I love stories. That’s probably why I majored in English and decided to teach stories for a living. For one, it’s what binds us as humans. It creates a collective experience, a shared understanding. While I could list off numerous favorite stories, my absolute favorite are the ones that involve my family.
Growing up, one set of grandparents lived about 20 minutes away, and every time we got together, stories of the past were what was told around the dinner table. My sisters and I especially wanted to hear stories about our dad. The good, the bad, everything. Our dad was our hero, and anything we could find out about him was funny and fascinating.
Usually at Thanksgiving or Christmas, and if extended family was in town, my grandpa would pull out the large projector screen, and all of us would cram in the living room to see pictures on the slide projector. It was somehow comforting to hear the hum of the machine, and the loud click as the wheel moved to the next slide. These pictures made the stories told come alive. We’d laugh at what my grandparents and aunts and uncles wore during the 50s and 60s (because, face it, when you’re 10, it’s hilarious to see what “old” people wore). My dad would say things like, “Who’s that stud in the picture?” And my aunts would give their delightful and infectious squeal about some embarrassing photo, muttering “Oh my!” and shaking their heads. It made family stories that much more delightful.
Often my sisters and I would spend the night, and in the evening we would sit by the dim light of the dining room table, playing cards and telling stories. My grandfather was a wonderful storyteller and even though we had heard all his stories, we would beg him to tell them again. And bless my grandma’s heart, as she would still laugh at all the funny parts and chime in here and there, like she’d heard it for the first time.
When my grandma, who was the best cook I knew, passed away years ago, it was a beloved family cookbook my aunt put together that continues to share her stories. Every time I open it up, I am brought back to her kitchen, her stories, her warmth. This spaghetti recipe is one of those. What I love about this recipe, besides being delicious, is that it makes extra. And with extra spaghetti sauce, I freeze it. When it’s been a long day at work, I pull out my frozen leftovers and have a quick, hearty, and healthy meal in minutes. It has a balance of sweet and savory, and with homemade rolls, you can’t beat it. It’s everything that comfort and family should be. So make a batch today, sit down with your family, and share some stories. Enjoy! xoxo
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
Total Time: 3 hours
3 cloves garlic
2 T olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, diced
1 ½ pounds lean ground beef (I like 5% fat)
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 35-oz can Italian diced tomatoes
1 8-oz can mushrooms (optional)
2 t salt
1 t ground pepper
2 T dried basil
½ t sugar
½ c dry vermouth
3 bay leaves
In a skillet, heat 1 T olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown the ground beef and 1/2 of the onions. Use the edge of the spatula to break up the beef into small bits. Drain and set aside. In a large pot, heat the remaining 1 T olive oil over medium heat. Saute the garlic and remaining diced onion until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook on medium heat until mixture begins to bubble. Return the cooked beef/onion mixture to the sauce. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 ½ – 2 ½ hours. Remove bay leaves before serving.
Serve over pasta with a nice helping of grated cheese.
NOTE: This recipe can be easily doubled. If you choose to freeze it, let the sauce cool to room temperature before ladling it in gallon freezer bags. Press as much air out as you can before sealing it and lay it flat in the freezer. (It takes up less room in the freezer if the bag is flat.) To reheat, place the bag in the fridge the night before, or defrost a bit in the microwave before transferring to a pot to heat up completely.