Husband: Spaghetti sauce? Are you going to put in some sausage or something?
Me: Not tonight. Tonight, just tomato sauce.
Husband: WOW! That was great! Was that a new recipe?
Husband: (suspicious) 'Sorta' how?
Me: well, sorta new, as in I've never tried to make it this way before.
P taught me how to make it. But it's really only 'sorta' a recipe.
(This 'sorta recipe' has impeccable credentials: P, a co-worker of mine, is from Philadelphia, and she is Irish, and this is the sauce that she used to win over her Italian inlaws.)
She sent me an email, really mostly just some ideas for ingredients, with kind of vague amounts. I think you really can't do it wrong if you keep stirring and tasting, I guess.
Husband: You should go write down exactly what you did! So you can make it again!
P's Red Sauce by Betsy:
warm about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a deep skillet.
Dice one quarter of a huge sweet onion, and add to that a couple of spoonfuls of minced garlic. You can also dice up a couple slices of pepperoni - P suggests pancetta, which would be lovely, but we had a plastic bag of pre-sliced pepperoni.
Cook these in the oil for 3-8 minutes with salt and pepper.
When the onions start to get a little brown, slippery and a little softer but not yet actually soft, open a can (26 oz) of diced tomatoes in juice. (P suggested crushed tomatoes, you know, like a normal person would, but the can I grabbed out out the cupboard was diced.) Pour that in.
Bring that to a light boil, and reduce the heat to keep it simmering.
Simmer for 10 minutes. Taste.
I added: dried oregano, dried parsley, fresh (well, frozen) rosemary - just a few needles
(An aside: I got a boatload of rosemary when Tony pruned his outdoor plant, which I believe is on his balcony and has the size and density of a prison privacy hedge. I stripped 2 branches and froze the needles, and put the other 2 branches in a vase of water on the windowsill. I am hoping it takes root. The avocado is setting a good example.)
(I would really love having a garden bed that I've grown exclusively from garbage - like the avocado seed - and cuttings from friends. So every plant would have a story.)
P suggests a lot of fresh basil, of course, but I have used up my frozen basil from this summer and have not gotten any dried yet. She adds red wine. I used pasta water by the ladle-full when it looked like it was getting too sticky.
And we are unanimously in favor of sugar. Add a fairly small amount at a time - like a tablespoon - and give it time to disperse before you taste again.
Salt. Pepper. I didn't add pepper flakes, but that's hardly out of the question.
Just keep simmering and stirring occasionally - about 30 minutes total. It's chunky but also saucy.
It was really good. And I really believe that you cannot mess this up if you keep tasting.