Chef Merle Blanc’s signature meat sauce for spaghetti, etc.
(This is the sauce he prepares for visiting Italian dignitaries)
You need two pots, one at least 3 quarts, the other about 2 quarts.
For the larger pot (or large frying pan)
1 lb. ground beef
¼ lb. pork sausage (or Italian sausage, or a slab of salt pork, removed before serving. If you don’t eat pork, just omit it. The chef won’t mind and neither will your guests)
About ¾ cup of each, chopped in ¼ in. squares:
1 Small Zucchini (Optional)
1 can of chopped tomatoes, drained. (Drain the juice into the broth mixture). If using petite cut, add to the meat mixture. If using regular chopped tomatoes, place drained product on a cutting board and chop a little before adding to meat mixture.
½ cup olive oil
All this goes into the larger pot. Cook over medium heat until veggies are tender and meat browned.
Meanwhile, in the smaller pot add:
4 cups broth (This can be beef, chicken, vegetable or, in a pinch: water.)
You can make easy broth using tinned broth or chicken or beef flavoring, usually 1 tsp. per cup of water, and adding:
5 peppercorns (Or goodly sprinkle of ground pepper)
½ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. anis (not star anise)
½ tsp. allspice
½ cup dry basil leaves or more, chopped or ground. If you have fresh basil, use even more. (don’t be afraid to throw in the basil.)
1 tsp. oregano (Be careful not to overdo the oregano).
1 whole head of garlic, cut coarsely.
1 large bay leaf, crumpled.
Bring to a boil and lower heat.
Now, with both mixtures going, simmer the broth gently while browning the meat and vegetables. If you like to cook with wine, you can drink it now while you wait.
When the meat and vegetables are done, remove from heat and add:
2 small tins of tomato paste.
Nest, strain the hot broth into the mixture and gently stir, letting the sauce simmer for twenty minutes. (A great time for a second glass, but don’t walk off and forget what you’re doing.)
When Chef Blanc prepares this, everything of course comes out perfect the first time. But if your sauce (or gravy as the Italians call it) comes out a bit thin, you can add a small can of tomato sauce or a little more tomato paste. If too thick for your taste, add a bit more broth. At this point, if needed, add additional sugar. Better to leave the salt and pepper for the table. Yield about 2 quarts of delicious.
Spoon over drained spaghetti or other pasta and top with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Serve with fresh bread and a green salad with oil and vinegar dressing. Your guests will love you and I will too.
When Chef Blanc creates this sauce he says, « Impeccable ! » When he serves it, even though he is fiercely French, Chef Blanc always says, “Buon appetito !”