Monday, November 14, 2011


For several years now, I've had a little Veterans Day tradition: Get my flu shot and whip up a batch of Johnny's Spaghetti Sauce, a recipe our American Ex-pat Friends shared with us a while back. I think it originally came from Mr. AEx-PF's grandmother Concetta P. and has been handed down from father (aka, Johnny) to son (aka, Mr. AEx-PF).

It's the real deal. Crazy tomato-y and robust with delicious old-school meatballs. And it's not that complicated.

Aside from the fact you have to make a gazillion of said meatballs from scratch.

And the fact it then requires 4 hours of simmer time. It's a perfect Veterans Day project.

Except Johnny's Spaghetti Sauce didn't get done on this Veterans Day. We were, instead, getting down to the most serious business of memorializing Young Bob Flynn. And memorialize we did -- three days' worth of events. All but one of The Cousins (the Number One and Two Sons' peers) made it. They hadn't been together as a posse for easily 10 years and more than made up for the lost time. Family and friends from across the country descended upon Bermtopia. And, together, we saluted a wonderful woman and her life well lived. Boy, there was a lot of saluting. . . .

That's why I took a day off from work today. All that saluting does take a toll. The dust bunnies (thank you, Ben) skittering across the kitchen floor are testimonial to that. As are the five heaping baskets of laundry waiting to be folded and put away. And, oh, I really should get reacquainted with my Quiet Voice.

But, as my own pot of sauce is simmering on the stove, I do want to share the recipe for Johnny's Spaghetti Sauce with you. It's a happy holiday tradition.

Because I am fully incapable of leaving any recipe alone, I've made a few tweaks here and there over the years. I'd like to think Concetta would be pleased, but it's also very possible she'd throttle me with a steel canoli -- Concetta's revenge for messing with perfection.

I guess we will never know. That being said, I'll give both versions and you can decide.
A little dividend for the chef!



1 lb hamburger
3/4 lb Jimmy Dean regular pork sausage (Concetta) OR 3/4 lb sweet Italian sausage (Bermtopia)
8 oz bread crumbs made from crushing 3/4 of a 12-oz bag of unseasoned stuffing (Concetta) OR 8 oz. prepared plain or Italian bread crumbs (Bermtopia)
1 T oregano
1/2 t parsley flakes (Note: I didn't have any parsley flakes so I added 1/2 t of dried fennel fronds from When Pigs Fly Farm!)

4 eggs
1/2 T salt
Pinch coarse ground pepper (Bermtopia)
3/4 c water

Mix meat, eggs, spices, water and about half the crumbs (dampen them with a little water before adding).

 The mix will be a little soupy, so keep adding crumbs till you can roll a meatball and it isn't too sticky. The more the crumbs, the drier the meatball. One other note: The mix remains a bit tacky despite the additional crumbs, though.

According to Concetta, 1 3/4 lb meat should make about 28 meatballs. Last year, I got 42! (I think I use 2 pounds of meat, though) -- this year, 29. Yeah, I count my meatballs. I'm a geek.

 Make the meatballs a little larger than a golf ball and brown in a frying pan coated with about 1 T olive oil.

They do not need to be cooked through, but be sure to get a nice crust on them -- this helps to keep them together in the sauce. Reserve a small amount of the drippings.

And from the Bermtopia Sadder but Wiser Department: Each batch cooks faster than the previous. Keep an eye on the little suckers.


2 28 oz cans whole tomatoes (Concetta) OR 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes and 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (Bermtopia) Note: Use Marzano if you can. It makes SUCH a difference.
2 6 oz can tomato paste
1 T salt
2 t oregano
3/4 t parsley flakes (See note above regarding parsley flakes vs. WPFF dried fennel fronds)
1/4 t garlic salt (Concetta) OR 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced and lightly sauteed (Bermtopia)
1 large onion, chopped and slightly sauteed
1 c water
1 t sugar (Bermtopia)
1 t meatball drippings (Bermtopia
2 c torn fresh basil leaves (Bermtopia)

If using whole tomatoes, give them quick pulse in a blender or food processor to break them up a little. Add to a large kettle (about 2 gallon).

Add tomato paste, lightly sauteed onions (and fresh garlic if using), water and spices.

My latest Trader Joe's find:
Frozen cubes of minced garlic and basil.
I love you, TJ.
Add meatballs. If they are not completely covered by the sauce, add more water till they are. Cover and cook at medium-low heat for at least 4 hours, adding the basil during the last hour of cooking. Stir occasionally and check that the meatballs are still covered with the sauce.

Johnny and Concetta suggest making this the night before and letting it sit so flavors have a chance to meld. I usually let my batch cool and freeze it.

Serves between 6 and 8 depending on portions.

1 comment:

  1. One day I'm sure I'll have to dig this post up as The Man loves his spag meatballs and mine are a tad dry.

    Hope you're well, and Mr Ben too. My scrumptious tan is already sadly fading. Strange to be back in the blogpark. It's been yonks!