My mom is probably one of the best chef’s I have ever known. She has her staples, spaghetti and meatballs, beef stroganoff, peanut butter chicken, big breakfast, pirogi and her stuffing are the dishes I will make time to head on over to her home and relish. Some of them even bring out my sisters and their families for dinner.
I decided I need to write/get down how she makes these items while she is still productive enough and is willing to share the recipes with me. Everyone is pretty familiar with the red sauce and meatballs, but there is something about her sauce, the flavor of her balls that just melt in your mouth without being mushy. Not too spicy but they have flavor that dances on your mouth. They marry well with her sauce which she sometimes enhances with green peppers and onions.
Why start with her red sauce? She uses jar sauce as a starter to the sauce. Keep this in mind if you try her additions. She uses a blend of Ragu and/or Prego. I feel that Ragu is more acidic and Prego more sweet, so they balance each other out. I have used other more expensive and more generic brand sauces and they all work in her sauce. It is really a matter of your personal taste level. Some offer more vegetable matter in a sauce, more garlic or cheese which add different nuances to a sauce. Go with what appeals to you. If I am making the meatballs, I tend to stay away from meat sauces if possible, many of those meat sauces have more sodium in them than I prefer.
This will be a regular sausage and meat sauce.
I used about 1 pound of ground beef the 80/20 (meat to fat ratio), you can use chicken, pork or turkey if you are watching your fat intake or what meat you intake. You can use super lean/lean meats also. The meat is lightly browned in a little (about 1 tbs) of olive oil with about 5 or 6 cloves of garlic, coarse chopped.
While that is cooking, you add about 1 cup of each chopped; onion and pepper (green or red). You let this cook down till the onion gets a little translucent or about 10 to 15 minutes on medium heat.
At this point, my mom adds her two jars of sauce and stirs the sauce. She then starts to add her dry ingredients; 1 tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper (fresh ground preferred) and a generous pinch of sugar.
She lets it simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes then adds about 1/4 cup (2 ounces) of Worcestershire sauce.
The last addition is booze, she varies it from red wine to port wine to sherry, if you do not like or do not have booze, you can substitute balsamic vinegar. Regular vinegars will work too. She pours in about 1 cup (8 ounces).
Simmer, honestly, the longer you simmer the better it gets. I generally let it go for a few hours (3 to 4 hours) on a low heat.
So, I mentioned meatballs. My mom was not up to making the meatballs the day we made the sauce. So I just got her recipe and procedure for ya’ll!
- 1 slice white bread (only stipulation is no Wonder bread)
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk ( you can use skim or 2% or non dairy creamer)
Pour the milk onto the bread and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Mom said you want it thick/soft but not too think nor soupy. You then add..
- 1 egg
- 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp each of Garlic powder, onion powder and fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 lb ground beef (80/20 blend)
You mix that all together and form into balls. If they are too dry you can add a bit of the sauce into the mix. She lets the balls rest to set them, for about 20 minutes then just places them into the sauce which ends up poaching them. If you like more seasoning, go for it, I have added dried basil and oregano to my mix even red pepper flakes for little heat.
I will eventually go over the other family favorites, as she mentioned making pirogi next month if I would make a short rib filling. Having never watched my Gram make the pirogi I am looking forward to relearning how to make this traditional Polish dish. Her peanut butter chicken is legendary amongst friends and to me the big breakfast was always the best way to settle down after church on Sundays.