Greetings to you, Eastside … & beyond. Happy Tomato Art Fest! Ah yes, tomatoes, the main ingredient in my all time, lifelong favorite dish: the classic pasta with meat sauce.
Haggerty? Spaghetti sauce? Malarkey!
Let me start at the beginning.
August 1950. The Bronx, New York. My mom, Mary Moffitt, fresh outta high school with typing and steno skills sharpened, lands a job as a secretary in the advertising department of the biggest newspaper in the world at that time, The New York Daily News. Midtown Manhattan. Advertising, The News, The City! Movie stars and politicians all coming through to be photographed and interviewed.
As a kid I remember mom showing me Humphrey Bogart's autograph on a torn page of newspaper.
Wish I knew where that went.
Moffitt? Meat sauce? Malarkey!
Mom's best friend at the News was Anne Galdi. Mamma Galdi came from Italy. Anne used to bring lunch to work. Delicious pork sandwiches covered with this sauce!
Anne and her mom shared an apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I was living within walking distance, in Cobble Hill, 35 years later. Funny thing, life.
One weekend, Anne invited her work friends over for dinner.
Mom got the recipe.
When I spoke to her this morning, she remembered it as being around 1961. She and dad were dating at the time. They met at the Jersey Shore; married a few years later in '64, and I came along in 1970.
I've been enjoying this deliciousness for as long as I can remember.
My favorite time to cook this up is when I return home from the road. Enough with the five dollar footlongs. Enough with rest stop meals. Gimme some food!
This is an all day affair. That's fine by me. I've been playing shows in different rooms every night, and now it's domicile time. I start early on a Saturday. Early but civilized. You know, noonish.
Five big cans of tomatoes, one can of paste, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, basil. Pork ribs, cubed beef. Locatelli cheese. I like to use whole and crushed tomatoes. Good texture that way.
Snacks to tide me over.
I survive Kroger and return to the chateau.
First up: soundtrack.
Sinatra, of course. LP Strangers in the Night; track "The Summer Wind." Fantastic!
Next, I gotta get my mise en place together.
Open the cans of tomatoes and paste. Set aside.
Sofrito! Or in English, chop up five carrots, five stalks of celery leaves included, five cloves of garlic and one yellow onion. (Mirepoix if you don't dig garlic.)
It's my column and I can Julia Child if I want to!
Ok back to the show.
Get some olive oil going in the stockpot. Flip Sinatra. Turn it up. Gotta hear the Nelson Riddle orchestrations over the sauteing.
Add aromatics to the olive oil. Saute till soft and and liquids are combining. Add tomatoes to the stockpot. Crush the whole tomatoes with your hands. It's fun! Turn up the heat and carefully bring to a boil. No sticking! ("I'm stirrin it!" Goodfellas, Michael Hill)
While carefully watching and stirring, brown the meat. Add it to the tomatoes and aromatics and finish bringing to a boil. Reduce and simmer. Three hours. Stir every ten minutes. Don't let it stick (see M. Hill).
At this point I've got hours to kill. Can't leave the house. Don't want to. Sinatra's been replaced by an old favorite movie. I'm Clemenza teaching Mikey Corleone the finer points of making sauce for an army of wiseguys, "you got your sausage, your meatballs, a little bit of wine, a pinch of sugar."
Stir. Inhale. The best smell in the world.
Home. Simmering red gold on the stove. Music, movies, family, friends, love. It's all mixed together in the pot.
Just like our neighborhood.
Happy Tomato Art Fest, Eastside … & beyond.
Get your red on!