Our annual sauce making is complete for another year! Sugo (Italian) making is one of my favourite family events. For my international followers, by tomato sauce I am talking about the kind you would mix through your pasta; not what I think you would refer to as ketchup!
For a school project, my youngest explained the process of sugo-making to her class via a PowerPoint presentation, and now I’m going to ‘borrow’ bits of it here.
Step 1: Tip the tomatoes into a tub of fresh water to wash, taking each one out to cut open and inspect.
Step 2: Squash tomatoes and basil through a passata machine which separates the skins/seeds/stems from the pulp and juice.
Step 3: Fill bottles with pureed tomato and basil, making sure to leave a two-inch gap at the top.Step 4: Cap the bottles with crown seals.Step 5: Take a meatball and coffee break!Step 6: Place the capped bottles in drums and cover all the bottles with water.Step 7: Light a fire under the drums and bring the drums of water to the boil. Boil for about 5 or 6 hours (make sure the water is always covering the bottles!).Step 8: Eat a yummy lunch of pasta with tomato sauce with family and friends.
Step 9: The next day, take the bottles out of the drums and store them lying down in a dark place. The sauce is now ready for use for lunch or dinner!
I’ve included my family’s much-loved sugo and meatballs recipes to finish, but also because close friends have been nagging me for the recipe ever since they tried some (so, errr, actually years ago!).
Sugo – serves 6-8
Heat olive oil in a saucepan and add a teaspoon of fennel seeds if you have them. Once the seeds are hot, add a chopped brown onion and cook until softened. Then add about 3 or 4 cloves of crushed garlic.
When that is soft and aromatic, tip two bottles of sugo into the pan (that’s about 1.5 litres). If you want to make Bolognese, brown the mince in the onion/garlic before tipping in the sugo.
Bring to the boil. While you’re waiting for it to boil, add about 1 tablespoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon of sugar, a sprinkle of black pepper and dry oregano, plus a couple of dry or fresh bay leaves. Add fresh basil if you have it.
Once it’s boiling, reduce to a low simmer and cook for at least an hour. The slower and longer you cook it, the richer and thicker it will be as it reduces. Taste test it along the way, if it’s a bit acidic, add a little more sugar, if it’s too bland, add some salt and herbs.
Meatballs – makes around 50
In a large bowl, combine the following with your hands:
1 kg of beef mince (I just use 3-star mince which means it has a little fat left in)
1 cup of breadcrumbs
60g of grated or shredded parmesan cheese
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 or 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley or basil leaves
Sprinkle of salt and pepper
I’ve put some measurements above to help you out, but as frustrating as it is, you’re going to have to adjust the amounts of breadcrumbs and egg, until you get the right consistency, which I would describe as sticky but not mushy – so that you can roll a 4cm ball of the mix between your hands and it stays together as a fairly smooth ball.
Continue to roll the balls, and once all done, drop them into a pot of boiling sugo. When the sugo returns to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the meatballs in the sugo for about 20 minutes. Check one to see that it has cooked right through, then use a slotted spoon to remove the meatballs from the sugo. Enjoy!
Sugo-making is the one Italian tradition that my family still do together. We used to make wine and also sausages, but sadly those traditions have fizzled out over time.
Does your family have any traditions that have stood the test of time?