Family recipes are treasures. They are like a love letter to future generations. The taste of something familiar can bring back memories of happy times. When the same recipes get made time and again, we honor the past and those who lovingly made these dishes for us over the years.
The "Gram" that this sauce is named after is not my grandmother. She's the grandmother of my very good friends. Lisa and Phil, who married in 2000, are like family to me. I was their maid of honor. Phil's mom, Paula, and Grandma Mary treated me like family from the first time I met them at Lisa's wedding shower.
One year, Paula was kind enough to have me at her home for the holidays. Back then, none of her three kids had children. Phil was the only one who was married. Even then it seemed like a lot of people. I can only imagine what her house looks like now around Christmas. With a few more spouses, three grandkids and another on the way added to the mix, I'm sure its blissfully full at their house. Paula works tirelessly to feed her family.
Among other things, Paula makes this sauce, her mothers recipe, when everyone comes into town. The smell of this sauce fills the kitchen. I spent much of that visit in the kitchen with Paula. She was kind enough to share her recipe with me and its been the only sauce I've made since. Sure, sometimes I throw together a quick red sauce on the fly. But if I want to spend a day making a batch of sauce, this is the one. I've adopted it into my own family of recipes.
Be warned, this makes a lot of sauce. You'll want a very large pot. If you are feeding a small army over a week of holiday festivities, its probably just the right amount. But since I only feed 3 in my house, I freeze a lot of this for later. I love having it on hand for a quick spaghetti dinner or to make my lasanga. The genius of this sauce is the long simmer with a whole onion. Also, the addition of pork ribs in the simmer stage impart a lot of flavor. Finally - as Phil puts it - "LOP" (lots of pepper), is a must.
While I may not see Paula much any more, and Grandma Mary has since passed away, when I make this sauce I think of these wonderful women, the good times I have shared with them and I am thankful for their generous hearts. ♥
Gram's Spaghetti Sauce
courtesy of Mary Liptak and Paula Olshanski
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small cans tomato paste
5 (15 oz) cans tomato sauce, plus 3/4 can of water PER can of sauce
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons basil
1 tablespoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 whole onion, peeled
2 pork ribs, browned on outside (optional)
Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large stock pot. Add diced onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and mix with the onions to combine. Stir in tomato sauce and water, stir to combine. Add garlic, oregano, basil, parsley, salt and pepper.
Remove the outer paper and cut the stem end to remove the roots but leaving the core intact.