My obsession with spaghetti sauce
I was in Asheville this past weekend with the Observer girls. Well, we were all kind of like girls when we started at The Charlotte Observer in the 1980s. We’re kind of like Senior Girls now. Or at least we’re edging that way.
The Observer girls – JoAnn, Kathy, Miriam, Jody and me – were extraordinarily close for work buddies. We were all a little bit bohemian, slightly crazy and always passionate, if not all about the same thing. And we remained close over the years and started having reunions a few years ago. You know those friends you don’t see for years and then take up right where you left off when you do? That’s those girls.
So the Apocalypse was forecast for the entire Southern coast as a hurricane came in from the ocean and a big rain system barreled in from the west. So much so that Jody had to cancel at the last minute because she feared her horse farm in Virginia would wash away while she was gone.
The girls gamely went to lunch Saturday and then sloshed our way to a local art gallery. And everyone we encountered talked about how the river would rise, cats and dogs would be swimming in the streets and that we had better take cover by 4 p.m. or all hell would break loose. That’s when I decided to make spaghetti sauce.
Spaghetti sauce is my happy, safe place. Mine is more meat than sauce. It’s sweetened with minced carrots, onion and garlic. There’s a healthy dose of red wine involved (both in the pot and for the cook). And it’s laced with plenty of oregano and smoked paprika. Part of the sauce gets used with al dente thin spaghetti. The rest goes into the freezer for lasagna later on. The thing only costs about $10 to make.
But those Observer girls were not going to my happy, safe place. Perhaps, I didn’t explain it to them adequately. We’re all about to drown. Why not go down with a beautiful spaghetti sauce in our stomachs? No, they were going in the giant wedge of Brie, crostini, smoked salmon and fresh apple direction — the other happy place.
And it was happy. In fact, as my mother in law, Bunny, says, “We ate our way to happiness.” And the flood never came. By 8 p.m. the sky had actually cleared. We would live.
So I packed up my cooler with my spurned spaghetti sauce ingredients and drove home. And after I unpacked, I went to the stove. “What are you doing?” King Daddy asked when he got home. “You just got back from a trip and we still have leftovers.”
I’m making spaghetti sauce. Dammit.
- 2 pounds ground chuck
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ cup finely diced carrot
- ½ cup finely diced onion
- 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 ½ tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Brown the chuck in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, adding the 2 teaspoons salt. About halfway through browning, add the carrot and onion. Continue cooking until the vegetables are soft and translucent, the grease has disappeared and the meat is liberally browned. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, red wine, oregano and paprika. Lower heat to medium low and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.