of water. Add tomato juice and mix thoroughly until texture is smooth. Add in sugar, spices, salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasoning as needed.
Serve immediately over your favorite pasta or use to make lasagna (coming tomorrow). If you’re my grandma, you put a small amount in a custard dish and serve it warm off the stove to your grandchildren like a bowl of soup. Mangia!